UFC Fight Night 116 Main Event – Middleweight Bout
Luke Rockhold returns to action this weekend at UFC Fight Night 116 for the first time since losing his UFC Middleweight Championship to Michael Bisping at UFC 199. Rockhold will face a rejuvenated David Branch who seems to be the only other contender in the middleweight division who wanted to step up and face a determined Rockhold.
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Height: 6’3″ (191cm)
Reach: 77.0″ (196cm)
July 4, 2016, marked the day that Luke Rockhold was completely humiliated by massive underdog Michael Bisping at UFC 199. A confident, cocky and almost arrogant Rockhold danced around the octagon with his hands down and chin in the air with no regard for Bisping’s power, accuracy or timing. Bisping caught Rockhold with a powerful left hand that crashed Rockhold to the mat before following it up with deadly strikes to the head of the champion.
Rockhold lost everything that day and this fight with David Branch will represent the beginnings of a pathway back to becoming a UFC champion.
Height: 6’1″ (185cm)
Reach: 79.5″ (202cm)
David Branch has been around forever. He previously competed in the UFC and featured on the Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin card at UFC 116 all the way back in 2010. Branch would only last until 2011 in the promotion before being released and moving to a number of other promotions and then eventually to World Series of Fighting. Branch would then go 11-0 during his time at WSOF before being picked up by the UFC again this year. Branch scored a split decision victory against talented middleweight prospect Krzysztof Jotko and now demands respect in the division.
It’s easy to say that Luke Rockhold is the much more talented fighter; because he is. Luke Rockhold is one of the greatest modern middleweights in the world right now. His ability, technique, strength, power, and skills are not to blame for the position he is currently in. Rather, his lack of respect for challenger Michael Bisping and overconfidence would be what eventually cost him dearly. Rockhold finds himself in another strange situation this weekend at UFC Fight Night 116 as he enters the octagon with an opponent that many believe should be no contest for the skilled former-champion.
Rockhold’s determination to get back inside the cage and prove himself as a world champion is stronger than ever before. He’s been campaigning for months and months for a rematch with Michael Bisping and/or a challenge against any top contender in the division. Rockhold has been tirelessly working in the gym to ensure that he is ready for any matchup.
Don’t write off David Branch just yet, though. Branch is a super-surprising guy and many didn’t think that he would be able to defeat Jotko in his return to the UFC – but he did. He balanced out Jotko’s striking on the feet and kept it to a relatively uneventful standup affair before grabbing a couple of hugely successful takedowns during the fight. The takedowns, although Branch never worked his dangerous submission game from them, would be the deciding factor on the judge’s scorecards.
Branch does have the potential to wrap Rockhold up in a nasty submission, there’s no doubting that. However, it’s whether he can hold the ever so slippery middleweight down on the mat for long enough to establish a dominant position.
On the feet, despite Branch’s improving stand up game, this one should favor Luke Rockhold. Rockhold’s kicks to the body and distance management should see him manage to stay slightly out of range of Branch’s punches. Branch likes to lunge in behind one or two leading jabs and occasionally mix it up with wild leaping hooks. Rockhold will punish him every time he comes forward, however.
Rockhold isn’t just here to win this one; he’s out here to build a strong case that he should be fighting for the UFC Middleweight Championship again sooner rather than later. The stakes are higher than many believe, and I’m expecting this fight to finish early.
Luke Rockhold by KO/TKO – Round Two
Luke Rockhold vs David Branch
Total Rounds – Under 3.5
Saturday 16th September – 11:55 pm (ET) / 3:55am GMT
Odds: -118 – Ladbrokes