36-Year-Old UFC Middleweight 21-4-0
January 13, 2018 David Branch News
RotoWire Fantasy Analysis
Yoel Romero was added to the interim middleweight title bout against Luke Rockhold on Feb. 20 due to Robert Whittaker's withdrawal from the event, which leaves Branch without an opponent for UFC on FOX 28 on Feb. 24 in Orlando, Florida, Alexander K. Lee of MMAFighting.com reports.
The promotion will begin an immediate search to try and find Branch a worthy competitor following Whittaker's announcement that he will be unable to compete for the middleweight belt. Recently, Branch was defeated by Rockhold via submission (strikes) in mid-September, which snapped his 11-fight win streak. The UFC will want to square this away as soon as possible, so expect an announcement shortly as to whether a proper opponent has been found for Branch, or if the fight will wind up going by the wayside.
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Fantasy AnalysisBranch will head back to the arena after falling to Luke Rockhold via submission (strikes) in mid-September in Pittsburgh. The 36-year-old received a 45-day medical suspension following that bout, but will be chomping at the bit to get back out there after a recent loss. That fight marked his first defeat in his last 12 bouts. Similarly, Romero took a loss during his latest fight, to Robert Whittaker in July at UFC 213. That snapped his spotless 8-0 record in the promotion.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch started the fight with Luke Rockhold strong. He was aggressive and landed 36 total strikes in the first round. However, he made the mistake of allowing Rockhold to bring him to the ground in Round 2. Rockhold landed 34 of his 43 significant strikes during the second frame from the mat, which led to a stop called by the referee at 4:05 and a submission loss for the middleweight. Branch was given a medical suspension of 45 days following the fight, pending clearance from a physician.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch looked excellent in Round 1 and competent in Round 2 prior to the finish. He was aggressive throughout the course of the contest and excelled in pushing the taller Rockhold up against the fence. Unfortunately he allowed Rockhold to throw him to the mat and eventually flatten him out in the second frame and that led to the stoppage. Despite the loss, Branch, at age 36 (in ten days), proved that he could hang with one of the better pound-for-pound fighters in the world. He will continue to get meaningful fights in the UFC's middleweight division.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch took down Krzysztof Jotko (split decision) in his UFC return earlier this year. After fighting with the WSOF for five years, Branch has rejoined the UFC with a 21-3 record (3-2 UFC) and hasn't lost since 2012 against Anthony Johnson (unanimous decision). Although he hasn't faced many UFC-caliber opponents in recent years, he has 11 straight wins with seven submission victories in his career.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch, who was the reigning WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion when he signed with the UFC in February, hadn't fought for the company since 2011. He seemed tentative and confused in his first fight back, but he ultimately did enough to earn the judges' decision. Branch had all sorts of issues getting inside against Jotko on the feet, but he scored three takedowns and 5:12 worth of control time over the course of the bout. Both of those factors certainly won him the fight. Expect Branch to look far more comfortable in his next fight.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch stepped away from the UFC in 2011, and after bouncing around a few promotions, he eventually landed with WSOF, where he collected a 10-0 record and two championship belts. He'll draw a hot fighter in Jotko, who is 6-1 under the UFC banner and a winner in his last five fights. Branch is the more experienced and well-rounded fighter, but one could make the case that he hasn't faced a UFC-caliber opponent since Rumble Johnson in 2012. Jotko should serve as an excellent litmus test of where he's at in the middleweight division.
Fantasy AnalysisBranch has spent the last three years competing in the World Series of Fighting, where he earned a light heavyweight championship in 2015 against Teddy Holder and later added a middleweight strap to his resume. Although capable of fighting in two weight classes, the UFC desperately needs some depth in the 205-pound division, so that's likely where the 35-year-old will land. Branch is undefeated in the WSOF, going 10-0 via five decisions, four submissions and one TKO. He has some UFC experience, but previously went 2-2 with the promotion with losses to Gerald Harris and Rousimar Palhares. He's also shared the cage with top light heavyweight contender Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, but lost via decision back in 2012 under the Titan FC banner. Considering the knockout tear that Rumble has been on, taking him the distance is impressive in its own right.
Fantasy AnalysisFor those keeping score at home, Branch is now the WSOF middleweight champion and the WSOF light heavyweight champion. That should tell you all you need to know about the depth of the WSOF these days. Branch is a competent fighter, but he is far from a stud. For the most part he is beating up on inferior competition. He does have a seven-fight winning streak, however.
Fantasy AnalysisThe veteran WSOF middleweight champion fought four bouts in the UFC back in 2010-2011. The 33-year-old is on a nice run in the WSOF (six straight wins), but he would struggle against better competition. Branch made the right decision to remain with the company.