FIGHT CLUB WEEKLY 2.12.2018 - WHAT'S NEXT IN THE MIDDLEWEIGHT DIVISION
It was supposed to be Luke Rockhold’s shot. After suffering a defeat to Michael Bisping and losing the title back at UFC 199, he took a year off, retooled some of his training and came back to defeat a game David Branch. When current champ Robert Whittaker developed a potentially life-threatening Staeph infection, Number 1 ranked Yoel Romero was called on as a late replacement an the fight was relegated to yet another “Interim Title” bout. That is until Romero missed weight by 2.7 pounds. The new deal was if Rockhold won, he would get the belt and fight Robert Whittaker to unite the championship; if Romero won, there would be no belt and no guaranteed fight Whittaker despite the fact that he was the number 1 contender.
Enough of these “Interim Title Fights;” at this point, it’s like walking in on your hot cousin coming out of the shower naked. It’s kind of cool, but ultimately meaningless. It’s a distraction. Especially since Romero stopped Rockhold in the third round and the ONLY fight for him is against Robert Whittaker for the title. Who cares about the interim belt. If not Romero than who? The next guys in line are Jacare Souza, Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastellum all intriguing fights, but maybe with the exception of Jacare, they’re maybe one or two fight away from getting a shot.
The next title fight has to be the Whittaker / Romero rematch. The first one was close. Whittaker sustained an injury early in the fight and Romero logged in two killer rounds but the Achilles heel of his conditioning reared it’s head and cost him three exhausting rounds. It would be interesting to see an injury-free Whittaker face a more composed Romero who understands pacing better.
What’s next for Rockhold? Maybe a rematch with Chris Weidman is in order. Weidman broke his losing streak when he defeated Kelvin Gastellum. He is politicking for a title shot so why not rematch Rockhold? It will settle the score and clarify the rankings.
The UFC continued their tradition of feeding the carcasses of their older fighters to the young bucks coming up through the ranks. Mark Hunt is a beloved veteran; he’s been around for a long time, making his bones in K1 and Pride before fighting in the UFC. Known as “King of the Walk-offs,” Hunt is known for his devastating knock-out power, but his Kryptonite has always been wrestlers. So, of course the UFC pitted the 43-year-old Hunt against the wrestling, 26-year-old Curtis Blaydes. Still, Hunt put Blaydes in danger early in the first round with a punch combo that rocked him but ultimately, the grappling attack of Blaydes secured the decision victory. The upper end of the heavyweight division is populated but relatively old dudes, so it’s good thing to have some young, viable fighters inching up the rankings. I’d like to see Blaydes face either Francis Ngannou or Derrick Lewis.
The break out fighter of the night was Israel Adesanya, the charismatic middleweight who won his UFC debut against Rob Wilkinson. Though Adesanya is a new face in the UFC, he is an old hand in kickboxing. Check out his fights with Glory and you get a little foreshadowing of his abilities.
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