Chris Weidman versus Luke Rockhold is perhaps the greatest middleweight title fight in UFC history, yet nobody is talking about it because UFC 194 is being billed as the Conor McGregor show. For hardcore fans like myself, Weidman versus Rockhold is a tremendous fight between two absolute killers that are in the prime of their careers. Weidman recently dusted Vitor Belfort in May, while Rockhold dominated Lyoto Machida this past April. Chris Weidman (13-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC, -155 Favorite) The undefeated UFC Middleweight Champion does not often get the respect he deserves from fans. Weidman defeated Anderson Silva twice, Lyoto Machida, and then Vitor Belfort in consecutive fights, which is a murderer’s row of opponents. However, even after defeating three former champions, fans do not give him his proper respect. Fans have a litany of excuses for why those opponents lost to Weidman, mostly because they were older and no longer in their prime. This seems to bother the champ, who has been outspoken lately about his desire for fans to join his bandwagon. Regardless, the New York-native is putting that in his rear view for this fight against Rockhold. Weidman is looking to defend his middleweight title for the fourth consecutive time this Saturday night. Weidman comes from a strong wrestling background, as he was a two-time Division 1 All-American for Hofstra University. He even placed third in the nation in his senior year. Weidman has transitioned his wrestling to mixed martial arts very well. He has an impressive array of takedowns, from doubles and singles in open space to trips and throws in the clinch. From top position he is an absolute monster. He passes smoothly, throws thunderous ground and pound, and has an arsenal of topside chokes. It is very hard to get up once Weidman establishes top position, as he has a strong base and is a very large middleweight. The 31-year old’s striking game is entirely based on pressure. Weidman takes the center of the cage and exerts constant pressure on his opponents. His striking is not perfect, but his pressure is hard for many of his opponents to deal with. Weidman has heavy hands, and throws a clean straight right hand and left hook. Additionally, he has added a decent arsenal of kicks to his game in recent fights. Leg kicks help close the distance and allow him to either enter punching range or change levels for a takedown. Conditioning has been an issue for Weidman in a few fights and he has only gone five rounds once. That is something to look out for. However, he is walking around much lighter for this camp and will not have to cut that much weight for this fight. That could help his conditioning if this fight goes long. Luke Rockhold (14-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC, +135 underdog) Like Weidman, Rockhold is 31 years old and is in the prime of his career. The California native captured the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship in 2011 when he defeated current top contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. After successful title defenses over Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy, Rockhold went to the UFC and was given Vitor Belfort as his first opponent. The fight was heavily scrutinized because of Belfort’s alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Belfort won the fight in the first round with a spinning head kick, but that did not deter Rockhold one bit. Rockhold then reeled off four dominant wins over Costas Philippou, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, and Lyoto Machida. His latest performance against Machida was the finest of his career, as he dominated the former UFC light heavyweight champion from the first bell and ended up finishing him early in the second round via rear-naked choke. Rockhold is a special athlete with an amazing set of skills that allow him to win fights in several different ways. Foremost, he is absolutely huge for the weight class. He may be the biggest middleweight on the roster, so Weidman will not have the size advantage this time around. Rockhold fights out of a southpaw stance and is exceptional at maintaining distance and utilizing his large frame. His primary weapons are his straight left hand, counter right hook, and a vast array of kicks. Kicks are likely his best weapons, as they allow him to beat up his opponent at range, and when they do get past his kicks he blasts them with a straight left or right hook. One aspect of Rockhold’s game that could be problematic is his defense, as he tends to keep his rear hand low and retreat straight backwards instead of circling away. As good as Rockhold is on the feet, he may be even better on the ground. The California native has benefited from training at the American Kickboxing Academy with Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier for several years. His wrestling, especially defensively, is excellent. Rockhold has an excellent sprawl and also has above average offensive wrestling. From top position Rockhold has an amazing base and is a great passer. Once he achieves a dominant position he drops bombs, which both damages his opponent and opens up opportunities for him to lock up a submission. Rockhold, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Leo Viera, possesses a tremendous array of submissions from both top position and off his back. He has a nasty guillotine, triangle, armbar, and Kimura. One of the best aspects of Rockhold’s game is his ability to blend all the dimensions of his game together. He is truly a mixed martial artist that is great at just about everything. Thoughts This is a terrific fight between two premier middleweights that are in the prime of their career. I believe this will be Weidman’s toughest fight to date, and that’s saying something. Rockhold is excellent at utilizing his length and kicking game, both of which could give Weidman trouble. Further, Rockhold’s defensive wrestling is excellent. I believe Rockhold will be able to stuff Weidman’s takedown attempts and outpoint him on the feet. Weidman is obviously very dangerous and Rockhold’s defense is a little worrisome, but I think this matchup favors the Californian. The Prediction: Luke Rockhold defeats Chris Weidman by unanimous decision
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