Octagon Oracles: Contender Series finisher Philip Rowe

Phillip Rowe has his hand raised in victory. Credit: HOF MMA, Emmitt Wakefield Photography.

Philip Rowe (7-2) will finally be making his UFC debut following earning his contract on UFC President Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019.

In this piece, several of MMA-Prospects’ staff writers will give their predictions for how each prospect making their debut in the coming weekend will face during their UFC tenure.

Philip Rowe

To earn his UFC contract he beat Leon Shahbazyan, the brother of UFC middleweight contender Edmen Shahbazyan. Since then, Rowe has been scheduled to fight three separate times but it hasn’t worked out.

Rowe will now fight Gabe Green (9-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC). He comes in with a 7-2 record looking to move his win streak to eight.

Shawn Bitter

Grade: C-

To me, Rowe isn’t someone I’m all too excited about. His two losses was to bottom tier fighters. To his credit, that was at the beginning of his career. Still, even his wins have been against poor competition.

He does have a really good build for welterweight, though. Rowe does throw a lot of volume, he’s tricky of the feet, he has some good kickboxing, and he has a dangerous submission game. I believe his weak takedown defense and willingness to accept the bottom position will hurt him in the long run.

His lack of competition is also a major red flag. Already 30-years-old, I don’t see too much upside.

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Yousef Nassar

Grade: B-

There are lots to like about Philip Rowe and the skillset he brings to the Octagon. His record, 7-2, is deceptive and doesn’t quite tell the full picture of his skillset.

At 6’2″, he is a very tall welterweight who moves well, feints well, and is a fast striker. In his Contender Series bout, he also displayed his ability to weather the storm early and showed that he carries his power well into the third round.

I do believe that he will do well against Greene, who is a natural lightweight, and who is dangerous when coming forward, but less so when having to fight off his back foot.

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Zac Herbison

Grade: A-

Rowe’s reach is just absurd. Depending on the promotion, it’s been listed as anywhere from 6’8.5″ to 6’10”. For reference, heavyweight giant Alexander Volkov’s reach is 6’9″.

When Rowe’s light on his feet, throwing 1-2s and leg kicks while keeping his distance, he looks unstoppable. Rowe moves pretty consistently when on the edge of striking range, keeping himself from being an easy target. He’s also great about backing up as his opponent strikes, taking power off of the strike, if not avoiding it entirely.

Rowe doesn’t neglect his ground game, either – he recently competed in a no-gi match and has four submission wins on his pro record. My primary complaint is that he seems to wait on his opponent far too much. I’m not sure if he’s attempting to counter, or if his low-volume is unintentional, but in my opinion, he does his best work when he’s initiating, and he doesn’t do that enough. Rowe’s good about starting his combinations with long punches, but he rarely throws a solitary jab, which seems like free damage for someone who has, and I really can’t stress this enough, cartoonishly-long arms.

He does, however, make good use of leg kicks as a range tool. Rowe has a lot of things to build on; I would love to see him work more jabs, feints, and kicks into his game. His high potential makes him hard to rank, because only time will tell if that potential is realized. I’m gonna be optimistic.

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Sergio Pineiro

Grade: C-

Rowe is a fighter in every sense of the word. After losing his first two pro fights, he won seven straight to earn a UFC contract. What I left out was only one of those fighters had a positive win-loss record.

He is very long for the weight class with an 80.5” reach. Rowe’s biggest downfall is simply the fact he is a welterweight. The division is full of talent and many other hard hitters. Rowe will likely have 3-4 fights in the promotion before returning to the regional scene.

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Kenny Lee

Grade: A

From what I saw in his fights, the man seems very well rounded in all facets of MMA. On the feet, he is long and rangy with good boxing and great front kicks to the body. He knows how to use distance with a monster 80-inch reach and 6’3″ height which is pretty incredible for a welterweight. Rowe does a good job of keeping opponents on the end of his punches and kicks.

Light on his feet, constantly moving side to side, Rowe is never stood still and likes the opponent come to him, however, will walk opponents down if he has to. There is a danger of being clipped as Rowe keeps his hands down low which may be a slight defensive problem in the future. When hurt badly, Rowe displays good recuperative powers to survive.

A BJJ brown belt, Rowe seems confident on the ground too as he pulled guard actively looking for submissions from his back in one of his fights. It takes confidence to pull guard as you grant top position to your opposition but I guess with Jacare Souza in your corner, perhaps the man has some slick BJJ skills that he’s willing to show off from his bottom full guard. I like this man’s future, he reminds me of a Neil Magny a little bit.

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Vince Rodemer

Grade: C-

There are a lot of red flags with Philip Rowe. The first thing is that he wasn’t exactly dominant in his Contender Series win over Leon Shahbazyan. That fight was over a year and a half ago and Rowe has had three bouts canceled last year.

Generally, with Contender Series fighters, Dana wants to get them in the octagon quickly and find out what they have. You wonder what the 30-year old has been up to since August of 2019.

He does have seven wins and seven finishes after starting his career 0-2, but I don’t see Rowe as a guy that has an elite skill in any area.

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Tom Albano

Grade: C

Rowe is 6’3” with a reach of about 80.5 inches. That’s quite big for a welterweight, and that’s definitely going to give him the physical factor when he and Green meet. Rowe is quick and hard with his hands and that should give us quite the strikers’ battle against Green. And even then, Rowe’s size and grappling experience could mean an edge if the two battle against the cage or in the clinch, when Green tries to go in and land on the inside.

Of the first six men Rowe beat, two have not fought since their fight, while another two are winless. One is 1-5 and hasn’t fought since 2018. One is on a four-fight losing streak and hasn’t fought since 2019. None of them have MMA records over .500.

Rowe might be a finisher and may possess talent, but the quality of opponents, when compared to Green’s, should at least bring in questions on how far Rowe can really go in the UFC. That’s not to say he can’t win fights in the UFC, nor that he can’t end up getting performance bonuses and some popularity.

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Joshua Yule

Grade: C-

I don’t tend to think of Contender Series as a very respectable promotion, to be honest. That being said, I’ve seen some decent stuff from Rowe, I think his feinting game is okay. I like the use of the snap kick. His power is very impressive, and his hand speed and accuracy is pretty decent too.

Grappling-wise I’d need to see more, though I like his ground and pound from what little I’ve seen. He gets so much leverage with his long arms and just drops bombs.

That being said, he has a lot of room to grow. I don’t like his defense, it feels like he fights too tall and his guard and head movement are mediocre. Bad defense and bad footwork is death to a long tall Sally like Rowe. Welterweight is not where you’re going to be able to get away with this. Ironically it seems Rowe is far more comfortable coming forward, firing combinations than trying to keep his distance.

I think if he fights more aggressively he might find more success than if he sticks to his outfighting which seems to be his plan A.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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Kristen King

Grade: B-

A quick glance at his record is enough to see why Rowe was the lone contract winner during Week 9 of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019. All of his professional wins have come by way of finish, and they alternate between knockouts and submissions, so it appears Rowe is solid wherever the fight goes.

A small cause for concern with Rowe is his striking defense. As hard as it may be to get on the inside of someone like Rowe, who has a reach of 83”, it has been done and we have seen what happens when he is pressured.

He has gotten clipped before, but the good thing is, Rowe is great at recovering and getting himself back to his feet. Rowe is going to find himself in some pretty fun fights during his time in the UFC.

Out Within 1-2 Years
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A Mainstay Through the Years
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Title Contender
Champion

Gary Friel

Grade: D+

The thing about fighters like Rowe is right now there’s no way you can tangibly figure out how good they are right now; Rowe’s opponents have a combined record of 14-14. This was 7-13 before his Contender Series fight with Leon Shahbazyan, an opponent Gabe Green also dispatched and in a quicker fashion.

Rowe seems like a bit of a wrecking machine, capable of stopping people with strikes or submissions. But when you really look at who he’s stopping, that’s not specifically impressive for a UFC fighter. However, I think his ability to finish fights, and the capacity to be finished as seen in his pro debut, means he will likely have some exciting fights in the UFC, but without massive success.

Out Within 1-2 Years
50/50 Winner
Bonus Winner
A Mainstay Through the Years
Top 15
Top 10
Top 5
Title Contender
Champion