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UFC Pittsburgh: Rockhold vs. Branch post-fight results and analysis

Dayne Fox recaps all the action in a night full of finishes at UFC Pittsburgh: Rockhold vs. Branch.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Pittsburgh Rockhold vs Branch Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not stupid enough to claim the UFC Pittsburgh card was better than the classic put on by Canelo-GGG, regardless of whether the judging was controversial. However, I think it is fair to state that those who decided not to spend big money for the boxing event were given quality entertainment. It’s hard to argue against an 80% finishing rate.

You’d think after showing no respect to Michael Bisping and being KO’d for it, Luke Rockhold would learn his lesson. Instead he comes out showing no respect to David Branch and getting rocked early in the fight. He did recover, scoring a takedown to end the first round to start swinging the momentum back his way. Branch continued to push the action in the third, but it felt like the end was inevitable when Rockhold got the mount on Branch, showering the former two-division WSOF champion with punches until the end came when Branch tapped.

Rockhold gave fair warning to GSP about moving up to middleweight, declaring he’s ready for a title fight... but nobody is ready to give him that following that performance. I’d be down to see him do his deal with Yoel Romero. Remember when Rockhold was obliterating Lyoto Machida and twisting Tim Boetsch into knots. Yeah... we didn’t see that guy tonight. Hopefully he can reemerge.

More thoughts on tonight’s card:

Main Card

  • I know Canelo-GGG was a big deal, but you’d think Dana White would try to prop up his own company. Instead, he missed the second event in a row. Anybody else struggling to buy the idea that he’s as committed as ever to growing the UFC?
  • When you’re fighting a guy who took a fight with only three days notice who is much smaller than you, you’d better dispose of him in a hurry if you want to save face. Mike Perry did just that, going right after Alex Reyes, bullying him in the clinch, and kneeing his face off in a little over a minute. After the fight, Perry called out Robbie Lawler. Be careful what you wish for Mikey... you’ll need more than a chicken dance to beat the former world champion.
  • I tweeted it was stupid for Anthony Smith to yell “Do you know my name yet?” at Hector Lombard when he was down two rounds. While I’m not about to back off that assessment, Lombard did learn Smith’s name about midway through the third as Smith finished the muscle-bound Cuban with a slick boxing combination he’d been looking for all fight. That may have been the last we see of free agent bust Lombard in the UFC. The dude hasn’t won a fight in three-in-a-half years. Almost 40-years old, he’s near the end if he isn’t there already.
  • Right as Canelo and GGG were getting going, Gregor Gillespie and Jason Gonzalez made sure those who didn’t feel like shelling out PPV money still got a great showing of action as their contest had everything. Knock downs, scrambles, submission attempts, slams... and it was glorious! Nothing fans love more when a pair of fighters stand in the middle and trade haymakers and they did that too. Gillespie ultimately used his wrestling pedigree to ground Gonzalez and secure an arm-triangle choke in an easy choice for FOTN.
  • The welterweight division has a problem and it’s name is Kamaru Usman. Just ask him; he’ll let tell you what he is. He beat Sergio Moraes from pillar to post in the few minutes that the fight lasted, knocking down the BJJ expert multiple times before literally folding him in half with the second knockdown. There is no excuse for not giving him a high-profile contest now. In fact, I’m calling for Usman to be put in a #1 contender’s fight. Who is with me!?
  • Three words to describe the main card opener between Justin Ledet and Zu Anyanwu: jab, jab, and jab. Ledet kept a jab in Anyanwu’s face without threatening to end the contest at any point, completely coasting the final round. The best part of the fight was the WTF look on Ledet’s face when the contest was announced as a split decision even though he won.

Preliminary Card

  • It came down to the first round between Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Tony Martin as they traded rounds of dominant grappling control in the second and third. That first round was difficult to decipher, though the majority will agree the right man received the nod as Aubin-Mercier received the split decision. Not the best performance for Aubin-Mercier, but Martin does qualify as the best win of his career by far.
  • See what happens when you watch film? Dan Spitz found an opening in the early portions of the fight, landing a right that sent Anthony Hamilton crashing to the ground. A few follow-up punches later and that was all she wrote. Some may argue the contest was stopped early, but Hamilton wasn’t moving. A referee is supposed to protect fighters… right?
  • Put Uriah Hall down for Comeback of the Year in my book. The referee could have stopped the contest at multiple junctions after Krzysztof Jotko rocked and knocked to the ground. The referee Rob Hinds saw something the rest of us didn’t as he didn’t stop the fight only for Hall to survive until the end of the round. About midway through the second, Hall nailed Jotko with a powerful straight right that sent Jotko reeling before it was stopped. Not a good overall performance from Hall, though I can’t deny it was a comeback for the ages.
  • It became obvious what Gilbert Burns was doing in his year away from the cage once he knocked the block off Jason Saggo at the end of the second round: his striking. It had been very nip and tuck up to that point, though it ultimately proved to be an excellent way to open up the evening.

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