ROUNDTABLE: Booking out UFC’s Middleweight Title picture after Luke Rockhold’s UFC 194 win over Chris Weidman

Who should be next for Luke Rockhold after he captured the UFC Middleweight Championship on Saturday, and why? Does Yoel Romero deserve that shot? Should it be Vitor Belfort right away? Is there another option that stands out? What’s next for Chris Weidman?


Yoel Romero should be fighting Luke Rockhold next. Romero has been on about as impressive a run as any in his division, with his last two victories coming against some of the best 185 pounds has to offer in Lyoto Machida and and Jacare Souza. His fight against Souza was seen as a number one contender’s match, as they were the consensus #3 and #4 fighters at middleweight.

Romero’s win against Souza wasn’t particularly impressive, but it wasn’t a robbery. I had it scored 28-28, but I could see justifiable score cards with either fighter winning without too much argument. Romero almost finished Souza in the first round, but his lackluster effort in rounds two and three didn’t do anything to quell the notion that his cardio is an issue. Truth is, while Romero may be the number one contender currently, it’s more because there just really isn’t anyone else at the moment who has a decent win streak including wins over top competition. Romero really benefits because there just isn’t anyone else.

Or at least, there shouldn’t be anyone else. Enter Vitor Belfort. Belfort is the last man to beat the current champion, when he welcomed the former Strikeforce titleholder to the UFC with a vicious spinning heel kick knockout. The loss bugs Rockhold, as he called out the Phenom after taking the title at UFC 194. The revenge story is a decent one for the UFC to try to sell, and the highlight of Rockhold almost getting his head taken off will play well in promos. Add in Romero’s lack of general appeal, and the fear that the Soldier of God may go an another unintelligible, homophobic rant in the ring and maybe Belfort isn’t a bad choice.

I don’t know that I really care a ton which guy gets the shot here. Neither one of them have a realistic chance of beating Rockhold. I’d prefer to see Romero, just because it’s a new fight, but both of these two are really just placeholders until a real threat to Rockhold’s belt emerges. It’s really just a question of whether we want to see a guy gas out early and try not to fall over due to exhaustion ten minutes into the fight, or if we want to see Belfort lose his fourth title fight in the last five years. Barring a change in division by a current welterweight or light heavyweight contender (I actually think Alexander Gustaffson could make 185 lbs, despite his tall frame), there isn’t any other opponent that really stands out.

Choosing Weidman’s next opponent is a much easier easier proposition. There were many who thought Jacare Souza was going to face off against Weidman when he defeated Romero and Weidman retained his title. While neither of those things happened, we’re still left with this compelling bout for two guys each coming off of a loss. A win for either one might get them a title shot, depending on how the Rockhold vs. Belfort or Romero situation shakes out. Weidman vs. Souza is a lot more interesting fight than whomever fights Rockhold next. I’m already more excited about the winner of that fight taking on Rockhold than I am for Rockhold’s first title defense.



No, Romero doesn’t deserve the shot. I completely disagree with him getting the decision over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. I think that’s just bad work from the judges there. And no, Belfort certainly doesn’t deserve the shot. In this case, though, I think the UFC should defer to Rockhold. If he wants to fight Belfort, then you make the fight. Romero gets passed over a bit, but it is what it is. I don’t think Belfort should be getting a title shot, but it’s not like there’s a ton of alternatives. I suppose the UFC could give Weidman an immediate rematch like they did with Cain Velasquez, but I don’t think either guy has done enough to deserve an immediate rematch. The only fighters who should get immediate rematches are the ones who’ve ruled their divisions for years. I don’t think you should get one just because you beat a few guys. I think Weidman just has to go back to square one and rebuild his case for a title shot. I think a perfect matchup for that is a fight against Yoel Romero. If Romero wins, he gets a title shot. If Weidman wins, put him in a #1 contenders fight.
Belfort right now. I didn’t score the Romero bout in his favor, I had it 29-28 for Jacare. Belfort’s only losses in recent memory are to Weidman and Jon Jones, but he hurt each of them in those bouts. Romero needs to face Weidman for the next shot at the winner of what should be a Rockhold vs Belfort fight.
There is only one logical answer: Romero. What more does the man have to do? He beat both Lyoto Machida and Jacare Souza, two fighters who have either been recent title contenders or on the verge of the shot. At 38, I’d want to give Romero the title shot as quick as possible if I’m the UFC, as he has proven himself to be a legit contender with a unique set of skills that I haven’t seen to be comparable to anyone else.

Belfort already had his title shot earlier this year and lost emphatically. A win over a 45 year old Dan Henderson does not put one back into a title shot. The talks are that Belfort is going to fight Anderson Silva next, and while I’m fine with that fight, we don’t know what type of fighter Silva is anymore. Even if Belfort wins that, he might need another win to earn another shot. If Rockhold remains champion after fighting Romero, Belfort could get the next shot, as Rockhold has made it known he wants that loss avenged.

Weidman’s likable personality should make it relatively easy for him to bounce back in a quick manner… if he can stay healthy. Everyone seems to be calling for him to face Jacare next, and I can’t say that I’d disagree with that matchup, as it would easily headline a Fight Night or serve as a pay-per-view co-main. The winner of that fight would likely be next in line should Romero defeat Rockhold.
[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]

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