Luke Rockhold vs Costa Philippou – UFC Fight Night 35 Statistical Analysis and Fight Pick

UFC Fight Night 35 January 15, 2014 Middleweight Matchup: Luke Rockhold vs. Constantinos Philippou By Reed Kuhn, @Fightnomics   Big Picture:  In the main event at Fight Night 35 there are two Middleweights coming off tough losses, but who are still very much alive in the UFC’s upper echelon and within striking distance of contendership. Both fighters had impressive win streaks finally shut down in 2013. One fighter can immediately push their way into the suddenly interesting middleweight title picture, while the other might slide out of the Top 10. Rockhold is currently a big -380 betting favorite over Philippou at +325. Having held the title in Strikeforce before, he comes in with a little more pedigree despite fewer total fights, and only one UFC appearance. But it’s a steep line, so what do the numbers say?   Summary Stats:

Fightnomics Uber Tape - FN35  - Rockhold-Philippou

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Tale of Tape Matchup: The Tale of Tape is cause for immediate pause. Rockhold gets a clean sweep on the traditional anthropometrics of age, reach, and fighting stance. That’s already reason to favor him in a straight up matchup: rangy Southpaws make very successful fighters. The four-inch reach differential highlights the fact that Rockhold has a big frame for the middleweight division, while Philippou is slightly undersized at middleweight. Furthermore, with Philippou now over 34-years old, his years as a boxer and a striking-centric MMA fighter put him at increasing risk for decreased knockdown resilience.   Striking Matchup: As long as the fight stays standing there will be an interesting battle for control of the cage. Rockhold, with his long reach and very high standup striking volume ratio is accustomed to controlling the range and pace of a fight. He tends to outwork his opponents by 80% on volume alone, a key stat for winning rounds. But Philippou, the former boxer, has great accuracy for a guy with shorter than average range. He lands a very high percentage of his jabs, but is less accurate with power strikes. Rockhold is less accurate in head striking, but more than makes up for it with his higher average pace and ability to consistently outwork his opponents. Surprisingly, Rockhold throws more power strikes while Philippou relies more on his jab. When it comes to power both men have scored knockdowns at a rate that is well above average, even for heavyweights. The standup battle will be one of range control, and accuracy versus volume. Neither is invincible and both have power, but on paper Rockhold should have the better chin resiliency.   Grappling Matchup: When it comes to the ground game, Rockhold has a big head start. Philippou learned (impressively) the ground game in order to compete at a high level in MMA after transitioning sports. But Rockhold was submitting guys as far back as 2007 before Philippou was even into MMA, and much earlier if you count his days competing specifically in grappling. Rockhold’s submission credentials are better in practice and on paper, and his size again gives him a huge advantage should he find the way to Philippou’s back and get the hooks in. But going to the ground is not a guarantee. Neither fighter attempts many takedowns, and neither particularly excels in converting them. Yet both men have solid takedown defense. I’d suggest it will stay standing for a while, were it not for Rockhold’s perceived advantages in the submission game, and Philippou’s primary threat with his punches.   Reed’s Pick: Rockhold by submission (click for latest MMA odds)   Reed’s Recommended Play:  Rockhold straight up will cost you dearly with current lines, and they are unlikely to shift very far back towards Philippou. Rockhold could finish with strikes or submissions, but the numbers don’t scream that Philippou is especially vulnerable right out of the gate – so predicting an over/under or round of finish for Rockhold is risky. It’s a lot of juice, and Philippou hits hard. Understand the risk you’re taking, but also that anything under -400 for Rockhold is still fairly reasonable given the advantages at play. If you’re playing a parlay, Rockhold makes a solid basic ingredient. I don’t see the fight going the distance, though it could take a while to develop. Also, Rockhold is more likely to finish with a submission, while Philippou’s best and only chance is a finish by strikes. Wait until closer to fight night and look for props on these higher return plays.

Written by Reed Kuhn

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UFC Fight Night 35 Play: Constantinos Philippou (+320) vs Luke Rockhold (-390)

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