33-Year-Old UFC Middleweight 16-4-0
May 22, 2018 Luke Rockhold News
RotoWire Fantasy Analysis
Rockhold re-injured his left leg while training last week and is now expected to sit out until at least October, Ariel Helwani of MMAfighting.com reports.
Rockhold was given a 180-day medical suspension following his loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in February, but the recent leg injury is the more concerning ailment considering it's set to keep him out at least the next four or five months. The exact specifics of it are unclear, though Helwani's report does show a graphic video of Rockhold's left shin being stitched up. The UFC was hoping to pair up Rockhold and Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 227 on Aug. 4, but it appears that fight will be put on hold for now. Look for additional updates to be released on Rockhold as he progresses through his recovery this summer.
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Fantasy AnalysisRockhold was holding up fine against Romero until a third-round KO resulted in an abrupt end to his evening. One shot dropped Rockhold, and Romero was able to land a finishing blow while he was down before the referee was able to jump in and stop the fight. As a result, he'll now need to wait six months before competing again under the UFC banner, unless he is medically cleared by a dentist beforehand. These suspensions rarely last their maximum length, so Rockhold could be back in the Octagon this summer if he chooses to.
Fantasy AnalysisYou can't help but feel for Rockhold. He lost his shot at the undisputed UFC Middleweight Championship when Robert Whittaker was forced to withdraw from this fight and then he agreed to fight Romero despite the fact Yoel missed weight on Friday. Now he gets knocked out on Saturday and he finds himself a world away from another title shot. Rockhold leaned on his jab and kicks for the duration of this one. He did a decent job of keeping Romero at a distance but Romero's greatest attribute is his freakish explosiveness and Rockhold got caught with one quick combo out of nowhere that turned his lights out. Rockhold is probably the best all-around middleweight in the world but this is a crushing loss. He is at a career crossroads at age 33.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold wound up agreeing to the fight after a night of negotiations with the promotion, which occurred due to Romero coming in at 187.7 pounds when he needed to be under the 185 benchmark. Although Romero can no longer claim the interim belt with a victory, Rockhold still has the opportunity to leave Australia with the interim middleweight title.
Fantasy AnalysisIt remains to be seen how much longer Rockhold will continue to fight in the 185-pound weight class, but the 33-year-old said that it wouldn't be for too much longer. During the open workouts ahead of this weekend's event, Rockhold acknowledged that he's getting older and with Daniel Cormier moving up to heavyweight, he will be up to the light heavyweight level soon.
Fantasy AnalysisAlthough Whittaker was named the undisputed middleweight champion after Georges St-Pierre vacated the title due to ulcerative colitis, Rockhold's bout with Romero will be for the interim belt when they face off in Perth, Australia. Rockhold comes into this fight having won six of his past seven contests, including a victory over David Branch via TKO (submission via strikes) in September. Interestingly enough, Romero recently lost to Whittaker in July, and was set to take on Branch in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 24 prior to this announcement.
Fantasy AnalysisWhittaker (knee) was named the undisputed middleweight champion Thursday after Georges St-Pierre vacated his belt due to a bout with ulcerative colitis. Rockhold will get his shot at the title as part of the main event in UFC 221. His opponent won the interim middleweight championship in July by defeating Yoel Romero via unanimous decision.
Fantasy AnalysisThe rare submission due to strikes. In his first fight in 15 months, it took Rockhold quite a while to find his form. He struggled massively in the first round and ate some big shots from the powerful Branch. He managed to survive and eased his way through Round 2 until he was able to throw Branch to the mat after an exchange along the fence and then proceeded to work towards the stoppage. No one is doubting that Rockhold is right there in the top tier of the UFC's 185-pound division. The issue is that a division that was once seemingly void of talent not all that long ago, now has countless names (Champion Michael Bisping, Interim Champion Robert Whittaker, Georges St-Pierre, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero) vying for the top spot. Whoever he goes up against next, Rockhold will need another impressive performance if he wants to keep himself in title contention.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold has been recovering from a partial ACL tear since last year. This will be the first time he steps in the Octagon since his loss to Michael Bisping (KO-punches) in June 2016. Prior to the injury, Rockhold was facing challenging middleweights like Bisping and Chris Weidman. He has a 15-3 record (14-2 UFC) with nine submission wins and could dish out an average 4.17 significant strikes per minute before injury. How he fares in his first fight back may be different.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold may be physically ready to accept another fight after over a 10-month layoff, but he will only return to the octagon if he believes the fight will help his career move forward. He had been scheduled to face Jacare Souza on Nov. 26, but that bout ultimately fell through due to injury -- likely related to the knee troubles. Rockhold has since apparently accepted a fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 212 on June 3, but Silva's team seems to be exploring other options (he was originally scheduled for Kelvin Gastelum, who was pulled after being flagged for a USADA violation). With division champion Michael Bisping seemingly locked in to a fight with Georges St-Pierre at an undetermined date, the only logical fight, in Rockhold's eyes, would be an interim title showdown with Yoel Romero, the winner of eight straight. The 32-year-old Rockhold has also been exchanging words with heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum of late, though it may be tough to convince a commission to sanction that event due to the tremendous size difference.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold will have to wait a bit longer before he can have an opportunity to fight again, after losing the middleweight championship to Michael Bisping at UFC 199 back in June. His match with Souza was highly anticipated, as Rockhold defeated Jacare unanimously in five rounds back in September 2011 . It appears as if Souza will remain on the card, although there has been no decision on who his new opponent will be.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold defeated Jacare in their first meeting five years ago in five rounds by unanimous decision. Rockhold, who recently lost the Middleweight Title to Michael Bisping at UFC 199, is looking for a way to get back into the discussion and earn his belt back. Rockhold was humbled by Bisping quickly in the first round, falling to a couple well-placed swings in the first round. This is sure to be an interesting headliner, as both Rockhold and Souza are excellent at forcing submissions.
Fantasy AnalysisYou just cannot predict what will happen in this sport. Rockhold was on top of the world following his victory over Chris Weidman to win the title in December, and less than six months later, it has all fallen apart. Rockhold was doing well in the early going, using his kicks to control the pace of the fight, but he ate one monumental left hook from Bisping that sent him flying, and one more left hook was all it took for referee John McCarthy to step in and stop the bout. Rockhold was very frank in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, openly admitting that he took Bisping lightly and came into the fight overconfident. Rockhold's torn MCL that he mentioned yesterday had no bearing on the fight at all. His movements were fine and he looked perfectly healthy up until the finish. There is little doubt that Rockhold is a better fighter than Bisping, but that's the beauty of MMA. Any man can win on any given night. Rockhold is not going to get an immediate rematch.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold mentioned the injury himself at a press conference Thursday. Riding a six-fight winning streak, Rockhold will make his first title defense since winning the his belt from Chris Weidman last December. One of Rockhold's biggest strengths have always been his kicks and his ability to use his 6-3 frame to his advantage, something that should work exceedingly well against a shorter opponent in Bisping who prefers to stand and trade. When Rockhold and Bisping fought in November 2014, the champ easily dominated Round 1 before choking out the Brit early in the second frame. The odds may seem excessive, but Rockhold is a deserving massive favorite in this fight. Anything Bisping throws at him, Rockhold should be able to easily counter. Rockhold is clearly the best 185-pounder in the world, so setting him up for a cakewalk in his first title defense isn't the worst thing in the world from a marketing perspective.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold didn't necessarily hold up MRI results, so there's always the possibility that he's playing some sort of head game with Bisping. One of the middleweight champion's trademark moves is a spinning back kick, and the effectiveness of that would obviously suffer if that were the case. Per Damon Martin of FOX Sports, the injury has prevented him from grappling throughout the entirety of his camp, and he only began kicking again last week. Against a fighter like Bisping that can absorb his fair share of shots, this could potentially be problematic. That being said, the money in Vegas hasn't yet moved drastically towards Bisping, but it's a situation worth monitoring leading up to fight night.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold had originally been scheduled for a rematch with Chris Weidman, who he beat back in December to claim the middleweight strap. Weidman was forced to withdraw from that fight due to a neck injury, and is currently targeting a November return to the Octagon. On just over two week's notice, the UFC was able to replace Weidman with the No. 5-ranked contender, Michael Bisping. The two faced each other at UFC Fight Night 55 back in November 2014, and Rockhold caught Bisping in a guillotine choke in the second round that ultimately submitted him. The current champion will likely enter this bout as a heavy favorite, as he is six years younger than Bisping, has more momentum on his side and has a more diverse skill set in his arsenal. If Rockhold takes care of business here, the UFC could elect to honor Weidman's request and have the two fight in November in New York. If Weidman's return gets delayed, or Rockhold wants to fight sooner, the backup plan would be to schedule a bout against No. 1 contender Jacare Souza.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold won in convincing fashion at UFC 194 on December 12, effectively taking the middleweight strap in his first ever opportunity. Less than two months afterwards, the UFC booked Rockhold for an immediate rematch with Weidman, which had been scheduled to take place at UFC 199 on June 4. Now, the promotion finds itself in a tough spot for rescheduling this event. The No. 2 and 3 welterweight fighters just squared off Saturday, and it would be tough to imagine a scenario in which either would be ask to fight again less than three weeks afterwards. Another potentially big draw would be Anderson Silva, but he is on the shelf due to gall bladder surgery. With Yoel Romero serving a PED suspension, the only top-five name left is Michael Bisping, who some would argue merits an opportunity due to his lifetime achievements in the sport. In fact, Bisping tweeted from his personal account that he would take the fight, if it were offered. An update on the UFC's final decision will be posted as soon as it's made available.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold handed Weidman his first professional loss back at UFC 194 in June, adding to what is now a five-fight winning streak. Although Rockhold earned the victory in a decisive manner in a fight that probably lasted longer than it should have, the UFC decided it would be best to give the former middleweight champion the first opportunity to regain his belt. Look for another exciting bout between two fighters with diverse skill sets.
Fantasy AnalysisRockhold appeared to be on his way to losing Round 3 and likely being down 29-28, but Weidman went for a terrible spinning kick which he missed and Rockhold dragged him to the ground and dominated from then on. Rockhold unleashed some vicious shots from the top after mounting Weidman and referee Herb Dean was inches from stopping the bout before Weidman was saved by the bell. Rockhold took down Weidman to begin Round 4 and he just once again unloaded with a ton of punches before Dean finally stepped in. The fact Rockhold was able to takedown Weidman so easily tells you how beat up Chris was at that point. Although the striking exchanges early on were close, Rockhold certainly appeared to have the more power of the two. His best offense early on came from his kicks. A mistake from Weidman led to the fight turning, but Rockhold deserves all the credit in the world for capitalizing. Yoel Romero seems likely to get the next title shot after defeating Jacare Souza earlier in the night, but Rockhold should be a fairly heavy favorite if and when the two meet.
Fantasy AnalysisA former Strikeforce Middleweight champion, Rockhold's sole UFC defeat came via KO to Vitor Belfort at the height of Belfort's TRT use. Now having one four straight, Rockhold will look to take advantage of this rare opportunity and hand Chris Weidman his first career defeat.
Fantasy AnalysisEveryone has known for several months that Rockhold would be getting the next title shot against Weidman, but now we finally have a date for the bout. The UFC's original plan seemed to be for Weidman v. Rockhold to headline the UFC's first event at Madison Square Garden, but once again, the New York state assembly failed to pass their MMA bill and the fight will head to Vegas instead. Disregard the "co-main" event label. Weidman v. Rockhold is one of the best fights the UFC could possibly make.
Fantasy AnalysisThis comes as no surprise. Rockhold was widely expected to get the next chance, and he deserves it. It's not clear exactly when the fight will take place, but it's expected to be sometime in the fall. It would definitely be an option to headline an event at Madison Square Garden in December if MMA is finally legalized in New York this summer.