This Saturday, former Strikeforce and UFC champion, Luke Rockhold, steps into the cage for the 20th time in his career to take on Cuban powerhouse, Yoel Romero, for the UFC middleweight interim championship. Rockhold has only fought twice in the last two and a half years. In 2016, he lost his middleweight title in the first round via knockout to a Michael Bisping who truly felt he had nothing to lose.
After a year off, he came back in September of last year and beat on David Branch until Branch tapped due to strikes in the second round. Rockhold was set to take on Robert Whittaker for his middleweight belt this Saturday, but Whittaker withdrew due to a severe staph infection a few weeks ago.
While it’s obviously a disappointment for fans and everyone involved when fights fall through, Romero is a great replacement and Romero vs. Rockhold is a fight that fans have wanted for quite some time.
So without further ado, let’s look back at the top five wins of Luke Rockhold’s career.
#5. Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch
While a win over Tim Boetsch isn’t usually seen as a crowning achievement, the method by which Rockhold finished “The Barbarian” is what’s truly impressive here. Rockhold has some of the slickest grappling in the sport and it was on full display in this short bout. As the fight started, Boetsch almost immediately shot in. Rockhold stuffed the takedown and ended up on top of his opponent with Boetsch’s head in between his legs.
From here, Rockhold locked on an inverted triangle and began working to secure the choke and finish the fight. Boetsch defended well at first, pushing through and not allowing Rockhold to fully get the triangle. Yet, it was only a matter of time before he’d slip up. Rockhold, inverted triangle still wrapped around Boetsch’s head, began attacking his opponent’s arm. Boetsch shifted his position to protect his arm but ended up slipping right into a slick kimura and was forced to tap at 2:08 of round one
#4. Michael “The Count” Bisping
Coming off his superb submission over Tim Boetsch, Rockhold would take a step up in competition and face off against perennial middleweight top tenner, Michael Bisping.
The first round was somewhat of a feeling out process, with Rockhold landing his patented body kicks and initiating the clinch, and Bisping looking to land over the top with his big right. Early in the second round Rockhold landed a glancing kick to his opponent’s head with his lead leg, and then followed it up with a second, much more powerful kick to the head from his back leg. This dropped Bisping, and Rockhold began landing ground and pound. As “The Count” was trying to survive the barrage and get back to his feet, Rockhold sunk in a one-armed guillotine and forced Bisping to tap out quick at :57 seconds in the second round.
#3. Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida
Lyoto Machida picked up his first win in three years last Saturday against a game Eryk Anders. So it’s easy to undervalue this win for Rockhold. But we have to understand that before this bout Machida had finished C.B Dollaway, Mark Munoz and took a decision win over Gegard Mousasi. Machida’s only loss in the two years before his fight with Rockhold was a closely-contested five-round battle with then-champ Chris Weidman.
Rockhold was on a three-fight win streak having finished all his opponents combined in under ten minutes. As the fight began, both men were looking for their range early when Rockhold dropped “The Dragon” out of nowhere and began imposing his ground game on the Brazilian. The rest of the round would be Machida trying to break free from much larger man’s clutches and Rockhold transitioning all over while landing heavy blows.
Machida barely survived the onslaught in the first round and was noticeably worn, sitting on the stool in between rounds. Rockhold came out in the second round landing his signature body kicks on Machida. Rockhold then just shoved Machida to the ground and was once again all over him. From here, it was only a matter of time before Rockhold took his back and sunk in the rear naked choke to make Machida tap at 2:31 of the second round.
#2. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Rockhold faced off against Strikeforce middleweight champion “Jacare” Souza in 2011 for the middleweight title. Souza was on four-fight win streak having beaten Tim Kennedy to win the title, and defending it against Robbie Lawler in his first title defense. Rockhold was on a six-fight win streak and had looked extraordinary in dispatching Paul Bradley and Jesse Taylor in his previous two bouts.
Over five rounds, Rockhold and Souza went to war. It was a very close fight that even had veteran commentators and former fighters Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich debating who was winning the rounds. The fight was mainly contested on the feet. And while Jacare slowed in the fourth round, he found his second wind in the fifth and managed to get a takedown and land some good blows. IT was a battle for the ages and in the end, Rockhold was awarded the unanimous decision and the Strikeforce middleweight title.
#1. Chris Weidman
After beating Machida, Rockhold finally got his shot at the UFC middleweight title. But standing in his way was the man who shocked the world by dethroning Anderson Silva and then going on to beat Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort in his subsequent title defenses.
Chris Weidman was a perfect 13-0 going into this fight with Rockhold. The first two rounds of the championship fight were pretty close. Both men had their moments and many scored the first round for Weidman and the second for Rockhold. In the third, Weidman went for a wheel kick and was taken down. From this position, Rockhold worked his way into mount and began relentlessly beating on Weidman. In my opinion, the fight could’ve been stopped and no one would have argued it. But, the champion was moving and covering up just enough to make it into the next round.
Weidman looked like a beaten man walking out for the fourth. He was bruised, bloodied and breathing heavily. As the bell rang, Rockhold rushed him and initiated the clinch looking for the takedown. The challenger got Weidman down and it wasn’t long before his brutal ground and pound began raining down again, forcing Herb Dean to stop the fight 3:12 in the fourth round and awarding Luke Rockhold UFC gold.
Check back with TheMMATakeover this Thursday as we give Yoel Romero the same treament and go over his top five victories.