Luke Rockhold has said he plans to make a title run at light-heavyweight, and that he’s targeting a showdown with Jon Jones. But, what could be next for the former middleweight champ, if he beats Jan Blachowicz at UFC 239?
Rockhold had talked about moving up to 205 for quite some time, and on Saturday, he’ll make his light-heavyweight debut in the Octagon. Even before Rockhold had a fight signed at 205, the 34-year-old predicted that he’ll be a force in the division, and more recently, he’s repeated that claim. Case in point, while talking to MMA Junkie recently, Rockhold said this:
“It’s comfortable,” Rockhold said “It’s good. I think it’s what it’s all about. I get to focus on fighting and not cutting weight. That’s what I’m here for – to fight…”
“(Light heavyweight) has allowed me to go back to more of my style, who I am, and that’s hunting people. That’s what I do best. I’ve got to hunt you. You know I’ve got everything in my arsenal to take you out.”
“…Take a look at the division: I’m one of the top guys in the world wherever I go,” Rockhold said. “It takes one fight to prove that. So let’s go prove that. I think big things. That’s all I think about. I’m not here for anything small. Just the big stuff.”
Now, the consensus is that if Rockhold defeats Blachowicz at UFC 239, something “big”, will indeed be next (Blachowicz is ranked #6). But, could that be a title shot? Or a fight with a top-five contender?
As far as a title shot, there are several things going for Rockhold, if he can score a big, impressive win Saturday. He’s a former champ and a big name, so, the path to a title shot is going to be shorter than a rising fighter. Then, there’s the fact that Rockhold is a longtime friend of Jones’ rival, Daniel Cormier. So, there’s clearly a storyline there the UFC can work with.
Further, if you look at the top of the light-heavyweight ranks, Jones has already defeated Cormier and Anthony Smith. If he beats Thiago Santos on Saturday, he’ll hold wins over four of the top five contenders (Alexander Gustafsson is still ranked despite his retirement).
But, what if Rockhold barely gets by Blachowicz? Or wins a controversial decision? Then the UFC might play the waiting game to see how Dominick Reyes does in his next fight. Johnny Walker also has a ton of buzz behind him too. Although Dana White has said they don’t plan to rush Walker into a title fight, that could change, if he starches a top contender next.
Then, of course, there’s the possibility of a third fight between Jones and Cormier. If Jones wins Saturday, and Cormier defeats Stipe Miocic again at UFC 241, August 10th, calls for a third fight will spike again.