Posted 01/14/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 35 Preview

I’m having a hard time writing about tomorrow’s Fight Night card. Some of you may say, “Well, doofus, maybe you shouldn’t forget that the show is on Wednesday, leaving you less than 24 hours to write about it.” And, yeah, sure, you have a point there.

But it’s also a nondescript card. Your main event is Luke Rockhold and Costas Philippou, two rising middleweights coming off one-sided losses. The rest of the card is filled with fighters of various import: former Olympic wrestlers, a guy who lost a title fight in his last appearance, a journeyman-lightweight-turned-journeyman featherweight. No one over 185 pounds.

This is great. It’s not a great, must-see show, but it’s what the Fight Night blueprint should look like. An interesting, relevant main event supported by up-and-comers, action fighters, small guys. You should look at a Fight Night card and think, “Hm, nothing stands out to me here, but I’m not exactly offended by the offering. I believe I shall direct my cable box to the Fox Sports 1 channel this Wednesday.”

* * *

Luke Rockhold lost his second pro fight by TKO in 2007 before rattling off nine straight wins, capturing the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship along the way. The end of that run included Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Keith Jardine, and Tim Kennedy, and Rockhold entered the UFC last May with a lot of hype as a guy to potentially challenge for the title.

The UFC scheduled Rockhold against ViTRT Belfort in Brazil. Belfort needed half a round to spin and kiss Rockhold with his foot. He followed with punches, and there went the Rockhold hype train.

There’s still hope for him, however. He’s still ranked sixth after the loss, three spots ahead of Kennedy, three behind Jacare. It’s a tough look into the top five: of the guys ahead of him, only Jacare and Michael Bisping might find themselves as underdogs (and probably closer to pick ‘ems).

What Rockhold has, however, is youth. After champion Chris Weidman (29, same as Rockhold), you have Anderson Silva (38), Belfort (36), Jacare (34), Lyoto Machida (35), and Bisping (34). In two years, all five of those guys may succumb to age, injury, diminished skills. There aren’t a ton of young guys right behind him, either. Of the rest of the top fifteen, only Alan Belcher (29, ranked 12th) and Lorenz Larkin (27, ranked 13th) are under 32, and Belcher has plans to move up to light heavyweight.

* * *

One of the big problems with UFC Fight Pass is how incomplete it feels. As an example, searching for “philippou” returns eight results. Of those eight results, four are fights. Of those four fights, one occurred within the last three years; Philippou’s last fight – a loss – to Francis Carmont at UFC 165. Searching for “luke rockhold” returns three results, Rockhold’s prefight interview, Philippou’s prefight interview, and New Year’s Resolutions from Fight Night Atlanta fighters, which I’m sure is something stupid. (Rockhold wants to go on a long winning streak. How novel.)

Access to Zuffa’s entire fight library was a big part of Fight Pass’s marketing push. Maybe it’s not reasonable to have expected that at (soft) launch (though it’s certainly reasonable to demand it), but it’s nearly inconceivable that, at minimum, Rockhold and Philippou’s last three fights are not available. Really, we should have their last five fights, if not their entire UFC/Strikeforce runs, and we should have that for the entire main card roster.

* * *

Yoel Romero is 36, and unlikely to make a serious run at UFC gold. But watching him destroy Clifford Starks with a flying knee and stiffen Ronny Markes with an overhand left makes you wonder “What if?” Here’s a guy with five medals at the FILA World Championships, including gold in 1999, plus a silver medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics. He last medaled at the 2005 World Championships before defecting from Cuba in 2007 and making his MMA debut in 2009. Had he been able to start fighting in 2005, he would have entered the sport at 28, still on the older side for a non-heavyweight, but a much better starting point than 32.

* * *

A search of Fight Pass for “Yoel Romero” returned zero results. Sigh.

* * *

Jason High was scheduled to fight on this card, first against Adlan Amagov and then UFC newcomer Beneil Dariush. High pulled out of the fight two weeks ago on New Year’s Day. Here’s Wikipedia: “High pulled out of the bout citing appendicitis.” I love this. High “cited” appendicitis like he’s George Costanza calling in sick to work.

George: I’ve got it, Jerry! Appendicitis! No one’s gonna question someone with appendicitis.

Jerry: What if they ask to see the scar when you come back?

George (thinking): Explosive diarrhea.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.  

Mike Fagan