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5/18/16: Top Replacement Options to Face Luke Rockhold at UFC 199
With Chris Weidman forced to pull out of UFC 199 on June 4, UFC Middleweight Champ Luke Rockhold is courting a new opponent. Several names have been suggested or have volunteered, so today I rank the five realistic names I’d put in against him in order of most to least interesting. Note: Yoel Romero’s suspension is not up until the middle of June, so he’s unavailable as an option for the June 4 event.
5. Uriah Hall: Hall was prepping to fight just last week at UFC 198, so he’s already been training and is in shape for a fight after Anderson Silva was forced out of that card in Brazil. He’d be a fresh face option, and given a past shocking upset on short notice a potentially dangerous and intriguing one at that. This one’s less likely than some others, but it comes down to availability and feasibility on the matchup, and Hall could be plugged in if needed.
4. Derek Brunson: He’s riding a four fight winning streak, he’s stopped three straight opponents, and he wants the fight. The UFC could do much, much worse than Brunson in a pinch here, and the 32-year-old hasn’t yet gotten to face Rockhold in his career. Yes, he’s been stopped twice to top contenders in “Jacare” Souza and Yoel Romero, but he’s been on a very good run since that most recent loss, and has a better argument than many in a late replacement spot like this.
3. Gegard Mousasi: Despite some inconsistent results in the last several years, Mousasi remains one of the best fighters in this middleweight division, and if he’s ready for a short notice matchup he’d be an intriguing fight for Rockhold. It’s likely the Champ is much better than Mousasi at this stage, but the 30-year-old potential challenger is a tough out for any fighter, and could be a good fit on just a couple weeks notice.
2. Michael Bisping: Likely one of our front-runners here, Bisping’s already offered himself up for the fight, and he might be the man to get that shot. He’s coming off the biggest win of his career, and he’s unlikely to find himself in a better spot to leap frog some other contenders than this very moment. That win over Anderson Silva, as close as the fight was and as close as he came to getting stopped, is still a win over Anderson Silva, and if the UFC wants to capitalize with him finally getting a title fight, this might be the perfect time. Get Bisping out of the way and let some more deserving challengers get full camps for their respective shots.
1. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza: Of course, if “Jacare” is healthy and willing to take this fight on a couple weeks notice, throw that idea out the window. A rematch between Rockhold and Souza was already near the top of the list of fights I’d like to see in 2016, so regardless of how it comes together it’s something the UFC should be considering. Souza’s coming off a stellar and dominant win over Vitor Belfort, Rockhold just edged past him in their first fight in Strikeforce, and both fighters have gotten much better since then. Short notice and Souza’s Yoel Romero loss hurt it slightly, but Rockhold himself got beat by the man Souza just destroyed, so those results don’t have to affect things too much. Put Souza in there, let’s turn this injury removal into a net positive, and move forward with a fantastic Middleweight Title fight.
[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]
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