Much has changed for Luke Rockhold over the past couple of years. Following a UFC debut that saw him get blasted by a spinning heel kick from a questionably chiseled Vitor Belfort, the talented middleweight has been on a tear.
Now, three decisive wins later, Rockhold knows he is within arm's length of a coveted title shot; only one final obstacle stands in his way, former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
While the Brazilian counter striker and karate specialist is one of the more confusing puzzles to solve in any UFC division, Rockhold believes he has the necessary style and gameplan to befuddle Machida.
"I believe I can go out there and shut him down, his gameplan - corner him and make him fight my fight," Rockhold told media members ahead of UFC on FOX 15. "Lyoto is dangerous if you allow him to fight his fight. This is my fight; I'm going to go out there and push the pace, have a lot of different attacks he's got to worry about, including the aspects of my game he is going to have to worry about outside of the stand-up realm."
In fact, Rockhold doesn't see Machida as much different to his most recent opponent Michael Bisping. While he referred to him as an ‘upgraded' version of the Briton, he expects to earn his third consecutive submission win on Saturday night.
"Lyoto is so different to a lot of guys. He is predominantly a stand-up guy with good ground game and decent wrestling; an upgraded version of Michael Bisping, maybe? This fight could go similar to Bisping but it might be tougher to find that opening, the kill shot but I can finish him on the ground."
If all goes as planned, Rockhold believes it will be difficult for the UFC not to offer him the next shot at the champion.
"We are the best guys in the division other than the champion. This is my golden ticket. I have to go out there and perform and then take my title shot."