The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight division will welcome back one of its finest later tonight (Sat., Sept. 16, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 116 live on FOX Sports 1 from inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., when former 185-pound king Luke Rockhold steps back inside of the Octagon for the first time in over 15 months. Rockhold’s last appearance came at UFC 199 when he lost his middleweight strap to current champion Michael Bisping via knockout.
Considering Rockhold hasn’t competed in a fairly long time he will command a lot of attention later this evening at UFC Fight Night 116 when he takes on former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion David Branch.
While a main event clash with Branch isn’t the biggest divisional matchup Rockhold could have landed, it’s a great opportunity for the former UFC champ to showcase his worth heading into 2018. With Bisping slated to defend his middleweight title opposite a returning Georges St-Pierre at UFC 217 this November in New York City, the rest of the pack at 185 pounds will have plenty of time to fight their way to the top. This includes Rockhold, who hasn’t tasted victory since knocking out Chris Weidman back in 2015.
Despite the long layoff, the 32-year-old Rockhold remains in the pinnacle of his career. Before losing to Bisping, the California native had won five-straight fights (all finishes) and was quickly cashing in on the potential he possessed when he made his UFC debut in 2013. Branch is nobody’s stepping stone, especially considering the former WSOF star hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Anthony Johnson back in 2012, but Rockhold is undoubtedly his toughest test to date. The difference in experience and athletic ability should help Rockhold have his way with Branch, which is why Rockhold is such a heavy favorite entering the main event bout.
That said, Rockhold must be careful in his approach. Branch is a black belt under Renzo Gracie and is a very strong fighter. One slip up could spell disaster for the former UFC champion as he aims to reestablish his title worth in an increasingly competitive middleweight faction.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 116 fight card, starting with the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” matches at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.