While it appeared as though the UFC was moving full steam ahead with a pivotal middleweight matchup between Lyoto Machida and Luke Rockhold, there could potentially be a change in those matchmaking plans. Michael Bisping recorded an impressive and bloody finish of Cung Le in the main event of Fight Night 48 in Macau, and his subsequent callout of the former Strikeforce champion has made a Bisping/Rockhold clash a strong possibility.
Rockhold has recorded back-to-back first-round finishes since a disastrous first-round KO loss in his Octagon debut against Vitor Belfort. The no. 5-ranked contender had previously expressed an interest in facing “The Dragon,” but clearly has a score to settle with Bisping. The two fighters have traded endless barbs on social media and appear to have an intense dislike for one another.
The animosity stems from a television appearance in 2012 when “The Count” suggested that he got the better of Rockhold during sparring sessions. Rockhold took great offense to those remarks, and has been looking to shut the English fighter up ever since. He’s even on record as stating that he would finish Bisping in the first round if the fight were to be booked, and is willing to place a wager on it.
The no. 8-ranked Bisping raised his stock with the emphatic victory over Le and proved that he has plenty of fight left in him. There were thoughts that he was nearing the end of the line after a desultory decision loss to Tim Kennedy at the TUF Nations Finale back in April. Bisping’s win against Le appears to have brought that old swagger back. He’s a veteran of 21 Octagon appearances, and still has designs on a future title shot. Bisping believes a victory over Rockhold would allow him to finally punch his ticket to a middleweight title clash.
While there’s no doubt that Rockhold vs. Machida would be an excellent matchup, it will be tough for the organization to ignore the hatred that exists between Rockhold and Bisping. It’s a feud and potential battle that would bring plenty of sizzle to a future UFC event. Therefore, don’t be surprised if Bisping vs. Rockhold becomes a reality by the end of the year.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports