Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold has not set foot contained in the octagon since his July 2019 loss to Jan Blachowicz. Nevertheless, a current interview suggests he’s virtually able to return.
With Luke Rockhold demanding an thrilling opponent for his return to the UFC, the large query is, who ought to the promotion match him with?
Luke Rockhold is able to combating at both 185lbs or 205lbs, that means there are many choices on the market for him. Since he’s demanding nothing lower than a high-level opponent, it signifies that the UFC might want to discover one thing particular for him.
So, with this thought-about, listed below are three potential opponents for Luke Rockhold’s UFC return.
#3. Luke Rockhold vs. Marvin Vettori
One fascinating opponent for Luke Rockhold to face in his UFC return can be Marvin Vettori. ‘The Italian Dream’ not too long ago went the gap with UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya in a failed title shot.
Presently ranked at #4 within the division, Vettori will surely fulfill the request of Luke Rockhold to face a high-level opponent in his return to the octagon. ‘The Italian Dream’ is presently thought-about among the best 185lbers on the planet, with wins over Kevin Holland and Jack Hermansson below his belt.
Vettori isn’t the most important trash-talker within the UFC, however he positively is aware of learn how to construct a combat up. He has been concerned in Twitter spats with the likes of Adesanya and Darren Until, that means he’d be prepared to have interaction Rockhold previous to a conflict too.
Extra importantly, Rockhold will certainly be seeking to come out on high in his large return combat, particularly as he hasn’t really received a bout since September 2017. Whereas Vettori is a wonderful and highly-ranked fighter, he isn’t unbeatable.
The truth is, ‘The Italian Dream’ largely lacks ending abilities, significantly when it comes to his placing. This implies he wouldn’t be fairly as a lot of a menace to Rockhold, whose lack of sturdiness is known within the UFC.
Due to this fact, this could be a beautiful – and extra importantly, winnable – combat for the previous UFC middleweight kingpin.
#2. Luke Rockhold vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Nonetheless solely 23 years previous, Edmen Shahbazyan is coming off the primary two losses of his MMA profession. Nevertheless, he’s nonetheless among the best prospects within the UFC’s middleweight division.
A product of the Glendale Preventing Membership – the staff that produced former UFC bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey – Shahbazyan burst into the UFC in 2018. He reeled off 4 straight victories, impressing everybody along with his violent knockout of Brad Tavares particularly.
‘The Golden Boy’ has since suffered losses to Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson, however there’s no disgrace in a loss to both man. He stays ranked because the #10 middleweight within the UFC.
So why ought to Luke Rockhold combat Shahbazyan? There are a variety of causes. Firstly, ‘The Golden Boy’ suits the invoice of a high-end opponent, as he’s ranked within the high ten and has already headlined a UFC present.
Secondly, whereas he’s bought explosive offense, judging by his fights with Brunson and Hermansson he’s a little bit shakier in the case of protection. His gasoline tank additionally leaves loads to be desired. Which means that whereas he’s able to beating Luke Rockhold, he’d even be a beatable opponent.
Thirdly, Rockhold is now 36 years previous and, in all honesty, it needs to be a part of his job to combat up-and-coming prospects like Shahbazyan. Just like what fighters like Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy did when he was climbing the ladder a decade in the past.
General, this could in all probability be a enjoyable combat to look at and would positively be value reserving.
#1. Luke Rockhold vs. Paulo Costa
If Luke Rockhold is critical about dealing with a high-level contender in his UFC return – in addition to an enormous title – then the fighter he should sq. off with might be Paulo Costa.
‘The Eraser’ has not fought since his title combat loss to Israel Adesanya at UFC 253 final yr – the primary of his skilled MMA profession. Whereas he has been booked in fights, he’s been pressured out attributable to accidents and points with the UFC.
However the Brazilian stays one of the vital harmful middleweights on the planet proper now. He knocked out Uriah Corridor in 2018, and is arguably the one fighter to go toe-to-toe with Yoel Romero and are available out on high as he picked up a win over the Cuban in 2019.
Costa wouldn’t solely present an enormous problem for Luke Rockhold, however the UFC may guide a combat between the 2 because the headliner of an ESPN+ Combat Night time. This is able to give the previous champion the highlight he appears to be craving.
Add in the truth that the 2 males are related in a variety of methods – they’re higher on offense than protection and moonlight as fashions once they’re not competing contained in the octagon – and this could be a really glorious combat to guide. Nevertheless, it could alos be a extremely harmful one for Rockhold to return with.