Will the real Luke Rockhold please stand up? After a horrid UFC debut, Luke Rockhold made an impact in his sophomore UFC effort by defeating fellow top ten middleweight Costas Philippou via first round TKO. Rockhold was not the only fighter to make a huge impression. Guys like Brad Tavares, TJ Dillashaw, and Cole Miller all made huge impacts on the card and are lining themselves up for fights with top-tier competition. Take a look at what matches the UFC needs to make for Rockhold and the rest of the card after UFC Fight Night 35.
Luke Rockhold was finally able to show UFC fans what made him such an impressive fighter in StrikeForce with his liver kick finish of Costas Philippou. Rockhold can only go up from here in the rankings and needs a matchup that could crown the next contender for the UFC Middleweight Title. A bout with Michael Bisping makes sense on multiple levels. First, there’s a lot of bad blood between Rockhold and Bisping. Bisping has gone on record to say that he’s the unofficial StrikeForce Middleweight Champion because he knocked out Rockhold in training. That obviously didn’t sit well with Rockhold who called Bisping out shortly after beating Philippou. The UFC needs to book this matchup as it makes sense rankings-wise and has a back story that could fuel a Fox Sports One headliner.
The Ultimate Fighter receives a lot of slack for its inability to produce quality UFC fighters, but nobody told Brad Tavares that. Since his stint on TUF 11, Tavares has won seven UFC bouts including his win on Wednesday over Lorenz Larkin. Outside of a few rocky moments, Tavares was largely in control of the bout. His impressive performance should earn him a shot against a top ten fighter. Tavares should fight Tim Kennedy in his next bout to see if he truly is a contender.
TJ Dillashaw continued to show his improvement inside the Octagon with his three round drumming of Mike Easton. When Dillashaw was first introduced to the UFC, he was nothing more than a wrestler with a good top game. That all has changed as his striking is now just as dangerous as his wrestling. Since losing in the finals of the Ultimate Fighter Season fourteen, Dillashaw has gone on a 5-1 run in the UFC with his only loss being a questionable split decision to Raphael Assuncao. With his solid resume and constantly evolving skills, Dillashaw needs a top five fighter next. Should Eddie Wineland get past Yves Jabouin later this month, a fight between him and Dillashaw would be excellent.
For two rounds it seemed that the Yoel Romero hype train had crashed. Romero looked like a far inferior fighter to Derek Brunson for ten minutes before a couple of big shots by Romero stole the victory from Brunson’s grasp. Romero’s performance in the fight is a cause for concern, but with a guy his age, the UFC cannot afford to bring him along slowly. A fight between Romero and the winner of Jacare Souza and Francis Carmont would be perfect for the soon to be thirty-seven year old.
It seems like Cole Miller is finally putting it all together inside the Octagon. Miller dominated every aspect of his MMA fight against Sam Sicilia before submitting the TUF Live veteran in the second round. After the fight, Miller called out Donald Cerrone, but I don’t think that fight will ever happen at 145 pounds. Put Miller in the cage with Conor McGregor to see if it’s the Irishman’s time to shine or Miller’s moment to rise to contendership.
THE REST OF THE CARD
Costas Philippou vs. Rafael Natal
Lorenz Larkin vs. Andrew Craig
Mike Easton vs. Vaughan Lee
Derek Brunson vs. Ronny Markes
John Moraga vs. John Dodson
Dustin Ortiz vs. Tim Elliot
Ramsey Nijem vs. KJ Noons
Elias Silverio vs. Tony Ferguson
Trevor Smith vs. Caio Magalhaes
Louis Smolka vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Richie Vaculik
Vinc Pichel vs. Katsunori Kikuno
Beneil Dariush vs. Yancy Medeiros
Charlie Brenneman vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg