UFC Fight Night 35 Preliminary Card Preview for ‘Rockhold vs Philippou’ Tomorrow (Jan. 15)

Ramsey NijemThe Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia is playing host to UFC Fight Night 35: Rockhold vs. Philippou. The main card is solid, but the undercard is full of newcomers and fighters that may be looking at a pink slip with another loss. Let’s dive right in. In the prelim main event, lightweight veteran of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 13, Ramsey Nijem (7-4) is on a two-fight skid with losses to Myles Jury and James Vick respectively. The former being a knockout loss and the latter being a guillotine sub. Ramsey is a wrestler who has moved his camp to The Pit, with Glover Teixeira and Chuck Liddell to name a few, in an effort to defeat fellow TUF 13 castmate Justin Edwards (8-3). The 30-year-old Edwards is a pretty even match for Nijem, he himself has a grinding fighting style with some good flashes of BJJ. His standup likely outmatches Nijem’s, who has the tendency to stick out his chin and get tagged. This could likely be a grappling battle, considering both men are most comfortable there, but we’ve also seen a sloppy kickboxing match time and time again whenever two grapplers enter the Octagon. In that case, Edwards holds the slight advantage. Both men have good cardio, and you have to think Nijem is fighting for his job, which will be an extra motivator. In the co-main of the prelims, welterweight Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) has gone undefeated in the UFC at 1-0 and undefeated in Strikeforce at 2-0, but he’s accomplished this off three straight split-decisions over the likes of Yves Edwards at UFC 156 and Gesias Cavalcante. Vallie-Flagg has proven himself to be a tough fighter out of Greg Jackson’s camp and has gone undefeated since 2007. His opponent is the undefeated Elias Silverio (9-0), a 27-year-old Brazilian touted for his striking abilities despite only finishing 33% of his fights. Silverio made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Teixeira in a lackuster win over Joao Zeferino, and he’ll have to look sharper to take down the surging Vallie-Flagg. This is a good fight between two men who will likely want to keep it standing. Vallie-Flagg has the better training, discipline in the cage and has fought better opponents, so he should be able to take his Octagon IQ to another judge’s decision. Middleweights are up next, as Strikeforce crossover Trevor Smith (10-4) hopes to finally get in the win column against Brian Houston (4-1). Houston made his Octagon debut in November at Fight for the Troops in less-than-stellar fashion, getting dropped by Derek Brunson with a head kick en route to getting choked into submission. Smith is known for his grappling and submission abilities, but is also willing to scrap on occasion, as we saw in his UFC debut against Ed herman, a fight he lost via split-decision. Houston is a powerful man who has three knockouts and one decision in his win column, but his ground game is still suspect, which plays into the hands of Smith, who is desperately needing a win, losing three out of his last four fights, including a submission loss to Tim Kennedy in the final Strikeforce show. On the feet, Houston certainly has an edge, and Smith has been finished by strikes twice in his career, but if Smith can use his size to get to the ground, it could be a long night for Houston. The “Turkish Delight” Alptek Ozkilic (9-1), hot off a split-decision win over Darren Uyenoyama just a month ago at UFC on FOX Johnson vs. Benavidez II, has decided to get back into the Octagon as quickly as he can, and will welcome newcomer Louis Smolka (6-0) to the UFC. Ozkilic is a true blue wrestler with good striking that sets up his takedowns. Smolka is a grappler who doesn’t mind being on his back, as he can sweep and work his BJJ well against many opponents, but Ozkilic is better than anyone he’s ever faced, so it may come down to the age-old question of: BJJ vs. Wrestling. Finally, on the Facebook and/or Fight Pass prelims, Charlie Brenneman (19-5) will make his return to the UFC at lightweight after being cut in late 2012. Brenneman has gone 4-0 on the indie circuit, getting 3 subs and a decision win over lessar opponents, but the UFC deemed him fit to come back to welcome UFC newcomer Beneil Dariush (6-0) on just two weeks notice. You may not know Dariush, but he’s a 24-year-old BJJ ace, a blackbelt, and is one of Wanderlei Silva’s training partners. He has yet to see the judges, and he was set to face Jason High before High got appendicitis and had to pull out of his fight, thus leading us here. This could steal the show on the prelims or otherwise, as Brenneman wants to prove he’s back, and Dariush has that Wanderlei Silva blood pumping wildly through his veins. This could be a war on the feet or on the ground.

Written by Jason Nawara

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