UFC Fight Night 40 Preview: Costas Philippou vs. Lorenz Larkin

Costas Philippou (12-4 (1), 5-3 UFC) vs. Lorenz Larkin (14-2 (1), 1-2 UFC)

Two middleweights looking to keep themselves in solid standing in the rankings after recent setbacks square off in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 40 when Costas Philippou meets Lorenz Larkin in Cincinatti. Philippou is looking to put a stop to a two-fight skid after suffering a knockout loss at the hands of Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 35 in January. Those two losses have come after a five-fight win streak. Larkin has lost two of three in the UFC and looks to bounce back from a decision loss to Brad Tavares, also at UFC Fight Night 35 in January. Larkin is 2-2 with a no contest in his last five fights after starting his career 12-0.

Fight Breakdown- Costas Philippou looks to end his two-fight losing streak and get himself moved back up the rankings in the tough middleweight division. He started off his professional career with seven wins in his first nine fights, though he failed in his attempt to make the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter” season eleven. He made his UFC debut on short notice in a catchweight fight against Nick Catone at UFC 128 in March 2011. He dropped a decision in that bout, but taking the fight on just one week’s notice guaranteed him another fight in the UFC. Philippou made the most of his next fights and went on a tear at 185 pounds. He rattled off five straight victories, with wins over Jorge Rivera, Jared Hamman, Court McGee, Riki Fukuda and Tim Boetsch to move him inside the top ten in the middleweight rankings. Philippou was on the cusp of a title shot, but after missing nine months of action, he returned and lost a lackluster decision to Francis Carmont at UFC 165 in September. He suffered his first stoppage loss in his last fight, being finished with a liver kick in the first round by Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 35 in January.

Lorenz Larkin was riding high coming into the UFC when the Strikeforce promotion was merged into the UFC. He came into the UFC sporting an undefeated record (though he did suffer one loss to Muhammed Lawal that was changed to a no contest due to Lawal failing a drug test), and was coming off a big win over Robbie Lawler, who has since re-emerged and become one of the best welterweights in the world and just narrowly missed becoming the champion at 170 pounds. He had a tough test for his first UFC bout when he took on Francis Carmont at UFC On FOX 7 in April 2013. It was a close fight, and many had the fight scored for Larkin, but it was Carmont who got the nod from the judges and took home the unanimous decision. That meant the official end for Larkin’s perfect record. He got back into the win column in his next bout with an impressive unanimous decision win over Chris Camozzi at UFC Fight For The Troops 3 in November. He got his first shot at a co-main event fight when he met Brad Tavares in his most recent fight at UFC Fight Night 35 in January. It was Tavares who took home the decision, and Larkin was critical himself in that fight, saying his performance “sucked”. Larkin looks to get back into the win column against Philippou and deliver a performance worthy of getting another big fight next time.

You should expect this fight to be contested on the feet as neither like to go to the ground and both have solid striking skills. Philippou has boxing experience but Larkin is the more diverse striker and more flashy on his feet. Larkin can attack from all angles and mixes in his knees and kicks more effectively. Philippou has more power and a big right hand, and he has good speed and accuracy and works well inside the pocket. Larkin would be best served keeping the distance far apart as that is where he will be able to open up with his varied attacks and unleash some potential fight-ending flying knees. The closer the distance closes and the more suited the fight goes for Philippou. Philippou has had to adjust to fighting wrestlers in his previous bouts and it has taken away from his power punches, and perhaps that is why he hasn’t been as effective recently. Larkin isn’t a takedown threat so Philippou should be ready to strike and throw that right hand and showcase his crisp boxing.

Larkin will be looking to attack the body. Philippou got hurt badly by Luke Rockhold as Rockhold attacked his body and finished him with a liver kick. While Rockhold is a much better all-around fighter than Larkin is, Larkin can employ the same kind of kickboxing attack and should look at Rockhold’s gameplan for a way to defeat Philippou. Larkin has more tools to work with on his feet, but he needs to be aggressive. He wasn’t against Brad Tavares and that is what likely held him from doing what needed to be done to take the decision in that fight. And, while both men prefer to keep the fight on the feet, it will be hard to overlook that a single takedown could sway this fight in one big direction. Philippou is probably the better takedown artist of the two, but both have good takedown defense when not paired with strong wrestlers. The threat of takedowns to initialize a clinch against the fence is the more likely tool here, and a clinch favors Philippou with his boxing technique and short punching power. Both have the conditioning to go the distance, so this fight comes to who can implement a gameplan better. Can Philippou close the distance and work his boxing? Can Larkin keep the distance far apart and mix in his unique striking techniques? This is a close fight on paper and a big toss-up. Philippou takes a narrow decision.

Why It Matters- It is hard to say what is next not only for the winner of this fight, but for the loser. Whoever wins this fight is still a ways from title contention. The loser is unlikely to be cut, but will be faced with huge uncertainty going into their next fight. Philippou would be looking at three straight losses with a loss. While that usually signifies a cut, he is in solid ground as a gatekeeper in the middleweight division, but he would definitely need to avoid four straight losses as that would likely signal a cut. A loss for Larkin would be three in four UFC fights, but they would also be the only losses of his career. He would get another fight but find himself lower on the card and in big danger zone. The winner will be in the bottom five of the UFC’s middleweight rankings and get someone in the same standing in their next fight. It is important for both because neither wants to be stuck in the rut that they are in.

Prediction- Philippou

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