Twitter Mailbag: Will Michael Bisping really retire? Would Georges St-Pierre really defend?

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, is the UFC middleweight champ really considering retiring, or just playing us for a few extra pay-per-view buys? Plus, is the UFC Fight Night 117 headliner the weakest in recent memory? And should we care why someone failed a drug test, or is it the fighter’s responsibility to test clean no matter what?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

I believe that multiple people in Michael Bisping’s life are telling him to retire after the Georges St-Pierre fight, and why wouldn’t they?

He’ll be 39 in a few months. He’s taken a lot of damage over the course of his very memorable career. And the other top 185-pounders who are gunning for his spot? They are a group of terrifying individuals. If Bisping wins this fight and has to defend his UFC middleweight belt against actual UFC middleweight contenders, there’s no way he doesn’t end up in tougher fights for less money than he’ll make at UFC 217.

If there was a time to take the money and run, brother, it’s now.

But Bisping’s savvy enough to know a good sales angle when he sees one. He knows that a large number of MMA fans always want to see him get beat up, which is why he’s teasing retirement now. He wants those people to think that soon they won’t have Michael Bisping to kick around anymore, so they better pay their money and enjoy this last ride.

Will he really do it? I have my doubts. Bisping is a stubborn and fiercely competitive person, which is a big part of how he’s made it this far in his career. If he beats GSP, could he admit to himself that he’s better off not testing himself against the likes of Bobby Knuckles? Could he turn down that one extra payday? Could he walk away as the middleweight champ who never defended his title against a single middleweight contender?

Seems like he’s spent his whole career trying to get to this very spot. I have a hard time believing he’ll give it up without being forcibly ejected.

That’s easy: Elias Theodorou, who also happens to be one of my favorite fighters on social media. You’re telling me you don’t want to see a polite Canadian roll in there with his wavy locks and put the hurt on some Twitter troll who way overreacted to his reasonable opinions? Of course you do. Watching him kick the Mtn Dew out of an online hater would be pay-per-view material.

 

That is one thing that might hurt interest in the Bisping-GSP fight. When Luke Rockhold said that St-Pierre wouldn’t fight any top middleweights even if he does win, it had the ring of truth. And Bisping is already talking about getting out, win or lose, after UFC 217.

So how excited are we supposed to get for a middleweight title fight that might end up meaning nothing at all for the middleweight division?

If you ask me who you’d have to beat to become the top middleweight in the world right now, without question I say it’s Robert Whittaker. But if his interim title morphs into the real thing just because no actual champ will fight him, that’s bound to feel a little anti-climactic.

If it’s not, it’ll do until the weakest gets here. But let’s be honest, it’s not like any of us were that heartbroken to hear that Ovince Saint Preux vs. Mauricio Rua II was off. That rematch made no sense and mattered not at all to the light heavyweight division. It was an attempt to throw the Japanese fans a bone.

Hey, you guys used to like “Shogun,” right? Well here he is again, held together by duct tape and chewing gum, back to fight for your nostalgic pleasure.

Is it really so much different to go from Rua to a hometown figure like Yushin Okami? Yes, the fight itself is silly and doesn’t mean much. (The UFC decided Okami wasn’t worth keeping as a middleweight, and now he’s back as a light heavyweight?) Then again, the fight it’s replacing was silly and didn’t mean much, albeit for different reasons. It might be weak, but at least it’s not here in place of something strong.

The changes to the USADA rules announced earlier this year make it easier for replacement fighters to slide in without a long testing period, which seems both practical and about as fair as it can realistically be. If you need a replacement on six days’ notice, you’re probably going to have to go outside the UFC to find one. If the USADA policy didn’t allow for that possibility at all, we’d seen even more canceled fights.

Does it open the door to potential dopers sliding into a fight without having faced the same vetting their opponents did? Sure. But if you know you’ve been doping and getting away with it thanks to minimal or even non-existent testing in another organization, and you also know that USADA will be waiting for you in the UFC, wouldn’t that make you less likely to accept a short-notice fight? You won’t have time to clean out your system, and even if you get through the fight before getting popped, then you’re faced with a long suspension.

It’s not a perfect system, but when you take into account the practical realities at work, it seems like a reasonable compromise.

Sure, no problem. When I’m done with it, should I go ahead and solve crime next? How about unhappiness?

Look, we can’t set the bar for anti-doping success at complete eradication. We will never get there. As long as steroids work and winning fighters earn more money than losing ones (whether in the short or the long term), someone will be willing to take the risk.

The best we can hope for is that the testing is good enough and the punishments strong enough to act as a deterrent. I suspect that’s already happened to some extent. I’m sure somewhere out there is a UFC fighter who would have doped, who seriously considered it, but decided that the chances of being caught were too great, and the consequences too severe to make it worth it.

If we get to a point where no one is getting caught, we shouldn’t take that as a sign that the battle has been won. We should take it as a sign that the testing probably isn’t working.

First of all, GSP’s been out of the sport for that long, but not out of the public eye. In a way, it feels like he’s been back in our lives for at least a year now, because he wouldn’t stop talking about this fight while he was on the very slow train to Comebacktown. If you gave Conor McGregor a year to talk before fighting, I feel like he’d do just fine. So would Ronda Rousey, I expect.

But it is worth wondering how the former “king of pay-per-view” will draw in his return. This feels like a different era for the UFC. It’s the era where “money fight” came into our lexicon. It’s when we learned that shirts are actually optional at press conferences, and energy drink cans are pretty aerodynamic.

Can you still be the star of the show as the clean-cut French-Canadian who’s super polite to the point of being kind of boring? And what if St-Pierre loses, which is a real possibility going up a weight class after such an extended layoff? Will a lot of newer fans just write him off as someone who used to be good according to a bunch of old fogies?

The good news is, right now the UFC doesn’t have a whole lot else planned for the coming months. If you want in on a big fight, you’ve pretty much got to show up for this one. So at least the payday should be worth it.

Is it too late to get Brian Stann back? Could we sprint to the train station just in time and run along the platform, shouting at him that we can change before we run face first into a pole?

Then again, I guess it depends what we want out of a president. Dana White has his flaws, but for many years he also had the virtues of his faults. Those media scrums he used to do after press conferences? Those were so popular precisely because he was so unguarded, so free with the news nuggets, so likely to say something worth reporting. That’s the upside of the same personality defect that leads to him getting on Twitter and telling his customers that they’re fat, ugly idiots.

But White was definitely what the UFC needed for a long time. He was a loud, bombastic carnival barker who could shepherd people into the tent when the show was about to start. And maybe the UFC still needs that more than it needs a buttoned-up professional-type like Stann, but you don’t see White doing nearly as much of it. These days it’s not even a given that he’ll show up to his own events.

I pick Demian Maia, for sure. Because if I get choked out by Maia, at least I can go tell the story to all my jiu-jitsu buddies and maybe even trick them into buying me lunch in the process. If I get flattened out by Rockhold, I might end up drinking that lunch through a straw.

Definitely the best boxing movie, one of the best sports movies, even one of the best biopics. How could it not be? It’s a Martin Scorsese film about a tragic figure, and it’s got Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in it. The death of Jake LaMotta is as good an excuse as any to go back and watch it. If you’d prefer to do some reading, I’d also recommend this story on LaMotta.

I’m old enough to remember when Carlos Condit said he was unsure of his future due to concerns about head trauma, so it’s tough to be totally enthusiastic about seeing him come back for more. Still, Condit’s so much fun to watch. If he feels up to it, how can I not get hyped to see him jump back into the fire?

Who he should fight is a tough question, though. You look around the welterweight class and you see a lot of young hitters who’d love a chance to make their name off a potentially rusty Condit. That’d be a little depressing, even if the cannibalization of yesterday’s heroes is something of a sad tradition in combat sports. Plus, Condit has fought most of the guys at or near the top, so what else can you do with him if he really wants to fight within a few months?

Just saying, if the MMA gods won’t give us Mike Perry vs. Robbie Lawler, then “Platinum Mike” vs. The NBK would be a very acceptable substitute.

For the most part, yes, I agree. But if we can do so with a reasonable degree of certainty, it is worth the effort to distinguish the intentional dopers from the careless pill and supplement-takers. That’s especially true when the supplement industry is so unregulated that you could conceivably buy a new batch of the same product you took without incident six months ago and still end up with banned substances in your system. It doesn’t make you blameless, but it also doesn’t quite make you a cheat.

For more on MMA’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Champ Bisping: Rockhold should 'claw' way back up by fighting fellow 'bum' Weidman

(UPDATED on 9/21/17 at 12:30 p.m. ET to clarify Bisping’s quotes.)

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold had some things to say about current champ Michael Bisping. So, to the surprise of presumably no one, Bisping had some things to say right back.

Rockhold had barely cooled off from his recent UFC Fight Night 116 win over David Branch when he directed some words at former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, urging him to step away from a UFC 217 title fight with Bisping. It was clear, however, who the real target behind the unconventional request was: middleweight champ Bisping (via Twitter):

Speaking to “UFC Tonight” on Wednesday, Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) was more explicit in his talks of reclaiming the belt that Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) took from him in June 2016. That came with some serious shade over Bisping and his title reign – which Rockhold called “the worst in UFC history.”

Later that night, however, “TUF Talk” gave Bisping a brief window to respond. And he gave it a valiant effort.

“It’s a good job that (Rockhold) looks good, because he obviously can’t add up,” Bisping said. “Because 15 months? I fought less than a year ago. He hasn’t fought since I knocked him out in three minutes – yes, three minutes – out cold.

“Then he comes back. He fights – who was it, David Branch? Never heard of him. You should go and rematch Chris Weidman – (they’re) a couple of bums. Try and claw your way back to the top.”

Rockhold is not the first one to criticize Bisping’s reign. While his upset over Rockhold was borderline epic, Bisping has defended the title only once since – in a closely contested match against now-retired Dan Henderson. With higher-ranked men like Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza on the brink of their own title stabs at the time, Bisping caught heat for failing to take on the division’s true top contenders.

Choosing to make his second title defense against St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) – a welterweight, who, despite his legendary status, is returning from retirement at UFC 217 – didn’t exactly help his case in that sense.

Bisping, on his end, is right in pointing out that Rockhold hadn’t fought in 15 months before Saturday’s second-round knockout. But, while Branch might not yet be a household UFC name, he was a former two-division WSOF champion who hadn’t lost in 11 fights and five years before meeting Rockhold.

While it’s clear that Rockhold is aiming for the undisputed champ next, he did open himself up to other possibilities. One would be the division’s interim titleholder, Robert Whittaker, whom Rockhold dubbed “the real champion” based on the competition he beat.

Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC), however, is currently sidelined by injuries. Another option that Rockhold singled out was Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) – who, before losing the UFC 213 five-round bout that earned Whittaker the interim belt in July, was on a remarkable eight-fight tear.

As for Bisping, the future after the Nov. 4 pay-per-view headliner with St-Pierre at Madison Square Garden in New York City remains murky. While he has indicated that fight could be his last, he also mentioned his desire to have his final UFC outing in Manchester – perhaps a title unifier.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Luke Rockhold and UFC Fight Night 116's other winning fighters?

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Former champ Luke Rockhold returned to the UFC middleweight title contender mix on Saturday when he put a thorough beating on David Branch in the UFC Fight Night 116 main event.

Rockhold’s (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) ground game was far too much for Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) to handle in the FS1-televised headliner, which took place at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. He battered his opponent with strikes for the second-round stoppage, putting Rockhold back in the queue of 185-pound contenders.

The finish in the main event concluded a main card where five of six fights ended inside the distance. Mike Perry (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC), Anthony Smith (27-13 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Gregor Gillespie (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and Kamaru Usman (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) all stopped their opponents in exciting fashion, while Justin Ledet (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) was alone in winning on the scorecards.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 116’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Justin Ledet

Should fight: Dmitriy Sosnovskiy
Why they should fight: In what was arguably the most forgettable bout on the card, Ledet made a successful return from a lengthy layoff with a split-decision victory over short-notice UFC newcomer Zu Anyanwu.

Ledet essentially jabbed his way to a win on the scorecards, giving him a win that pushed him to 3-0 in the UFC heavyweight division. Ledet has shown flashes of brilliance in his fights, but his performance against Anyanwu did not provide much excitement for his next trip to the octagon.

Perhaps Ledet deserves a bit of slack for having to change to a new opponent on short notice. Because of that, he should get the fight he was originally intended for against Sosnovskiy (10-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC). The pair has already been booked to fight twice, but each time it’s fallen through. It’s possible it’s time to just move on from the fight, but given they’ve already trained to face off so many times, it would be interesting to see how it plays out.

Kamaru Usman

Santiago Ponzinibbio

Should fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Why they should fight: Usman has been nothing short of sensational since making his UFC debut, and Sergio Moraes was the next victim in his run toward the top of the welterweight division, courtesy of a first-round knockout.

Usman made some bold statements about where he sees himself among the contenders at 170 pounds, and he’s already taken aim at current champion Tyron Woodley. He’s not going to get that fight next, but if he continues to knock people out in a similar fashion to Moraes, it won’t be long until he’s fighting for UFC gold.

By adding dangerous striking to his already existing standout wrestling game, Usman is evolving into a threat on multiple levels. There aren’t many who will be capable of stopping his game, but Ponzinibbio (25-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) could be equipped to handle it.

The Argentinian is riding the second-longest UFC winning streak in his division behind Usman following his knockout of Gunnar Nelson at UFC Fight Night 113 in July, and a matchup between the two streaking fighters could have a big impact on the future of the weight class.

Gregor Gillespie

Vinc Pichel

Should fight: Vinc Pichel
Why they should fight: Highly regarded lightweight prospect Gillespie had another promising performance early in his career when he submitted Jason Gonzalez in the “Fight of the Night.”

Gillespie improved his record to 10-0 when he came out on the top of a back-and-forth war by submitting Gonzalez with an arm-triangle choke in the second round. “The Gift” has strong wrestling and improving striking, and at 30, still has a lot of upside as someone to watch at 155 pounds.

Gillespie’s first three UFC performances have come against opponents with limited UFC experience. It’s time for that to change, and Pichel (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) is someone who has been around the promotion for several years on top of appearing on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series.

Pichel is riding a three-fight winning streak with his most recent octagon appearance being a first-round knockout of Damien Brown at UFC Fight Night 110 in June. If he could hand Gillespie his first loss, he would make a big statement that he’s not going to be pushed around by anyone with hype.

Anthony Smith

Uriah Hall

Should fight: Uriah Hall
Why they should fight: The second coming of Smith in the UFC took another memorable step forward when “The Lionheart” scored yet another come-from-behind knockout victory, this time at the expense of Hector Lombard.

After falling behind on the scorecards in the middleweight fight, Smith landed a fight-ending combination of strikes to extend the former Bellator champ’s losing skid to four fights. Smith said prior to the bout that he needed to get past Lombard to prove his worth, and he did just that.

Smith was arguably released prematurely during his first UFC stint in 2013. He’s put together a 4-1 run since coming back this past year, and his maturity is evident. Smith should be in for another noteworthy fight, and Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) fits the description.

Hall scored a massive knockout win of his own against Krzysztof Jotko on the preliminary card, helping him bounce back from a three-fight drought. “Primetime” is a lethal striker when he’s on, and if he shows up on point, Smith would surely have his hands full.

Mike Perry

Thiago Alves

Should fight: Thiago Alves
Why they should fight: Perry did his job against an overmatched short-notice replacement when he scored a 79-second knockout of UFC newcomer Alex Reyes.

Originally meant to fight Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC), “Platinum” had no hesitation in taking another matchup when the former UFC title challenger pulled out on three days’ notice. Perry delivered another violent finish due to strikes, and afterward he called out former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler to a future matchup.

Perry deserves credit for aiming high, but it’s likely much bigger fights are in Lawler’s immediate future. Because of that, rebooking the showdown with Alves seems much more realistic. It still makes sense despite Perry’s win, and facing “The Pitbull” still represents the most high-profile fight of his career.

Luke Rockhold

Should fight: Yoel Romero
Why they should fight:
Watch the video above to see why Rockhold should fight Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Luke Rockhold labels Robert Whittaker 'true champion,' plans eventual move up to 205

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Luke Rockhold is keeping his options open with regard to his future following a successful return to competition from a 15-month layoff at UFC Fight Night 116. That includes a potential change in weight class down the line.

Rockhold’s (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) comeback fight after losing the UFC middleweight title to Michael Bisping in June 2016 went largely free of error on Saturday when he managed to overwhelm David Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) for a second-round stoppage win in the FS1-televised headliner at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

After the fight, Rockhold heavily criticized the upcoming 185-pound title fight between Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) and Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) at UFC 217 on Nov. 4. He said “The Count” will smoke St-Pierre and thinks he should instead get the next title shot because he will put up a real fight.

Rockhold is unlikely to be next in line, though. Interim UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) sits atop the queue and is waiting for his unification match against the UFC 217 winner. Rockhold said he would be interested in fighting Whittaker in the meantime, because he views him as the most legitimate titleholder.

“Whittaker is definitely an interesting fight,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie after his main-event win. “I think he’s the true champion right now – the man who fights the fights that count, other than some poser up there running away with the belt.”

It seems illogical for Whittaker to accept another fight before facing the Bisping vs. St-Pierre winner, which leaves Rockhold in a bit of a predicament. A rematch with fellow former UFC champ Chris Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC), who Rockhold defeated by fourth-round TKO at UFC 194 in December 2015, was suggested. However, there doesn’t appear to be much interest, at least from Rockhold’s side.

“Chris Weidman’s lost three in a row,” Rockhold said of Weidman, who is actually coming off a win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on FOX 25 in July. “That doesn’t make much sense at this point. I’d rather not do that again at the moment.”

With options limited, Rockhold said a change in weight class could be in his future. His top priority is still to regain the UFC middleweight title, but Rockhold admits his weight cut for UFC Fight Night 116 was among the worst he’s ever endured ahead of a fight.

A move up to the light heavyweight division is almost guaranteed before his career is over, Rockhold said, but he doesn’t intend on jumping up a weight class while his good friend and training partner Daniel Cormier holds the position as UFC champion.

“I’ll fight light heavyweight,” Rockhold said. “The weight cut was rough. I’m not going to lie, it always is. … I’d love to go to light heavyweight. I’d do really well. In the gym, it’s more natural for me. I think I could do things. But ‘DC’ is obviously the man in the division right now. I’m not going up until he gets out. If he goes up or he retires, you can damn well guarantee I’m coming up. I have business to do here first.”

Rockhold’s ability to handle more meaningful business in his division going forward stems from a winning performance against Branch. It wasn’t Rockhold’s best showcase in the octagon, he said, but ultimately he got the job done.

Despite some criticisms of a slow start, Rockhold said the early portions of the fight where he struggled was all about getting his footing back after a long layoff. He managed to get past that and batter Branch into submission with strikes.

“I was OK with (my performance),” Rockhold said. “I didn’t expect him to come forward so hard. I wanted to find my timing, get my range. It was a bit of a weight cut and just trying to get my bearings there in the clinch and figure it out. When I’m best, I wait.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Luke Rockhold wins, gets mad, turns his focus on … Georges St-Pierre?

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So Luke Rockhold shows up in Pittsburgh for UFC Fight Night 116, wins the fight he’s supposed to win against David Branch, then gets on the mic afterward with fire in his eyes and spits some threatening words at … Georges St-Pierre?

That’s not how it was supposed to go. Granted, it’s been a little more than a year since Rockhold lost his UFC middleweight title in a stunning upset, and memories can get hazy over time, but shouldn’t it be Michael Bisping who Rockhold yells at in post-fight interviews?

And, in a way, maybe he was. As Rockhold explained backstage after the fight, he wasn’t calling St-Pierre out by any means. He was warning him off, urging him out of the way, precisely because the former UFC welterweight champ’s scheduled comeback against Bisping at UFC 217 in November is the thing standing in way of Rockhold’s quest to take the title back from Bisping.

“I’m trying to inspire (St-Pierre) in any way, shape or form,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie. “Get the (expletive) out. This is my fight.”

First of all, yeah, that’s probably not going to work, and one must assume that Rockhold knows it. St-Pierre has had his sights set on this Bisping fight for a solid year now, so he’s not going to get scared and withdraw two months out just because Rockhold tells him he’s probably going to lose.

Second of all, while there are plenty of reasons to hate on the Bisping-GSP matchup as a pure cash grab, Rockhold actually hit on a good argument against it now that it’s far too late to do anything about it.

See, it’s not just that St-Pierre is in over his head, according to Rockhold, though there is that. It’s also that Rockhold isn’t buying the idea that St-Pierre might really want to <i>be</i> the UFC middleweight champ.

“’GSP,’ if he wins somehow, some way, because anything can happen in this sport, maybe, he ain’t going to (expletive) fight any of us,” Rockhold said. “There’s no way he fights any of us. That’s the stupidest thing about this fight.”

Rockhold’s not the first person to offer this hypothesis. You’ve got to admit, there’s some sense to it.

St-Pierre’s been gone from the UFC for nearly four years now, but when he got serious about a comeback it was in a division that he’d never competed in, which right there is a little weird. Then there’s the fact that he seemed to seize on this idea immediately after Bisping became the champ, whereas he’d showed very little interest in fighting as a middleweight at any other time.

Add it all up, and it seems like St-Pierre has pegged Bisping as his best bet for claiming a UFC title in a second weight class while also clocking a monster payday. If he’s successful on both counts, will he really want to hang around and fight the Robert Whitaker or Luke Rockhold-types in a consistent, timely fashion?

It’s possible, sure, but it does seem tough to imagine. And with the UFC’s middleweight class now looking more interesting and competitive than it’s been in years, it’d be a real shame to see contenders collecting dust while the UFC chases quick cash.

Can you blame Rockhold if, after doing that same math in his head, what he came up with in the end was a stammering, indignant rage? Bisping’s defended his title only once, against an aging rival far from the top of the ranks. The last time a true contender had a shot at the UFC middleweight belt was when Rockhold took it from Weidman in 2015.

That must make it hard to keep the faith as a top fighter in the division. Rockhold certainly is that, as he proved when he shook off some early rust to dominate Branch en route to a second-round finish in the main event.

But when you can’t say where any of that will get you, it makes sense to get a little angry. And these days it’s a lot easier to get that than it is to get a middleweight title shot.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

David Branch on tapping to strikes at UFC-Pittsburgh: 'I didn't just give up'

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PITTSBURGH – David Branch insists his loss to Luke Rockholdin the UFC Fight Night 116 won’t prevent him from his ultimately goal of becoming middleweight champion.

In the most high-profile fight of his career, Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) suffered a second-round stoppage loss to Rockhold (16-3, 6-2 UFC) in the headlining bout of the FS1-televised card at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. It was his first defeat in more than five years, and one that he admits showed he has more to do before contending with the absolute elite of his weight class.

“I’m right there,” Branch told MMAjunkie after his loss. “I’ve just got more work to do. I’m not going to stop now. It’s taken me too long. I will be back. I will return. I came to the UFC to be the champion and I’m not going to let anything deter me. I’ve had these falls before. I know how to deal with these things. I’ve come back from adversity before and I’m going to do it again.

“I learned a lot. Not losing in almost six years – perhaps victory defeated me. Getting comfortable, winning all the time and losing a little bit of that fear of losing again. Now I have it again, the same way he had it. When I come back out there again I’m going to be real hungry.”

Branch had some success early in the fight, clipping Rockhold with a series of strikes during a combination. The former two-division WSOF champion was the aggressor in the opening round and took it on all three judges’ scorecards, but then the tide turned.

In Round 2, Rockhold took Branch to the mat and put his dangerous ground game to use, eventually climbing on Branch back and pounding him with strikes until he decided to tap out from punishment. Branch received criticism from fellow fighters for tapping out before the referee jumped in, but his explanation for doing so was all about future self-preservation.

“I just got caught in a position that I couldn’t escape,” Branch said. “I tried to take the punishment as much as I could, I got busted up a little bit and I decided to save the fight for another day and just come back stronger. I took as much punishment as I could. I didn’t just give up. Eventually it came, but I took a lot of knocks before that happened.”

Despite a beaming level of pre-fight confidence that he would beat Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 116, Branch ultimately fell short of his goal. He said he has no excuses for the outcome not going his way, and promises to fill out the holes in his game the next time he steps in the octagon.

“He was the better man tonight,” Branch said. “He defeated me fair and square. I did not go out there to try to lose that fight. I worked really, really had for a long time leading up to this. I thought the skills that I had and the effort would be enough to get the victory tonight, but apparently it wasn’t. There’s a lot I’ve got to go back and address.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Watch Luke Rockhold's ground-and-pound strikes earn David Branch tap

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It had been more than a year since Luke Rockhold had set foot in a UFC cage, but he left with a much-needed win.

Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), the former UFC middleweight champ, was a little slow out of the gate in his UFC Fight Night 116 headliner against David Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. But he turned up the heat in the second round, taking Branch to the floor and pounding away for a submission via strikes in the FS1-broadcast headliner.

Check out the finish above.

Also see:

And for more on UFC Fight Fight 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Luke Rockhold: Michael Bisping will crush Georges St-Pierre, who needs to 'get the f*ck out' of fight

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PITTSBURGH – Luke Rockhold is looking to jump back into the title mix after a successful return from a 15-month layoff in the UFC Fight Night 116 main event.

In his first fight since losing the UFC middleweight title to Michael Bisping at UFC 199 in June 2016, Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) forced David Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) to tap out to strikes in the second round of their bout, which took place at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh and aired on FS1.

Rockhold made some strong post-fight statements in the octagon specifically directed at the upcoming 185-pound title fight between Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC) and Georges St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) on Nov. 4 at UFC 217. Rockhold believes St-Pierre has no chance of claiming the belt, and for that reason he thinks it’s a pointless matchup.

“I’m not calling ‘GSP’ out wrong. Don’t get it wrong; get it straight,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie. “I’m telling ‘GSP’ to get the (expletive) out of his irrelevant fight. I don’t think he has any chance. I really don’t. I’m just telling you the straight truth. ‘GSP’ is going to get crushed. His game plan will not work against Bisping.

“As much as I don’t like (Bisping), the other guy, he’s going to lose. The takedowns, Bisping is going to scramble. He’s going to get up. The size is going to wear on him. He’s going to outbox him, and he’s probably going to put him away in the later rounds. That’s the fight. It’s going to happen. I’ll bet the house on it. I’ll even (expletive) bet on it.”

Rockhold said part of him believes St-Pierre will withdraw from UFC 217, and if that happens he said he’ll be prepared to step in as a replacement. He’s the last to hold a victory over Bisping, and the pair have a heated rivalry dating back several years.

If the fight does come to fruition, though, Rockhold obviously believes “Rush” poses little threat of winning. If the most unlikely outcome in Rockhold’s mind does happen, however, he doesn’t see any scenario in which St-Pierre agrees to fight him.

“‘GSP,’ if he wins, somehow, some way, because anything can happen in the sport maybe, but he ain’t going to (expletive) fight any of us,” Rockhold said. “There’s no way he fights any of us. That’s the stupidest thing about this fight.”

When looking at options outside of Bisping or St-Pierre, there’s nothing that gets Rockhold’s blood boiling on the same level. He dismissed a rematch with Chris Weidman, and he threw some praise at interim UFC middleweight champ Robbert Whittaker, who is sidelined with injury.

Rockhold is still taking in his first victory since December 2015, and he’s happy he was able to put away Branch with a dominant finish, especially because of the pre-fight trash talk between the two.

“I didn’t say (expletive) (after the finish),” Rockhold said. “I didn’t say a damn thing. But this guy coming at me just trying to belittle me and talk me down like I haven’t done anything, I don’t have a chin, I can’t box. Mother(expletive), shut up.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC-Pittsburgh results: Luke Rockhold stops David Branch, tells Georges St-Pierre to step aside

Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold appeared a bit hesitant in his first appearance in more than 15 months but shook off the cobwebs to earn a second-round finish of David Branch.

The middleweight matchup served as the FS1-televised headliner of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Branch pushed the pace to start, firing off right hands as he walked forward. Meanwhile, Rockhold tried to retreat to create space and fire in kicks to the body. Branch was relentless in the early going, continually moving forward and not allowing Rockhold space to operate. The two worked from the clinch, battling for position, before Rockhold was able to circle away and move back to the center. Rockhold was effective briefly from range, but Branch was quick to get back into tight range. Rockhold did counter with a late takedown but ran out of time before he could capitalize on the position.

Branch still looked to push forward in the second, though Rockhold was able to keep range in longer spurts and attack with kicks to the leg and body. However, Branch continued to push and did eventually get to the clinch, where he looked to turn the bout into a grinding affair. Rockhold wisely wrapped the body and brought the action to the floor with a slick takedown and a beautifully quick step over into mount. Branch turned to expose his back, and Rockhold staring to tee off. Branch tried to turtle and defend, but Rockhold pummeled away from the back, eventually getting a tap from his opponent with 55 seconds left in the frame.

Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) proved victorious in his first appearance sine ceding the UFC belt to current champ Michael Bisping. Afterward, he had a message for Georges St-Pierre, who faces Bisping at November’s UFC 217, telling the former welterweight champ to step aside for a more deserving contender.

Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) sees an 11-fight winning streak snapped.

UFC Fight Night 116 results include:

For more on UFC Fight Fight 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter reacts to Luke Rockhold's finish of David Branch at UFC Fight Night 116

Former UFC champion Luke Rockhold successfully returned from a more than year-long layoff on Saturday when he defeated David Branch in the UFC Fight Night 116 headliner.

In his first fight since losing the 185-pound belt to Michael Bisping in June 2016, Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) rebounded with a second-round submission victory over former two-division WSOF champion Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) in the FS1-televised headliner at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Check below for the top Twitter reactions to Rockhold’s victory over Branch at UFC Fight Night 116.

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For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie