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UFC Fight Night 35: Men on the Cusp

While looking for something to define this fight card, there were a few trends to be found. A few cases of prospects, a few stories of redemption, and fighters in desperate need of a win. If there is an overriding theme to be found on this fight card, however, it's fighters who are just on the edge of being relevant in their division.

In the main event, you have two men who are looking to bounce back from high profile and embarrassing losses. Rockhold got his head separated from his shoulders by a Vitor Belfort spinning head kick, and Philippou lost in the exact opposite manner, being ground out by a top heavy Francis Carmont. Going into both of those bouts, the men were touted as highly regarded prospects, and were given a platform from which to propel themselves forward in the division. However, both men failed to do so. They will find themselves looking at an opponent in need of a dominant win with which to make their name known, and state their case to the public for forward movement.

In the co-main event, the breakout win could go to two men in different situations. Tavares has the longer win streak, but has a rather safe style with which to play his game. Larkin is the flashier striker, and thus can more readily capitalize on the crowd, and the want to see more.

For TJ Dillashaw, he's already broken through. His exposure on TUF, as well as a string of finishes and slams has given him a hype train worth following. It also doesn't hurt that he trains out of the extremely marketable Team Alpha Male fight camp with other divisional stalwarts and standouts like Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, and Joseph Benavidez. Though he lost his last bout to bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao, he's still got the exposure necessary to shorten his climb into the title picture. For Easton, it's different. He has a reputation as a power puncher, which is always a plus, but has an inconsistent track record. He only has one finish in the UFC, looked tepid in his bout with Ivan Menjivar, and is on a two fight losing streak. A break through for him in this fight is unlikely, unless he gets a finish that's particularly flashy or violent.

Yoel Romero and Derek Brunson both competed last on the Fight for the Troops, and both scored impressive finishes. Romero knocked out Ronny Markes in the third round, and Derek Brunson blitzed promotional newcomer Brian Houston in under a minute. Both have the necessary finishing ability for a quick break through, and both have backgrounds (although extremely different) that could be marketable. Romero was an Olympic silver medalist, and uses his wrestling pedigree much like a Chuck Liddell, to wrestle in reverse. For Brunson, he has the unique background of being a former cheerleader. This fight has a sleeper post fight award bonus written all over it, and thus an opportunity for one (or possibly both) to break through to a larger audience.

Lastly, John Moraga takes on Dustin Ortiz. Moraga is the only fighter on the card coming off of a headlining title fight on a FOX card, yet is placed pretty low on the main card. This is for two reasons: the relative depth of the flyweight division, and the utter lack of offense he was able to utilize on champion Demetrious Johnson. He may have the most exposure of anyone on the card, but his star has not yet broken through. He needs a main card victory, and an impressive one at that, to be able to reach that next level.

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