Luke Rockhold Finally Set to Return after Shocking Loss to Bisping
After more than a year off following his KO loss to Michael Bisping, former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold meets contender David Branch this Saturday.
Updated: Sept. 14, 2017 • 12:08 PM ET
Luke Rockhold is looking to bounce back after losing his title.
Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns to the Octagon this Saturday at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh to face another former champion, who’s trying to work his way up the middleweight rankings in David Branch.
Rockhold, also a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, hasn’t fought since losing the UFC middleweight title at UFC 199 to Michael Bisping. That was more than a year ago, but it seems more like five.
So much has happened in the division since Bisping’s shocking knockout of Rockhold, so it may have been easy for some to forget his short reign as champion. Despite the elapsed time, Rockhold is still ranked No. 3 in the division and still
one of the most dangerous fighters at 185 pounds.
Before losing to Bisping, Rockhold won five consecutive fights and was dominant during the streak. He won the title at UFC 194 in convincing fashion over Chris Weidman and plans on winning at UFC Fight Night on Saturday convincingly as well — but it won’t be easy.
Branch is making his second appearance in the UFC, in what is his second stint with the organization. He’s a former simultaneous weight-class title holder in WSOF (World Series of Fighting), defending his middleweight championship three times and light heavyweight championship one time. His last loss was in 2012, which puts him on an 11-fight win streak.
Branch made his return to the UFC in May with a split decision victory over Krzysztof Jotko. It was an uneventful fight, but Branch showed that he’s capable of being explosive. He has a 21-3 record and is ranked No. 9 in the middleweight division.
Both fighters are big and powerful for the division, which makes this an interesting fight. Branch is known to use his size and power to grind out victories, while Rockhold has great kickboxing and holds the grappling and submissions advantage.
The ultimate question is: how long will Rockhold keep the fight standing? The other question is: which fighter will be the aggressor? There will likely be a feeling-out process for both fighters, so who has the better gameplan may show more signs of life later in the fight.
The two fighters have had plenty of opinions about each other.
“Branch is a good fighter, I think he just questions himself,” Rockhold said last month on The MMA Hour. “You can’t question yourself at this level.
“I’m going to eat him up. I’m going to push him to that breaking point, and he’s going to feel the pressure. He can’t keep up with me. You can’t think you’re going to do something. You have to know. I see Branch, he questions himself. He’s good everywhere, he’s a third-degree black belt, he’s a decent boxer, but there’s questions in his head, and it’s time for me to go make those a little more doubtful as the rounds go on.”
Branch didn’t hold back earlier this week on The MMA Hour.
“He’s going to come out and try to establish his dominance,” Branch said. “He’s going to try to run his alpha male shit on me, and I’m going to shut that shit down, obviously. But I think in that fight with Bisping, the motherfucker slipped up.
“You can’t go out there and take anybody lightly…He’s a tough opponent. I respect him enough to have trained for him the way I trained for him. And that’s about the most respect this motherfucker is going to get from me. He’s not getting no more respect. I already gave him enough respect by training for him as hard as I have. That is respect enough. When I go in there, I am going to be very, very disrespectful to him.”
Both fighters think a win puts them at the front of a long line of fighters who also believe they are next to get a shot at taking the title from Bisping, who is fighting Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217. A dominant win by either Rockhold or Branch certainly puts them close to the front of that line.
FS1 Main Card
Welterweight - Mike Perry vs. Thiago Alves
Middleweight - Hector Lombard vs. Anthony Smith
Lightweight - Gregor Gillespie vs. Jason Gonzalez
Welterweight - Kamaru Usman vs. Sergio Moraes
Heavyweight - Justin Ledet vs. Zu Anyanwu
Lightweight - Tony Martin vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Heavyweight - Anthony Hamilton vs. Daniel Spitz
Middleweight - Krysztof Jotko vs. Uriah Hall
Bantamweight - Luke Sanders vs. Felipe Arantes
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Lightweight - Jason Saggo vs. Gilbert Burns