All signs are pointing to Luke Rockhold having to go through Lyoto Machida in his quest to secure a future UFC middleweight title shot. UFC Tonight correspondent Daniel Cormier, a teammate of Rockhold’s at the American Kickboxing Academy, reported that preliminary discussions are underway to make the fight happen by the end of the year. Machida had previously expressed a desire to face Rockhold in late October at UFC 179 in Brazil, but it appears as though the contest is more likely to take place in November or December.
Rockhold saw his Octagon tenure get off to a disastrous start in Brazil in 2013 when he was knocked out in the first-round by Vitor Belfort. The former Strikeforce champion has been fixated on a rematch ever since that defeat, but it’s not in the cards at this time. “The Phenom” is getting a title fight at UFC 181 in December against unbeaten champion Chris Weidman. Having Rockhold face Machida on that same card in Las Vegas would seem ideal, but there’s no guarantee of that happening.
It’s a contest that definitely makes sense for both elite 185-pound competitors. The No. 5 ranked Rockhold has rebounded from the Belfort loss by recording first-round finishes of Costas Philippou and Tim Boetsch. While those victories were certainly impressive, he needs a win over someone of Machida’s stature to make a stronger case to earn his first UFC title opportunity.
Machida gave Weidman a tremendous battle in their title affair at UFC 175 but ended up losing a unanimous decision. It was his first loss since making the move down from the 205-pound division. The former UFC light heavyweight champion would be able to get himself right back into the title conversation if he was able to produce a victory against Rockhold. Machida currently holds down the No. 2 ranking in the organization.
This pivotal matchup appears as though it will become a reality, as both fighters are on board with the prospects of squaring off against one another. It would shape up as a very meaningful encounter between two of the middleweight division’s finest talents.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports