Strikeforce vs. UFC. Champion vs. champion. These are things that are going to be on full display at UFC on Fox 7 when UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson faces off with Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. And with the way things played out at UFC on FX 7 last night, now is the time to book a second one of these spectacles. Anderson Silva's next title defense should come against Luke Rockhold.
I know what you're going to say, and Kid Nate already said it earlier anyway - Rockhold's not high-profile enough to earn that bout yet. Nate suggests Rashad Evans should get the shot instead. It's generally not a good idea to disagree with the guy that signs your checks, but I'm going to risk it and state my reasons why Rockhold is the better option than Rashad right now.
First, there's the allure of champion vs. champion. Title vs. title bouts are nothing new in the UFC - Dan Henderson came over from Pride and immediately fought both the light heavyweight and middleweight champions - and they always mean a little bit more than a regular title defense. Melendez is getting his shot right away, and he's in the exact same boat as Rockhold. So why is Luke on the back burner? He doesn't have to be extremely popular for the bout to make sense. His title brings the credibility needed to make the fight sell.
Second, it's Anderson Silva. People will pay to see him fight just about anyone. While Evans is a solid option and has his own solid fanbase, he's never made the cut to 185 before and has said that he's not sure how it would go. Evans also has a bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156 to worry about first. Rockhold is ready.
Finally, Silva has stated in the past that he'd love to fight Rockhold one day. He said it when the bout wasn't possible because SF still existed, but he sees the possibility that the bout could make him a lot of money. And let's face it, it's probably an easier fight for Silva anyway because he won't have to deal with the strong MMA wrestling of Evans. Silva and his camp are calculated about who they put in front of the champ (which is why they keep ignoring Chris Weidman), and Rockhold seems like a "safe" fight for Anderson.
Overall, Rockhold doesn't need a Fox bout or PPV co-main to get eyes on him before a title shot. He's coming in as a champion. It might even be better that he comes in as a mystery to casual fans, but there's nothing bad they can say about him. All they'll know is that Anderson Silva is meeting a fellow champ that was the best guy where he fought. Sure, avid fans will see through that to a degree. But we're buying PPV's anyway. Title vs. title can sell itself to casuals. It's what they should book immediately so they don't miss out on an opportunity that doesn't come along very often.