Former UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, has been pondering a move to the 205-pound division for quite some time.
He has even gone as far as to call out Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, the #1 and #2 P4P fighters in the UFC. Since then, some time has passed and Rockhold has been booked to fight the #6 LHW contender, Jan Blachowicz.
Rockhold and Blachowicz are scheduled to fight at UFC 239 on July 6. Ironically, the current LHW champion, Jon Jones, will be headlining the card.
Considering that Rockhold is the current #3 ranked middleweight and a former champion, I can’t imagine that it takes him long to jump into title contention. Especially taking into account his recent back-and-forth with former title challenger, Anthony Smith. Rockhold has been very vocal about the state of the division and how he felt Smith wasn’t exactly a top competitor. Smith also had some words for Rockhold afterwards so I’m sure we will see that fight materialize within the next year or so.
I can only see one path for Rockhold right now. I imagine that he will go in there on July 6th to fight Blachowicz and if he wins, he jumps to the #6, if not, #5 spot. So, let’s just say Rockhold wins, in a theoretical sense, there’s only one more fight for him there.
If Rockhold were to beat Blachowicz, I bet he fights the winner of UFC Stockholm’s main event, either Alexander Gustafsson or Anthony Smith.
It would be the perfect story because Rockhold has had a back-and-forth with Smith already. Also, there were rumors about him moving up to fight Gustafsson in the first place. That was the original fight that was going to be made, if and when Rockhold did move up to LHW. So, both of those fights are pretty much in alignment right now.
I really can’t see it going any other way. It’s really difficult to make the argument that Gustafsson vs Smith is a #1 contender fight. It’s difficult because these are two guys who both got title shots and dropped the ball. Jones vs Gustafsson 2 wasn’t a close fight at all. Gustafsson couldn’t get inside with Jones and he later got dominated on the ground. Smith couldn’t land anything, Jones basically nullified his entire offense and dominated the action.
You really can’t make a case for either one of those two getting a title shot next. So I believe the most logical route is a fight with Rockhold. The winner fights Rockhold and the winner of that will get a shot at the title.
All in all, I don’t believe Rockhold has a long road to a title shot. He’s about 2 fights out from a shot right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy, it definitely won’t because he has to get through the divisions top talent. But that is how it is when you’re a former champion. Once you capture UFC gold, you are typically expected to keep on fighting top talent and you stay in contention.
So, well just have to wait and see what happens. Let’s see how Rockhold fares up in the LHW division. Maybe he doesn’t do so well. Maybe he does. If I had to make a prediction right now, I’d predict that Rockhold gets through Blachowicz and fights Anthony Smith in October, maybe MSG in November.
Make sure to tune into UFC 239 on July 6th, live on PPV.
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The Scrap’s Kevin Mahoney is a college graduate from Salem State University who loves to write, make music, and watch MMA. Make sure to follow Kevin on Twitter (@KeysRealTalk) and listen to his Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast every Wednesday on BlogTalkRadio.