UFC Fight Night 35: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Luke Rockhold is now ready to make a run at the UFC middleweight championship.
Following a loss to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut, the former Strikeforce titleholder bounced back at UFC Fight Night 35, stopping Costas Philippou with body kicks in the first round. With his first win inside the Octagon, Rockhold can now set his sights on earning a shot at the 185-pound division's strap.
On the other end of the spectrum, Philippou has now lost two in a row. Unless he gets things turned around soon, the Cyprus-born middleweight could fall from title contention to receiving his walking papers in a hurry.
With another UFC event in the books, here are the matchups that should be next for Rockhold, Philippou and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 35 competitors.
Charlie Brenneman vs. Colton Smith
Known mostly for beating Rick Story on short notice in June 2011, Charlie Brenneman was unable to make the most of an opportunity to return to the Octagon as a replacement opponent for Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 35.
Less than two minutes into his UFC return, "The Spaniard" was knocked down by Dariush and could not recover before getting caught in a rear-naked choke on the ground.
Usually stellar on the canvas, Brenneman has now been submitted twice in his MMA career. He was also forced to tap following a knockdown against Erick Silva at UFC on FX 3, so the Pennsylvanian will need to tighten up his striking defense in order to remain with the world's top MMA promotion.
Brenneman's next fight will likely be for his UFC job. A matchup with fellow wrestler Colton Smith, who is also in danger of being released following two straight losses, is a strong possibility.
Beneil Dariush vs. Michael Chiesa
Beneil Dariush was undefeated and untested heading into his UFC debut on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old passed his first UFC test with flying colors, though, dropping Charlie Brenneman and submitting the veteran in less than two minutes. Although Brenneman was making his return to the Octagon, he proved himself in the UFC welterweight division and was no easy matchup for Dariush.
Despite Brenneman's lack of success at UFC Fight Night 35, submission wrestlers are still likely to be a problem for Dariush. A fighter like Michael Chiesa won't wait as long as Brenneman did to look for a takedown.
Vinc Pichel vs. Joe Proctor-Cristiano Marcello Winner
After being eliminated from The Ultimate Fighter 15 in the semifinals, it was surprising to see Vinc Pichel remain on the UFC roster despite a loss in his official UFC debut.
However, Pichel's loss to Rustam Khabilov looks much less damaging now that the Russian is ranked No. 14 in the lightweight division. On Wednesday, Pichel also did his part to prove he deserved another chance by beating Garett Whiteley decisively on the scorecards.
While Whiteley is now likely to be looking for work outside the Octagon, Pichel can begin to make a run in the UFC 155-pound class. For his next outing, Pichel could meet the winner of a UFC Fight Night 36 matchup between fellow TUF alumni Joe Proctor and Cristiano Marcello.
Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Chris Cariaso-Kyoji Horiguchi Loser
Alptekin Ozkilic may have made a mistake in returning to the Octagon so soon after his win over Darren Uyenoyama.
Only one month separated from his first UFC win, Ozkilic returned to MMA's biggest stage for a bout with UFC newcomer Louis Smolka. Despite a strong start, Ozkilic faded in the later rounds, and it ended up costing him on the scorecards.
It's back to the drawing board for the Turkish flyweight, who will now likely meet another fighter coming off of a loss. A matchup with the loser of a UFC 169 bout between Chris Cariaso and Kyoji Horiguchi is a possibility.
Louis Smolka vs. Phil Harris-Louis Gaudinot Winner
With a 7-0 record and a victory in his UFC debut, Louis Smolka is already nearing contender status in the shallow 125-pound division.
Despite giving up nine takedowns over three rounds, Smolka was able to pick up a decision victory at UFC Fight Night 35. Landing 54 significant strikes on a fading Alptekin Ozkilic in the third round helped Smolka to gain an edge on the scorecards.
As he looks to take another step toward the top of the flyweight class, a bout with the winner of a UFC Fight Night 37 matchup between Phil Harris and Louis Gaudinot makes sense for Smolka.
Trevor Smith vs. Magnus Cedenblad
Trevor Smith didn't come close to turning in another Fight of the Night performance at UFC Fight Night 35, but he got the win he needed to maintain a spot on the UFC roster.
After losing to Ed Herman in his Octagon debut, Smith had to get his hand raised on Wednesday. Although he had all his takedown attempts denied in the second and third rounds, Smith stayed more active than opponent Brian Houston when standing and did enough to get a nod from the judges.
Having lost in his first two UFC appearances, Houston is likely to be released from the world's top MMA promotion. Smith, meanwhile, should be matched up with an opponent more willing to go to the ground with him.
Coming off of a submission win over Jared Hamman, Magnus Cedenblad could be that adversary.
Isaac Vallie-Flagg vs. James Krause
Isaac Vallie-Flagg saw an unbeaten streak of 12 fights come to an end at UFC Fight Night 35.
Facing Elias Silverio, Vallie-Flagg was unable to defend any takedown attempts he faced and found himself underneath his Brazilian foe for most of three rounds. At 35 years old, Vallie-Flagg will need to prove this loss was not the beginning of his decline as a fighter.
A bout with James Krause, who is more content to stand than Silverio, could allow Vallie-Flagg to showcase his scrappy fighting style more effectively.
Elias Silverio vs. Norman Parke
As an undefeated 27-year-old, Elias Silverio has the look of a very solid prospect following his win over Isaac Vallie-Flagg on Wednesday.
Moving to 155 pounds appeared to be a good decision by the Brazilian, whose conditioning looked solid through three rounds of dominance against a tough Strikeforce veteran. With a new-found size advantage over most in his division, Silverio should be able to take full advantage of his grappling prowess.
Also doing solid work on the ground in recent fights, Norman Parke would be a solid test for Silverio. Both men are undefeated inside the Octagon and could engage in a competitive grappling match.
Justin Edwards vs. Fabricio Camoes
Justin Edwards had a good chance to get back into the win column in a favorable matchup with Ramsey Nijem at UFC Fight Night 35. Instead, he is now in danger of being released from the UFC roster following back-to-back losses.
Taken down five times and outlanded by 21 significant strikes, Edwards was named the loser on all three scorecards.
Next time he steps into the Octagon, Edwards will probably be fighting for his UFC roster position. That makes a matchup with Fabricio Camoes, who has also lost two in a row, a solid option.
Ramsey Nijem vs. Daron Cruickshank-Mike Rio Winner
By beating Justin Edwards on Wednesday, Ramsey Nijem likely saved his UFC job.
Heading into UFC Fight Night 35, Nijem had lost two in a row. The former The Ultimate Fighter runner-up needed a win, and he got it against his fellow TUF 13 contestant in a unanimous decision.
Nijem's past several fights have come against the UFC's reality show alumni, but even with his win over Edwards, it doesn't appear the 25-year-old has quite graduated from that level of competition. If he can beat the winner of a UFC on Fox 10 matchup between TUF veterans Daron Cruickshank and Mike Rio, Nijem can then get a step up in competition.
Sam Sicilia vs. Rob Whiteford
At UFC Fight Night 35, Sam Sicilia had an opportunity to win consecutive fights inside the Octagon for the first time in his MMA career.
The power puncher had a difficult time working inside against the long reach of Cole Miller, though. He was ultimately knocked down and submitted in the second round, leaving him with three losses in his past four appearances.
Having a tough time gaining any momentum, Sicilia will need to take a step down in competition again. A bout with Rob Whiteford, who is coming off of a loss in his UFC debut, could be coming up.
Cole Miller vs. Conor McGregor
Cole Miller may be hitting his stride in the featherweight division.
Six fights since he dropped down to 145 pounds, "Magrinho" has finally picked up consecutive wins. Miller's impressive submission win over Sam Sicilia on Wednesday should also earn him a step up in competition or at least a high-profile matchup.
Conor McGregor has been getting into it with a number of fellow fighters, but a bout with developing rival Miller actually makes sense competitively right now. The matchup would surely bring some trash talking that would bring extra attention to McGregor before he makes a run at the 145-pound championship.
Dustin Ortiz vs. Tim Elliott
Even in a loss, Dustin Ortiz may have taken a step forward at UFC Fight Night 35.
The 25-year-old ended up on the wrong side of a split decision with John Moraga on Wednesday. However, hanging close with a recent title challenger helped Ortiz prove he's capable of hanging with the best in the 125-pound division.
Don't expect Ortiz to be pushed down the ladder too far following his strong showing. A bout with Tim Elliott could allow Ortiz to prove he's a serious contender in the flyweight class.
John Moraga vs. Will Campuzano-Darrell Montague Winner
John Moraga took his first step toward another shot at the 125-pound championship on Wednesday.
While he did pick up a win over Dustin Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 35, Moraga was not as dominant as anticipated. One judge saw Ortiz as the winner in a fight that Moraga won via split decision.
As he looks to work his way back up the ladder, Moraga's next fight could come against the winner of a UFC 171 matchup between flyweight notables Will Campuzano and Darrel Montague.
Derek Brunson vs. Ronny Markes
Derek Brunson hit his first UFC speed bump on Wednesday.
After winning in his first two Octagon appearances, Brunson ran into an opponent who could deal with him on the ground. Unable to keep former Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero down, Brunson faded in the third round and was stopped by an opponent who needed a finish.
Like Brunson, Ronny Markes is also coming off of a third-round stoppage defeat against Romero. Still without a bout scheduled, the Brazilian may be a logical matchup for Brunson now.
Yoel Romero vs. Tim Boetsch
His wins may not always be pretty, but Yoel Romero is getting it done inside the Octagon.
With his victory over Derek Brunson at UFC Fight Night 35, Romero now owns a 3-0 record under the UFC banner. Having finished all three of his UFC opponents, it is time for Romero to test himself against a ranked fighter in the 185-pound division.
The No. 11 contender in the middleweight class, Tim Boetsch is also a wrestler who prefers to stand. "The Barbarian" would be a good opponent to determine whether Romero is contender material.
Mike Easton vs. Mitch Gagnon-Tim Gorman Loser
Mike Easton has failed on three straight opportunities to elevate himself against bantamweight contenders.
On Wednesday, "The Hulk" was dominated by TJ Dillashaw for the majority of three rounds. Despite losing three in a row, Mike Easton should get another shot to prove himself inside the Octagon, considering all his defeats came against top-10 135-pounders.
Still, Easton will likely see a significant step down in competition now. A bout with the loser of an April clash between Mitch Gagnon and Tim Gorman is a possibility.
TJ Dillashaw vs. Eddie Wineland-Yves Jabouin Winner
TJ Dillashaw responded to a loss against Raphael Assuncao the way a future title challenger should.
Facing a scrappy Mike Easton at UFC Fight Night 35, Dillashaw displayed steadily improving striking en route to a comfortable decision victory. With only a split-decision loss to Assuncao over his past six fights, Dillashaw is solidifying himself as a legitimate contender in the bantamweight division.
With his performance on Wednesday, Dillashaw appears ready for a big test again. If former title challenger Eddie Wineland beats Yves Jabouin at UFC on Fox 10, he'd be a great measuring stick for the Team Alpha Male fighter.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Andrew Craig
Between defending takedowns and dealing with the long reach of Brad Tavares, Lorenz Larkin wasn't able to get much going offensively on Wednesday.
The Strikeforce veteran gave up two big takedowns and was outlanded in the striking department en route to a decision loss. Now with two losses in three UFC appearances, Larkin is likely to lose his spot in the top 15 middleweight rankings.
As he looks to get some momentum going, Larkin's next fight could come against Andrew Craig, another 185-pounder who has been trending downward recently.
Brad Tavares vs. Uriah Hall
Brad Tavares is creeping closer to title contention in the middleweight division.
Some rarely utilized grappling helped the former The Ultimate Fighter contestant to a decision win over a top-15 middleweight Lorenz Larkin on Wednesday. With the victory, Tavares may sneak into the UFC rankings for the first time in his career when they are updated.
Before he makes a serious run at a UFC championship, Tavares could probably use another high-profile fight or two. While he may not be a step up in competition, Uriah Hall brings attention to his opponents and could make sense as an opponent for Tavares after beating Chris Leben at UFC 168.
Costas Philippou vs. James Te Huna
Costas Philippou won't be battling for a UFC belt any time soon.
Considered a serious middleweight contender only a few months ago, Philippou is now coming off of deflating losses to Francis Carmont and Luke Rockhold. More than getting back into title-shot talks, Philippou should be concerned with losing a third straight fight, which would put him in danger of being released.
Another noteworthy fighter on a skid, James Te Huna could make his middleweight debut against Philippou. The matchup would ensure one popular fighter gets back into the win column, but the other would likely be one more loss away from losing his UFC roster position.
Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza-Francis Carmont Winner
Luke Rockhold is back in the hunt for a shot at the UFC middleweight championship.
By stopping Costas Philippou at UFC Fight Night 35, Rockhold proved he's still among the elite in the 185-pound division. The former Strikeforce champion now has his sights set on a rematch with Vitor Belfort, but he'll likely need to win another fight or two.
Another rematch could be coming up for Rockhold, who captured his Strikeforce belt by beating Ronaldo Souza in a narrow decision.
If Souza beats Francis Carmont at UFC Fight Night 36, he could meet Rockhold in a rematch that would sell well as a title-shot eliminator. If Carmont finds a way to beat Souza, he'd also be a good adversary for Rockhold, having also beaten Philippou recently.