Heading into UFC Fight Night 35, Luke Rockhold continued to maintain he was one of the most dangerous men in the 185-pound weight division and had the skills to become middleweight champion. This was despite a dud of an Octagon debut when he was head-kicked into first-round oblivion by Vitor Belfort in Brazil.
Rockhold’s career had been on hold since that time because of a knee injury, but the former Strikeforce champion got his redemption by destroying Costa Philippou in just 2:31 of their main event clash.
The effort exhibited why Rockhold had come into the organization so highly regarded. He used his length in the striking game, landing a solid early hook against Philippou, and then finished the proceedings with a pair of body kicks. A devastating kick to the liver crumpled the “Cyprus Slugger” to the canvas, marking the first time that he had ever been stopped via strikes.
It was quite a performance from Rockhold as he improved to 11-2 in his career and earned a Knockout of the Night bonus. It was thought heading into the fight that while Rockhold was confident in his striking game, he might look to use his superior grappling skills as the fight progressed to keep Philippou on his back and negate his punching power. Instead, the no.6 ranked Rockhold delivered a sensational finish and registered his third career knockout.
After the victory, Rockhold again expressed his desire to get a chance at revenge against Belfort down the road. However, that’s going to have to wait as Belfort is on deck for a title fight against champion Chris Weidman.
Rockhold also mentioned Michael Bisping as a potential opponent. That would have the makings to be a solid matchup between a pair of top contenders. Rockhold has an axe to grind with Bisping stemming from several months back when “The Count” claimed to have gotten the better of the former Strikeforce champion during some sparring sessions.
Rockhold hasn’t forgotten about those comments, which were made on national television. Bisping is on the comeback trail after an eye injury scuttled a fight against Mark Munoz in late October.
Rockhold has his sights set on facing only the best and after making such an emphatic statement against Philippou, he should receive another high-profile bout. He’s definitely established himself as a key figure in the division after his exploits in Georgia.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports