Luke Rockhold has finished his last three opponents in spectacular fashion. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Two of the world’s premier middleweights have an appointment to keep.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida will lock horns with onetime Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold in the UFC on Fox 15 main event on Saturday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where both men will attempt to lay claim to the No. 1 contender position at 185 pounds.
Machida has remained an elite fighter deep into his 30s. “The Dragon” last fought at a UFC Fight Night event in December, when he cut down C.B. Dollaway with a first-round body kick and follow-up punches at Jose Correa Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Machida, 36, has compiled a stellar 14-5 record -- he is 3-1 as a middleweight -- since arriving in the UFC in February 2007. That extended run of success includes victories over Dan Henderson, Ryan Bader, Gegard Mousasi and four former UFC champions: Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture and Mauricio Rua.
Rockhold has rattled off 12 wins in his past 13 outings, a knockout loss to Vitor Belfort in May 2013 the only misstep. The 30-year-old American Kickboxing Academy rep last competed under the UFC Fight Night marquee in November, when he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping with a second-round guillotine choke at the Allphones Arena in Sydney. Rockhold has delivered 11 of his 13 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission, 10 of them inside one round.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters, trainers and MMA personalities to gauge their opinions on the UFC on Fox 15 headliner:
Ricardo Liborio: Machida wins by decision.
Alan Jouban: This is going to be a real exciting fight to watch. Not only are they two of the top fighters in the division, but the winner will most likely get the next title shot. Both guys are southpaw strikers, but will Rockhold’s size and athleticism be too much for Machida to handle? That is the question. This will be an extremely tough test for both fighters, but I side with my man Machida. “The Dragon” will spit fire that night and find an opening that will end the fight.
Joe Duarte: I’ve got to go with my boy Luke. The Force is with him.
Jason Dent: I’m picking Machida in this one and feel he is not only the better fighter on his feet but also on the ground. Rockhold may have a little success early on, but the longer this fight goes, the better Machida will do, as he has an incredible ability to find his opponents timing and rhythm.
Keith Berry: Rockhold is a physical specimen. This is an interesting fight. I see Luke winning a decision. It’s bound to be entertaining.
Roger Narvaez: I’m going with Machida. Although I love Rockhold’s style, Machida will be the quicker of the two. I see Machida winning this one by unanimous decision.
Beneil Dariush: Machida will win. He has better movement, and he’s capable of negating all of Rockhold’s kicks.
Robert Drysdale: Tough one. I’m going to go with Luke via decision.
Brock Jardine: I can’t wait for this fight. I’m not really sure who to pick, but I’ll take Machida because of his fighting style and speed.
Eddie Gordon: Machida wins. He is elusive and has punching power to end it. It’s going to be great fight.
James Vick: Rockhold wins by close decision.
Cody Gibson: Tough fight to call. I’m going to go with Rockhold because he’s American and America is the greatest country on the planet.
Jeff Hougland: I’m going with Rockhold by unanimous decision.
Mitch Clarke: I’m going with Rockhold by decision because I don’t know who to pick.
Igor Araujo: Machida wins by KO.
Eric Prindle: Rockhold takes it with ground-and-pound in the second round.
Nam Phan: I’ve always got to root for my boy Rockhold. He wins.
Kyle Kingsbury: Rockhold wins and catapults himself to a title shot.
Colton Smith: The elusiveness of Machida will serve to be an issue for Rockhold in the opening frame. However, as the fight progresses, it will be Rockhold who possesses the more well-rounded skill set. He will win by a well-executed decision victory via grinding his opponent against the cage throughout the affair.
Ray Elbe: Machida is a tough opponent for anyone, including Rockhold. My prediction: Machida uses footwork to win a decision.
Zach Makovsky: I think the fact that this is a five-rounder makes it more interesting and a closer fight. I think Machida’s speed and distance control will control the fight early. He will land his kicks and counter lefts and stuff Rockhold’s takedowns, winning the first few rounds. Rockhold will start to land some of his strikes and get a takedown or two, but it will be too little too late. Machida wins by split decision.
J.J. Ambrose: This is going to be an awesome fight, and I can’t imagine it will go the distance with all of the dynamic striking these guys do. Someone’s getting knocked out and my gut is telling me Rockhold is going to take this one to the bank and get a title shot soon after.
THE FINAL TALLYPros Picking Rockhold: 12
Pros Picking Machida: 10