Luke Rockhold

Who Should Luke Rockhold Face Upon Returning To The UFC?

Former middleweight world champion Luke Rockhold has announced a return from his retirement, and he’ll be going back down to 185 lbs, where he had all that success earlier on in his career.

This has got some fans excited, and others not so much. He has been knocked out in three of his last four fights, his chin isn’t up to par and hasn’t been for some time, but there’s reason to be excited about this.

For one, those names he lost to in three of his last four, Michael Bisping, Yoel Romero, and Jan Blachowicz, he doesn’t have a chance of facing again. Those men that beat him previous are no longer there. Bisping, who he also finished himself, retired in 2017, Romero went to Bellator, and Blachowicz is a light-heavyweight.

Rockhold believed he’d perform better cutting 20 lbs less, but that wasn’t the story that fight told. He was slow, looked sluggish, and was viciously KO’d in round two after nearly getting knocked out at the end of round one.

Now that he’s set on competing at 185 lbs, along with the middleweight landscape at the moment, there are some very interesting match ups that could be made. He’s allegedly had a hard time finding an opponent for his return, stating a number of talents have turned down a fight with him.

The former champion did however state he’s confident and ready to face anyone in the division in order to get back to the title:

“I’m coming back to get myself excited, I want to get the fans excited, and I wanna make a run. I know I can. When I’m healthy, I’m focused, I’m present, I just don’t see many people that can compete with me.”

He continued: “Uriah Hall was an option, he didn’t want that. Kevin Holland was an option, (then it) didn’t seem like an option; Till was thrown around, I think people jumped on that one. I’m not opposed to anyone, Costa, anybody.” – Rockhold via Helen Yee Sports

This is unfortunate. Rockhold, skill-wise, is still up there with the very best of the best, he just can’t take a hard shot. However, with him being unranked, no one wants that high-risk, low-reward type of outing.

The Short List:

Top contenders aren’t accepting fights with him, right? Well, he didn’t go out in the best way, he doesn’t need to fight top contenders right now anyway.

No. 10 ranked Edmen Shahbazyan would be a telling fight for both parties. Rockhold has one of the best overall ground games ever in the sport of mixed martial arts, but as mentioned above, he’s been known to be separated from his consciousness at times.

In fact, all five of Rockhold’s defeats come via knockout.

That’s where a dangerous 23 year old knockout artist comes in. Shahbazyan opened up his career with a perfect 11-0 record, but just recently fell to 11-2 over his last two, both fights of which he was defeated because of his grappling inexperience.

It’s too bad it doesn’t seem as if No. 14 ranked Kevin Holland is an option, because this would be a great fight.

Holland also lost his last two fights, both via unanimous decision after being out-wrestled for ten straight rounds. He also has good striking, and has been known to knock a good sum of his opponents out.

Luke Rockhold can wrestle very well, being an NCAA Division III wrestler, and of course, he has an elite black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but so does Holland. This would be a very interesting encounter.

No. 9 ranked Kelvin Gastelum would also be a very telling fight for both men. Gastelum just ended a three-fight skid with a unanimous decision victory over Ian Heinisch in February, but was handed another defeat by the hands of former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker in April.

Gastelum already has four world champions to his resume, that he defeated of course, and he can crack like no other.

That being said, Gastelum hasn’t been the same man his his fight with current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, it may be a good opportunity for Rockhold to jump right into the top ten with a win over him.

Lastly, why not Khamzat Chimaev? He’s also looking for a fight, and he’s looking to compete at 185 lbs, as well as 170 lbs. We’ve all been waiting for Chimaev’s return for some time. The UFC offered a returning Nick Diaz that fight, why not a returning Luke Rockhold?

Perhaps Chimaev can face another multiple-time Strikeforce world champion instead, considering Diaz’ team turned that bout agreement down.

We all know the hype around Chimaev, but what happens if Rockhold somehow gets him down? What if Rockhold’s viciously powerful kicks break one of Chimaev’s arms and he’s fighting a former four-time world champion (3x Strikeforce, 1x UFC) while he’s not at his best?

That’s an interesting topic of discussion.

Love him or hate him, we’ll most likely all be tuning into Luke Rockhold’s next fight. Whether it’s to see him get knocked out again, or if it’s to support him, he is an all-time great at 185 lbs, and he should be respected as such.

After a long string of injuries spanning over half a decade, at 36 years old, who do you think Luke Rockhold should be matched up with upon return?

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