The UFC heads to Duluth, Georgia for its second event of 2014 as Luke Rockhold faces Costa Phillipou in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35. The last event held in Georgia was UFC 145: Jones Vs. Evans in April 2012 and this is the first time UFC visits Duluth. The card features four middleweight fights, four lightweight fights, two flyweight fights, one featherweight and one bantamweight bout. This fight card might not look that great on paper but there are quite a few intriguing match-ups and some of the fighters could get a lot closer to a title shot with an impressive win. Team Alpha Male's T.J. Dillashaw takes on Mike Easton in what should be an exciting bantamweight match. Former title contender John Moraga takes on Dustin Ortiz, a win for either fighter would move them up the flyweight ladder. UFC vet and Georgia native, Cole Miller takes on the hard hitting Sam Sicilia in the only featherweight fight on the card. Also the return of Charlie Brenneman who makes his lightweight debut in the UFC, since being cut from the organization following two consecutive losses. We're in store for a decent card and i'll break down every single fight on the card below giving my picks and predictions.
Costas Phillipou (12-3) Vs. Luke Rockhold (10-2)
In our main event of the evening we have a middleweight battle between hard hitting Costas Phillipou and the ultra tough Luke Rockhold. Both fighters are coming off losses and look to right the ship here in this 5 round bout. Luke Rockhold comes in as the biggest favourite on the card at -400 and Phillipou the biggest underdog at +325. Rockhold, who was the Strikeforce middleweight champ holds a significant height advantage and has fought tougher opponents. Phillipou, who was on a 5 fight winning streak before losing Francis Carmont via decision, is looking to get back on track and faces his toughest competition to date. Costas best chances will probably come early in the fight and he would need to try and knock Rockhold out if he stands any chance in this fight, the longer the match goes the more in favour the fight will go to Luke. I predict Rockhold will use his height and reach advantage to keep his distance from Phillipou and out-work him as the fight goes on. I highly doubt that this fight will go the distance but who knows, I said that about the Mark Hunt vs Bigfoot Silva fight and that went the distance. I like Rockhold in this spot and would suggest playing him in a parlay, but tread lightly because Phillipou still has a punchers chance.
Luke Rockhold -400
Lorenz "The Monsoon" Larkin (14-1) Vs. Brad Tavares (11-1)
An interesting middleweight matchup in our co-main event of the evening has Brad Tavares, who has won his last four fights up against Lorenz Larkin, who has gone 1-1 in the UFC after the Strikeforce merger. Larkin comes in as the favourite at -220 and Tavares the underdog at +180, i'm not sure if I agree with this line as Tavares doesn't seem to get credit from oddsmakers even though in seven bouts in the UFC has gone 6-1. The one notable win Larkin has is a unanimous decision victory over Robbie Lawler under the Strikeforce banner. If Larkin is the favourite he shouldn't be that much of a favourite and I see some value in Tavares in this spot, the line is set at over 2.5 rounds at -170 and I think this might be a better bet than laying over two to one on Larkin. I see this one going to a decision so I would suggest betting on the over 2.5 rounds.
Over 2.5 rounds @ -170
T.J. Dillashaw (8-2) Vs. Mike "The Hulk" Easton (13-3)
Two bantamweights trying to move up the ladder in order to get that much closer to a title shot, we have Team Alpha Male's T.J. Dillashaw and Team Alliance's Mike Easton. Both fighters are coming off losses but are still Top tenners in the bantamweight division. Dillashaw comes in as the favourite at -270 and Easton the underdog at +230, both are very exciting to watch and this matchup has the best chances of winning the Fight of the Night award. Both fighters have knockout power and have good ground games. Easton has lost his past two via decision and Dillashaw is coming off a decision loss himself. Stylistically they match up pretty well with Dillashaw probably holding a slight edge in the wrestling department. I predict that this will be a very technical fight and I would lean towards a Dillashaw victory via decision.
T.J. Dillashaw -270
Yoel "Soldier of God" Romero (6-1) Vs. Derek Brunson (11-2)
A middleweight bout between two fighters who are coming off consecutive UFC victories face off in what should be a very entertaining matchup. Yoel Romero is primarily a wrestler but has been knocking guys out like nobodies business and Derek Brunson has looked just as impressive since joining the UFC via the Strikeforce merger. Yoel Romero opened as the favourite at -280 but has since dropped to -250 while Derek Brunson is the underdog at +210. This is a very interesting matchup as both guys are very athletic and grapple very well. This fight has the ingredients to be either a really boring match if it goes to the ground or a really exciting one if it stays standing. It's interesting to note that the line on Romero continues to drop and come fight day it might drop even more. While I agree that Romero should be the favourite i'm not sure if he should be that much of a favourite, I think Brunson has some value at +210 but this is a fight i'm not very sure of. I'm assuming Romero will use his wrestling, but everytime I assume that he knocks guys out. I'm personally going to stay away but I'll lean towards a Romero victory.
Yoel Romero -250
John Moraga (13-2) Vs. Dustin Ortiz (12-2)
Fresh off fighting for the flyweight championship against Demetrious Johnson is John Moraga, who looks to get back on track and work his way back towards another shot at the title. In his way is Team Roufusport member Dustin Ortiz, who made his UFC debut last November finishing off Jose Maria Tome in the 3rd round. Ortiz has great wrestling and looks to use it to his advantage against Moraga. John Moraga is the favourite coming in at -280 and Dustin Ortiz the underdog at +240, this line seems fishy to me and I think we're getting great value for Ortiz at +240. I think the line should be a lot closer and not a lot of credit is being given to Ortiz, possibly because Moraga is coming off a title fight. Either way i'll take a chance with the underdog in this spot because I think Ortiz has a good chance to win this fight.
Dustin Ortiz +240
Cole Miller (20-8) Vs. Sam Sicilia (12-3)
Kicking off the main card we have TUF 5 alum Cole Miller facing off against TUF 15 alum Sam Sicilia. Both fighters are coming off wins and look to keep the streak going, Miller comes in as the favourite at -185 and Sicilia the underdog at +160. Sicilia is coming off an impressive knockout of Godfredo Pepey in Brazil last November, while Miller defeated Andy Ogle via unanimous decision last October. While Sicilia hits pretty hard, Cole Miller is a very tall featherweight at 6'1 and that could possibly pose some problems for Sam. Miller has the edge on the ground and Sicilia might have a little bit of an edge standing up, that is if Sicilia could get his mits on him. I like Cole Miller in this matchup because he has much more experience and could pull off submissions anytime. While I wouldn't count Sicilia out, my lean would be towards a Miller submission.
Cole Miller - 185
Ramsey Nijem (7-4) Vs. Justin "Fast Eddy" Edwards (8-3)
Two TUF 13 alums face off in a lightweight bout with both fighters coming off losses they are both in need of a win and a poor performance could mean the chopping block. Nijem had a bad 2013 with back to back losses against Myles Jury and James Vick, but looks to get back on track with a victory against Justin Edwards. Fighting under Team Pit Elevated, Nijem made it all the way to the finale of TUF 13 where he was knocked out by Tony Ferguson. Justin Edwards drops from welterweight to lightweight for this bout after he was demolished by Brandon Thatch last August. Ramsey Nijem is the favourite here at -150 and Edwards the underdog at +130. I really like Ramsey Nijem in this matchup and the fact that he really needs a win makes me think he's going to do everything he can to stop this fight. I think he should be a bigger favourite and because of that getting him at -150 is gold.
Ramsey Nijem - 150
Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) Vs. Elias Silverio (9-0)
When the line for this fight first came out Team Jackson's Isaac Vallie-Flagg was the slight favourite, since than the line has moved the other way and now Elias Silverio, who drops from welterweight is now the favourite. Currently, Silverio is at -135 and Vallie-Flagg at +115. I'm not sure what to expect from Silverio who makes his lightweight debut. With the line bouncing around so much I would personally stay away from this one but my lean would be towards a Vallie-Flagg victory via decision.
Isaac Vallie-Flagg +115
Trevor "Hot Sauce" Smith (10-4) Vs. Brian "B-Hue" Houston (4-1)
A battle of two middleweights who are in desperate need of a win if they want to stay with the UFC. Both fighters are coming off losses in their UFC debuts and this one has the recipe to a slugfest. Both guys like to stand and bang and that means someone might be put to sleep in this one. Trevor Smith is the favourite coming into this one at -160 and Houston the underdog at +140. Houston's debut last November against Derek Brunson was a short one as he got clipped with a high kick and than submitted via rear-naked choke. In my eyes this fight is more of a pick'em and because of that Houston holds some value at +140. With their jobs on the line, i'm expecting to see urgency from the both of them, i'm assuming Smith will try to use his grappling to get this fight to the ground but if he fails to do so Houston will be hunting for a knockout. I'm going to side with the underdog on this one.
Brian Houston +140
Alptekin "The Turkish Delight" Ozkilic (9-1) Vs. Louis "Da Last Samurai" Smolka (6-0)
Kicking off the prelim undercard on FOX Sports 1 is a flyweight bout between Alptekin Ozkilic and Louis Smolka. Ozkilic made his UFC debut just a month ago when he beat Darren Uyenoyama via split decision. Smolka will be making his UFC debut as he tries to make a name for himself in the shallow UFC flyweight division. Ozkilic comes in as the favourite at -270 and Smolka the underdog at +230. Smolka is relatively green with 6 pro fights under his belt, he is a long fighter for the flyweight division and i'm not sure if that will pose a problem for Ozkilic. Alptekin has the edge in experience and I would lean towards him and possibly play him in a parlay as well.
Alptekin Ozkilic - 270
Vinc "From Hell" Pichel (7-1) Vs. Garrett Whiteley (7-1)
In the second UFC Fight Pass bout we have a pair of 7-1 lightweights who both lost in their UFC debuts. Both fighters look to get back on track and depending on how there performances the loser could possibly get cut by the UFC. Vinc Pichel was a standout from TUF 15 where he lost in the semi-finals to Al Iaquinta. It has been quite a lay off for Pichel who hasn't seen action since December 15, 2012 when he lost to Rustam Khabilov via KO. As for Whiteley, he made his UFC debut last October and losing via TKO to Alan Patrick. Vinc Pichel is the favourite here at -155 and Whiteley the underdog at +135, I like Pichel in this one and I think he has a chance to knockout Whiteley or at the least win via decision. I'll probably play him in a parlay myself.
Vinc Pichel - 155
Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman (19-5) Vs. Beneil Dariush (6-0)
Kicking off the card on UFC Fight Pass we have the return of Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman, who makes his UFC lightweight debut. Brenneman was cut after UFC 152, where he lost to Kyle Noke via first round TKO, Charlie gained the most notoriety when he knocked off rising welterweight star Rick Story at UFC Live: Kongo Vs. Barry on June 26, 2011. Brenneman went 1-3 after the Story victory and was subsequently cut by the UFC, since than Charlie has gone 4-0 outside of the UFC. As for Beneil Dariush who is making his UFC debut, there is very little on the fighter who is 6-0, Dariush was an injury replacement for Adlan Amagov, who was set to face Jason High, who also had to pull out of the fight due to an injury making this an injury replacement versus injury replacement. This fight is hard to predict because Dariush is a bit of an unknown and we've never seen Brenneman fight at lightweight in the UFC, Brenneman has great wrestling and Dariush is a BJJ player, so if there ground games cancel each other out it could be decided on the feet. My instincts tell me Brenneman's experience should be favored over the fairly green Dariush but my gut says Dariush. Brenneman is the favourite at -175 and Dariush the underdog at +155. The line is set at over 2.5 rounds at -170. I have a strong feeling that this fight will go to decision so my lean would be towards over 2.5 rounds.
Over 2.5 @ -170
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