For a while there, Costas Philippou (or Costa or Constantinos or whatever he wants to be called) had a lot of positive momentum going for him in the UFC middleweight division. A five-fight winning streak culminated in a UFC 155 victory over Tim Boetsch and placed Philippou squarely in the middle of the top ten in the division. Since then, Philippou has lost two fights and wasn’t particularly competitive in either. Philippou was smothered for three rounds by Francis Carmont and torn apart standing by Luke Rockhold.
While I always thought Philippou could be a solid UFC middleweight, I never bought into him as a title contender in the division. Maybe a fringe long-shot contender, but nothing more. When Philippou defeated Boetsch in particular, both fighters were ranked above where their true talent level lies. Philippou had his winning streak going for him but his best win during that streak was against Court McGee in what was a very close fight. Boetsch was coming off a controversial decision victory over Hector Lombard. When Philippou defeated Boetsch, that pushed his ranking even higher, but he was almost certain to fail to maintain that ranking.
The reality is that Philippou lacks the exceptional talent needed to fight at a high level in the UFC. Even though Philippou has a boxing background, his striking in the UFC has been closer to “average” than “good.” In terms of standing strikes landed, Philippou has actually absorbed more strikes than he’s landed, with 183 landed and 192 absorbed. He’s landed four knockdowns and been knocked down twice, but three of those knockdowns were against the glass-jawed Jared Hamman.
In fairness to Philippou, he has had to face extremely tough competition in recent fights. The same cannot be said of Lorenz Larkin, who is coming off a loss to Brad Tavares at the same show where Philippou lost to Rockhold. There’s nothing to say about that fight except that Tavares was simply the more effective striker. Tavares landed more significant strikes (45 to 39) and easily got the better of Larkin at distance (44 to 21).
While a lot of people have dismissed that as an uninspired performance by Larkin, I think it’s simply evidence that Larkin isn’t as good a striker as people think. In Larkin’s previous fight, he landed 46 significant strikes to Chris Camozzi’s 64. Camozzi out-struck Larkin 58-29 at distance although Camozzi also threw a very high amount of leg kicks while Larkin landed power punches to the head. Larkin deserved that decision victory but if he was really that good a striker, wouldn’t he have defeated Camozzi more convincingly?
This fight appears to me to be a battle between fighters who have the reputation for being good strikers but lack the performances to back it up. They have been much closer to average in the UFC, and while it takes serious skill to be even an average UFC striker, it’s an indicator that both fighters are settling in as being just decent mid-tier UFC performers.
In a fight against each other, I’m having trouble finding significant advantages for either fighter. Larkin tends to throw more leg kicks than Philippou, who focuses more on targeting the head, but Larkin makes opponents miss at a higher rate (64% to 57%).
For me, this fight just has the feel of a 50-50 striking match. I highly doubt either fighter will go for takedowns or look to win with grappling. Instead, I see this being the kind of fight that stays standing, where neither fighters establishes much of an advantage and it eventually goes to split decision.
But that’s not reflected in the betting lines. Larkin is currently considered more than a 2-1 favorite to beat Philippou. When I look at how these fighters match up, I can’t help but think the betting public is overvaluing Larkin or undervaluing Philippou.
The one factor that leads me to side with Larkin is that Philippou is coming off a bad TKO loss. For me, that factor is more of a tiebreaker than anything, but it’s possible that Philippou will be less confident or more susceptible to being stopped by strikes (although his last fight ended by being hurt to the body, not the head). My pick is Larkin to win but my degenerate gambling action will be on the other side.
Pick: Lorenz Larkin by decision