Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight contenders Luke Rockhold and David Branch clashed last night (Sept. 16, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 116 inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

It’s been over a year since Rockhold has stepped into the cage, and the division has missed him. The logjam created by his loss to Michael Bisping remains, but Rockhold sought to further complicate that mess by forcing his own name back into the mix with a victory here.

On the other hand, this was Branch’s make-or-break moment in regards to being a title contender. If he could upset the former champion, the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion was ready for anyone.

Branch pressured hard immediately, while Rockhold circled and fired kicks into the mid-section. Eventually, that pressure resulted in a massive combination from Branch that stunned his opponent, and Branch was able to score a brief takedown.

The fight moved into the clinch, where the fighters traded position along the fence. Branch attacked with punches, while Rockhold utilized his usual knees to the body. In the final minute, Rockhold scored with some decent strikes and that scored a takedown.

Still, it was likely Branch’s round on the strength of his early offense.

Rockhold opened the second round with some hard kicks, both to the body and to this opponent’s calf. Branch answered with some counters, but he soon returned to his usual strength, the clinch. Unfortunately for the WSOF champion, Rockhold reversed position along the fence and landed a slam takedown of his own.

Instantly, Rockhold stepped into mount and began dropping heavy shots. Branch bucked and moved, but he was eventually flattened out from the back mount. He was simply trapped, and Rockhold hammered away until the referee called the bout.

Rockhold showed some interesting development on his feet, notably working from Orthodox and kicking the calf more often. His boxing defense was a bit shaky early on, which could either be a continuing problem or simple ring rust.

At the end of the day, though, Rockhold’s brutal top game won him another fight. Rockhold has never been one to look for the takedown on his own, but when a fighter is advancing as relentlessly as Branch, it’s often the best strategy. Once in top position, Rockhold was brutally effective, immediately moving into a dominant position and refusing to give his opponent — a Renzo Gracie black belt — an inch.

Rockhold’s percentage is pretty on point: if he gets on top, the fight is almost definitely over.

It’s hard to match Rockhold up after this win. Michael Bisping has a date with Georges St. Pierre — although “GSP” could still do the polite thing and withdraw, as Rockhold requested — and interim champion Robert Whittaker should be next in line for the winner. Perhaps a rematch with Chris Weidman could be made or a fight with Yoel Romero would make sense.

As for Branch, it was certainly one of the more entertaining fights of his career. Branch definitely held his own and had a couple strong moments on his feet, but I don’t think he could maintain his own pace. When Rockhold survived the initial burst and the takedown didn’t materialize, Branch simply slowed down.

Once that was happened, the fight was largely over.

While this fight does largely end Branch’s hopes of rising to the title mix, it does show his worth as a top 10 fighter. Branch is well-rounded and game, and he’ll be a tough task for much of the division.

Last night at UFC Fight Night 116, Luke Rockhold scored a second-round stoppage win. Who should Rockhold face next?

For complete UFC Fight Night 116 “Rockhold vs. Branch” results and play-by-play, click HERE!