With Yoel Romero coming off a loss against Robert Whittaker for the UFC interim middleweight title at UFC 213, the question is what is next for the “Soldier of God” who loudly exclaimed that the he is far from done in his title chase. Enter Luke Rockhold who has been inactive for over a year and unhappy about the state of the division he once ruled over. Rockhold was previously linked to Gegard Mousasi with the intention of being scheduled for UFC 215 in September, before Mousasi signed a multi fight deal with Bellator last week. With Rockhold’s stance on the kind of opponent he prefers as well as the implications a victory over said opponent would be, Romero appears to be the right choice, if he is willing to wait for Romero to recover.
Romero’s ability to use speed and power in both his striking and grappling game is what makes him extremely dangerous, especially in the early portion of a fight. Rockhold is known for being a slow starter, preferring to counter his opponent’s mistakes, but we’ve seen firsthand what happens when the former champ spends too much time waiting. He suffered two knockout losses in his UFC career against Vitor Belfort in 2013 and Michael Bisping last year. Both occurred in the first round and are both chalked up to good luck according to Rockhold. Rockhold may have just gotten caught in both occasions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen again.
His grappling would also make things interesting when pitted against Romero’s wrestling. We saw Romero survive Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s submission style of attack when they battled to a close decision at UFC 194, and on the same night we witnessed Rockhold out grapple Chris Weidman. The two are capable of putting together a championship caliber fight, which would separate the contender from the pretender.
Rockhold was previously chasing a bout against Anderson Silva who also expressed his frustration with the company in recent memory. Both men don’t appear to be injured or unable to scrap in the near future. Rockhold was scheduled to fight “Jacare” last November until a knee injury forced him out of the fight. Souza stated that he is expecting a return in late 2017, so that leaves Anderson Silva. It might make sense to set up a fight between both hot headed athletes, but then there is George St Pierre. If Georges St Pierre is set on returning to MMA competition and if the Bisping-GSP fight is dead in the water, then why not put together a fun high profile between two of the best martial artists in our era. Both men are past their prime, which could ease St Pierre’s concern on the difference in size, but most of all it was the fight that once possessed a demand equivalent to the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao saga. Silva expressed interest in GSP as recently as February and while he hasn’t been active since his win over Derek Brunson at UFC 208, it’d be a fight many die hard MMA fans will turn out for.
Rockhold on the other hand could possibly await the winner of Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum’s bout if he decides to remain inactive, but judging from his recent interviews on wanting to get back to fighting and more importantly the UFC middleweight title, we could be hearing a bout announcement soon.