Rockhold pushes himself into contender status

Luck Rockhold slams Buck Meredith to the canvas during a Strikeforce mixed martial arts event. Jeff Chiu/AP

A modern day record was set for the UFC in Sydney, with 11 finishes in 11 bouts. While all winners deserve praise, here’s a look at who stood out for me.

Officially a Contender

I’ll kick things off with headliner Luke Rockhold, who solidified himself as a top contender in the UFC’s middleweight division with a second-round submission victory over Michael Bisping.

“The Count” had never been submitted before in his career, let alone in the UFC, so the finish by Rockhold must be respected. Add to the fact his fantastic timing and distance, I believe it’s safe to say champion Chris Weidman, who was in attendance, surely took some notes.

Where Rockhold goes from here remains to be seen, but the sense I get is he won’t fight Jacare Souza, a man he has already defeated before. My spidey-senses are telling me he may have another rematch in his future, with “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort.

Finally Ranked?

Al Iaquinta’s second-round TKO victory over Ross Pearson was simply another coming out party for the Serra-Longo protege.

Heading into the bout, he was given next to no love, but after 6:39 of work inside the octagon, he will likely be a new addition into the UFC’s lightweight rankings.

He is quiet and unassuming, does no trash talking and is the epitome of the blue-collar mixed martial artist. His confidence is growing by the day, and he will need it, as 2015 promises to be a productive one for the New York state native.

And when I say productive, he will likely be facing nothing but top-tier talent and notable names, courtesy of the UFC matchmaking team.

Buy Your Stocks Now

Undefeated 20-year-old Australian Jake Matthews (8-0) continues to shine. I’ve spoken highly about him in the past and yet again, he has proven why. It’s not just the fact he submitted second-degree BJJ black belt Vagner Rocha. He did so with elegance.

For years, we have heard UFC President Dana White speak about comfort in the octagon, and to just be patient, allowing fighters some experience prior to making judgment.

Well, in just his second bout with the big show, Matthews was so comfortable that when the crowd began to chant “Let’s Go Matthews” he obliged them by clapping to the beat of their chorus. From my end, it was a thing of beauty to see.

I’ve referred to him as “The Rory MacDonald of Australia” before and look forward to see if the UFC honours his post fight request: a matchup in Boston with Joe Ellenberger.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • Great to see Canadian welterweight Chris Clements not only return to action, but secure a victory via what he does best, hurting an opponent with his strikes. It was a bittersweet bout to watch, as I’m a huge fan of Vik Grujic, a true gentlemen, but such is the nature of the business of MMA. Kudos to Chris and here’s hoping for an injury free bout and a speedy return to the octagon.
  • I had mixed thoughts about Robert Whittaker moving up to middleweight, but my goodness did he ever look good against Clint Hester. Keep an eye on him. With his speed, footwork and head movement, he could give folks fits at 185 lbs.
  • With all this being said, that’s just one event completed for the UFC this weekend. Now, we have one more, Saturday night on UFC Fight Pass, from Uberlandia, Brazil. It’s Shogun vs. St. Preux in the main event. Let’s do this!

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