In the main event of UFC Pittsburgh, Luke Rockhold returned and shook off some early ring rust and adjusted to submit David Branch with strikes.
Luke Rockhold had it all after the win over Chris Weidman, he had the UFC title, he had the promotion, he had everything he wanted. That was all gone in an instant when Michael Bisping knocked him senseless in a stunning upset.
Afterward, Rockhold faded from view for 15 months due to injury, but tonight, he returned, and he needed to not only win but finish Branch emphatically to send a message to Bisping that he has returned.
David Branch had been overlooked plenty as he headed into tonight. Many forgot Branch won ten straight over in WSOF because it doesn’t matter to some unless it’s in the UFC. Branch’s debut still left room for criticism as it was a split decision over Krzysztof Jotko, but tonight had the chance to turn some heads with an impressive performance against Rockhold.
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In the first round, Branch looked to put the pressure on Rockhold right from the get-go, as he let his hands go for a textbook combo which did serious damage to the returning champion Rockhold.
Rockhold’s primary offense was to keep Branch away with his signature body kick, but Branch consistently closed the distance to put Rockhold on the cage.
After the two went back and forth with cage control, Rockhold was able to close the round with a takedown and put the roundup for discussion after an undesirable start.
Rockhold looked much active with his offense to begin the second round, but Branch kept the pressure on Rockhold to eventually work him to the fence.
Rockhold turned the tables and took cage control which forced a long stalemate under Rockhold’s control before getting the takedown to get to full mount. Rockhold postured up on Branch and spun him to his back, in which he unloaded with ground and pound to the head of Branch, and eventually, Branch decided he had enough and tapped out to the strikes, and Rockhold picked up his first win in 15 months.
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Post-fight, Rockhold informed middleweight title challenger Georges St.Pierre that he doesn’t belong here and “this is my fight, get out of here while you still can”. Rockhold had a real shaky start in the first round, but all it took for Rockhold was one takedown and one transition to end the fight. It will be interesting to see how Rockhold’s career will shake out from here, but he for sure has some holes to solve before he can claim the title again.