Brazil’s Combate reported that the UFC is closing in on a bout between Luke Rockhold and Alexander Gustafsson in the near future.
Michael Bisping claimed that the rumored bout is set to crown an interim light heavyweight champion with Daniel Cormier challenging Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title at UFC 226. Both Rockhold and Gustafsson have traded barbs back and forth, which started the night Rockhold was knocked out by Yoel Romero at UFC 221 in February.
Rockhold’s first fight in the light heavyweight division will be a literal tall task in the form of the Swedish “Viking” and if the interim title is at stake it must mean Volkan Oezdemir is either in the doghouse or the UFC is doing Cormier a solid. Oezdemir was expected to compete against “Shogun” Rua at UFC Chile on May 19th, but was unable to leave the United States given his felony assault charges. Oezdemir is ranked behind Gustafsson and the man above them is D.C. Both men failed to dethrone the champ, but it seems fans will have to wait to see both men clash.
Rockhold, unlike Oezdemir is a former UFC champion and has a background in elite grappling along with an ongoing beef against Gustafsson. Rockhold also has a clean criminal record, but maybe he should consider taking a tune up fight first. The former champion called for a trilogy fight against Michael Bisping at 205-pounds, but the negotiations appear to hit a snag.
Cormier has been adamant that 2018 will be his final year competing in MMA, which begs the question of who will take over the mantle. Jon Jones is still awaiting his hearing with USADA and who knows if they will drop the hammer on him this time. Rockhold is probably the best option for the UFC to carry the light heavyweight division on his shoulders for the time being, however the 33-year-old could benefit from being more selective this point in his career.
The former champion was knocked out twice in his last three fights. Rockhold’s three UFC losses have come by way of knockout. He returned to competition 8 months after his KO loss to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut was over a year removed from his knockout loss against Bisping when he fought and beat David Branch. Granted, Rockhold was expected to return sooner until a knee injury pushed him on the sidelines further, but the time off did him some good.
It’s unknown how long Rockhold expects to continue fighting, but should he lose to Gustafsson in dominant fashion, he’d find himself in no man’s land. The best route to go would be to fight somebody a bit lower on the totem pole then potentially entertain a fight against Gustafsson or even Jon Jones if he is eligible to return by then.
On paper the fight certainly screams fireworks and fans should be satisfied with the result given the finish rate between both competitors. The build up should also be one to keep an eye on.