Luke Rockhold's UFC debut could have gone better. That May 2013 fight ended at the 2:32 mark of the first round when Vitor Belfort's spinning wheel kick found Rockhold's chin and put him down and out. Rockhold's chance to get back in the win column will come on January 15 when he faces Costa Philippou in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35.
The loss to Belfort was Rockhold's second as a professional fighter, leaving him with a record of 10-2. The defeat ended Rockhold's nine-fight winning streak, a winning streak that dated back to February 2008.
Rockhold's return to the Octagon was delayed when he tore his MCL while training. That injury forced him to withdraw from a bout against Tim Boetsch at UFC 166. Rockhold, appearing on the most recent edition of The MMA Hour told host Ariel Helwani that he is fully recovered and, "Focused on fighting, and feeling good."
The loss to Belfort and living with that defeat for so long has not sit well with Rockhold. The No. 6 ranked middleweight said that he will enter the fight against the No. 10 ranked Philippou more motivated than ever. Rockhold also added that he felt a dominant win over Philippou will put him right back in the thick of things in the middleweight division.
To get that win, Rockhold will have to deal with the boxing based style of Philippou. Philippou's last opponent, Francis Carmont negated that boxing with a smothering ground game. Rockhold, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has the skills to follow the game plan that Carmont used so effectively.
However, fans should not expect Rockhold to follow Carmont's plan. If the fight against Philippou does hit the ground, Rockhold promised that there would be a lot more action than Carmont delivered. "I'm not your average jiu-jitsu guy, I practice legit-su. It's going to be hell for him if it hits the ground. Trust me, it's not going to be a smotherfest. There's going to be a lot of fire on his face and submissions if he tries to turn away."
Rockhold described legit-su as a style he developed himself over the years. That style is built around knowing how his own body responds to movements on the mat. Rockhold said of the style, "My jiu-jitsu is good, but my legit-su is better."
On Wednesday January 15 we'll get to see just how legit Rockhold's legit-su is.
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