Luke Rockhold is Officially Back with Impressive Showing in Pittsburgh
Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold picked up a finish in his first fight in more than a year.
Updated: Sept. 17, 2017 • 2:15 PM ET
Luke Rockhold stopped David Branch Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
Luke Rockhold made a convincing return to the UFC Saturday night, putting the middleweight division on notice.
There were many questions about the former champion heading into his fight with David Branch at the UFC Fight Night main event in Pittsburgh, including how he would perform after a long layoff due to a devastating knockout loss at UFC 199 to Michael Bisping. But Rockhold needed only two rounds to prove that he’s still one of the top middleweights in the world and a top contender in the UFC’s middleweight division.
Branch put pressure on Rockhold in the first round and hurt him, but the former champion weathered the storm and forced Branch to tap due to strikes in the second round. In the second round, Rockhold reminded everyone that he has one of the most dangerous clinches and top-games in the middleweight division. He overwhelmed Branch in both positions.
Rockhold had plenty to say after the fight. He referenced the upcoming middleweight title fight between Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre, saying that he believes St-Pierre has no chance in the fight and for that reason, it’s a pointless matchup.
“I’m not calling ‘GSP’ out wrong. Don’t get it wrong; get it straight,” Rockhold said via MMAjunkie. “I’m telling ‘GSP’ to get the (expletive) out of his irrelevant fight. I don’t think he has any chance. I really don’t. I’m just telling you the straight truth. ‘GSP’ is going to get crushed. His game plan will not work against Bisping.
“As much as I don’t like (Bisping), the other guy, he’s going to lose. The takedowns, Bisping is going to scramble. He’s going to get up. The size is going to wear on him. He’s going to outbox him, and he’s probably going to put him away in the later rounds. That’s the fight. It’s going to happen. I’ll bet the house on it. I’ll even (expletive) bet on it.”
Rockhold is the last man to defeat Bisping and would love to avenge his loss to the champion. They have a heated rivalry, and there’s no doubt that rivalry would intensify if Rockhold is granted another shot at Bisping for the title.
Outside of fighting the winner between Bisping and GSP, there are other interesting options for Rockhold. A rematch with Chris Weidman, although Rockhold has dismissed it, would still be an outstanding fight. A fight with interim middleweight champion Robert Whitaker, once Whitaker comes back from injury, would be an absolute war. Another option for Rockhold is a fight with No. 2 ranked Yoel Romero, who hasn’t fought since losing the interim title fight to Whitaker. If you base the matchups on rankings, a fight with Romero makes the most sense, as they are ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the division.
With the win, Rockhold moved to 6-2 in the UFC and is without a doubt back in the title conversation. Fans can only hope that he doesn’t take another year off. The middleweight division is more exciting when Rockhold is active and challenging top contenders.