Luke Rockhold sent a strong message out tonight to the UFC’s middleweight division.
That message began from the moment he began his walk to the Octagon, to face Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida in the main event of UFC on FOX in Newark, New Jersey.
The song playing as he entered the cage was Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best Around,” recognizable by children of the 1980’s for its use in the original “Karate Kid” film. As it turns out, the choice wasn’t just a jab at his opponent, the karateka Machida.
After dispatching the over-matched Machida in a round two submission victory, Rockhold addressed the Prudential Center crowd, and current middleweight titlist Chris Weidman.
“Did you hear my walkout song?” Rockhold asked. “I’m the best around! Weidman, do your part, I did mine!”
Rockhold has stated his intention to face Weidman in a hoped-for UFC event in Madison Square Garden later in the year.
But first, MMA needs to be made legal in the state of New York, and Weidman must win his next bout — against Vitor Belfort. Neither is a sure thing at this point, and neither is Rockhold’s boast.
Still, Rockhold was certainly impressive tonight, taking the former light heavyweight champion Machida down repeatedly, landing damaging blows, and eventually scoring the rear naked choke finish.
Earlier in the evening, fellow middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza easily defeated late replacement Chris Camozzi — taking him down and showcasing his jiu-jitsu skills in a round one armbar finish.
The one-sided co-main event bouts ended an evening of solid action.
At featherweight, rising star Max Holloway fought brilliantly against longtime contender Cub Swanson, dominating the standup exchanges and finally securing a guillotine finish in round three.
“I jumped on him and he had his head straight forward, so I got a couple good strikes in and got the guillotine,” Holloway explained afterwards. “I want to be the best in the world, and if you’re not here for that reason then you’re just going through the motions. My coaches and teammates and training partners are the best guys in the world. We’ve got something great here in Hawaii – stay tuned.”
The 23 year old Holloway is now on a five fight winning streak. He is hopeful for a rematch with Conor McGregor, who next fights for the UFC featherweight title.
Also on the show, another young star proved to be on the rise in Paige VanZant. The 21 year old scored the biggest win of her career in a women’s 115 lb. contest with Felice Herrig. VanZant kept a frantic pace, landing an onslaught of punches throughout the bout’s three round duration. Herrig was on her back heel standing and found herself often on her back, struggling to land a submission attempt.
She says the best is yet to come, though.
“I’m nowhere near peaked and I’ve got a lot of work to do,” she said after collecting the unanimous decision victory. “I’m here for the fun of it and I’m so thankful. I can’t believe I made it through that fight. It only goes up from here.”
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