Luke Rockhold destroyed his challenger at UFC Fight Night 35. | Jeff Bottari//Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
This was what Luke Rockhold had in mind when he entered the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The former Strikeforce champion wiped out Costas Philippou with a brutal body kick in the UFC Fight Night 35 headliner on Wednesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. Rockhold (11-2, 1-1 UFC) folded the Cypriot 2:31 into round one, bouncing back nicely from his knockout loss to Vitor Belfort eight months ago.
Rockhold rattled the onetime Ring of Combat titleholder with a short right hook and then uncorked his kicks. The first one backed up Philippou (12-4, 5-3 UFC); the second put him away.
“I love that liver kick,” Rockhold said. “It’s always there. You’ve got to set it up by going high and low. I have a lot of power in my kicks. As long as I don’t rush things, I’m a lot better fighter. You saw tonight, I was a lot more reserved. I waited for my opportunities, caught him with that hook and then finished him with the kicks.”
Rockhold has won 10 of his past 11 bouts and figures to remain a fixture at or near the top of the middleweight division as long as he remains healthy. Afterward, the American Kickboxing Academy standout turned his attention towards higher-profile prey.
“I’m not here to be good. I’m here to be great,” Rockhold said. “I want my rematch with Vitor, and I would like it here in the [United] States. I’ll go through anybody I have to [in order] to get that, especially Michael Bisping. That would be nice.”
Tavares Wins Fifth Straight
An active, multi-pronged standup attack paired with timely takedowns carried “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 semifinalist Brad Tavares to a unanimous decision over Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event. Tavares (12-1, 7-1 UFC) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks across the board.
Tavares put the Millennia MMA export on his heels and kept him there for much of the 15-minute encounter. He worked effectively to the body and head, answered Larkin at every turn and pummeled his lead leg with thudding kicks. In the second round, he extended his lead, scoring with a takedown and shifting to Larkin’s back.
Behind on the scorecards, Larkin (14-2, 1-2 UFC) made his move in round three. The 27-year-old threatened Tavares with a guillotine choke and punished him with elbows to the side of the head against the cage, making him pay for an attempted double-leg takedown. Still, the hole was too deep for Larkin, as the surge failed to forge the finish he needed.
Near-Flawless Dillashaw Overwhelms Easton
Easton (13-4, 3-3 UFC) was never a factor in the fight, though his iron chin kept him upright when lesser men may have folded. Dillashaw blended takedowns and superb clinch work with thudding kicks to the leg, body and head, one of which sent spit flying in the second round. Easton tried to answer when and where he could, but Dillashaw’s excellent movement kept him out of range.
Dillashaw continued to pile up the points down the stretch, throwing in a pair of Superman punches in round three.
“I came in here respecting the guy,” Dillashaw said. “He’s top 10 for a reason. I knew he was going to be a tough fight, but I was the better athlete tonight. He’s a durable man. I knew it was going to be a 15-minute fight, so I came in ready to go the whole way.”
Dillashaw has won five of his past six bouts, a controversial decision loss to Raphael Assuncao at UFC Fight Night 29 the lone hiccup.
“I am riding a six-fight winning streak,” he said. “I won that last fight. I’m looking to get that No. 1 contender’s spot. Whoever is in the way, I’m there.”
Late Surge Sends Palacio Past Brunson
American Top Team’s Yoel Romero Palacio stopped Derek Brunson with a series of left hooks and follow-up ground strikes in the third round of their featured middleweight battle. Palacio (7-1, 3-0 UFC) drew the curtain 3:23 into round three, as he repeatedly drove his elbow into Brunson’s body.
Brunson (11-3, 2-1 UFC) held off the imposing Cuban for the better part of two rounds, staggering him with a head kick and surprising the 2000 Olympic silver medalist with well-timed takedowns. To his credit, Palacio kept letting the punches fly. In the third round, he clipped Brunson with one left hook and dropped him to a knee with another. He then followed with punches and hammerfists, forcing the stoppage after a prolonged assault.
“I try to win the fight,” Palacio said. “I don’t try to put damage on my opponents, but if the referee doesn’t stop it, I have to keep going.”
Moraga Rebounds, Edges Ortiz
Arizona Combat Sports representative John Moraga won for the eighth time in nine appearances, as he eked out a contentious split decision over Roufusport’s Dustin Ortiz in a flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Moraga (14-2, 3-1 UFC).
Ortiz (12-3, 1-1 UFC) controlled virtually the entire first round, as he struck for a takedown and fed the former title challenger a steady diet of elbows in punches. However, the momentum proved fleeting. Moraga wobbled the 25-year-old with a left hook in the second, moved to his back during a scramble and nearly finished it with a rear-naked choke.
Moraga -- who submitted to a fifth-round armbar from flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in July -- brought his jab into play in the third round and landed with more authority, counteracting a pair of takedowns from Ortiz.
Miller Choke Submits Sicilia
American Top Team’s Cole Miller submitted Sam Sicilia with a second-round rear-naked choke in a featured scrap at 145 pounds. A bloody Sicilia (12-4, 2-3 UFC) tapped out 1:54 into round two, as he lost for third time in four outings.
Miller (21-8, 10-6 UFC) steered clear of Sicilia’s potent right hand and beat up the Sikjitsu representative from the perimeter, putting a stout jab and front kicks to effective use. The 29-year-old Augusta, Ga., native dropped Sicilia with a two-punch combination -- a straight right did the damage -- before settling in side control and transitioning to the back. The rear-naked choke came next, followed by the tapout.
“I know I’ve been a little inconsistent, but this has been a little breakthrough for me in this last year,” Miller said. “I promise to be more consistent in my future.”
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