December 17, 2015

Luke Rockhold's UFC 194 Win Is Validation of A Previously Overlooked Career

By Raphael Garcia

Validation is a thing that many individuals often seek, but aren’t lucky to always find. However, it often occurs in sports, as teams and athletes find ways to overcome adversity or perform better than the expectations from fans and experts. Luke Rockhold’s win at UFC 194 is an example of how validation happens in the sport of mixed martial arts. As the title was placed around his waist, Rockhold earned it not only for himself, but for some of his peers and former employers as well.

Upon becoming the new UFC Middleweight Champion, Rockhold joined an elite group of competitors who earned the right to call themselves champion in both Strikeforce and the UFC. Daniel Cormier and Ronda Rousey held titles in both organizations and are two of the front-runners who led the way in the transition from one promotion to the other. Rockhold’s journey back to the title ranks was longer and more difficult, but just as enjoyable to watch.

As an individual, this win provides some clarity about Rockhold’s position as a force within the sport. During his time of dominance in Strikeforce, many questioned whether he would be able to perform at that same level against the bigger names that were competing in the Octagon. Those questions, as well as questions related to his frequent injuries, led to the assumption that he would not reach the same level of success if and when the opportunity came to compete in the UFC.

Not only has Rockhold blown those expectations out of the water, he did so in a way that can start his push towards becoming the pound-for-pound kingpin. Rockhold dominated Chris Weidman in a fashion that few people expected, and did so with a level of violence that represented how badly he wanted to become a champion. From the end of the third round through the finish in the fourth, it seemed as if Rockhold was releasing the animosity that came with being consistently overlooked for an extended portion of his career.

The question turns to what is next for the champion and the division. Rockhold’s win opens up a number of compelling fights to determine who deserves to sit atop the division. Yoel Romero’s win over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza pushes him to the apparent number one contender position. Rockhold has taken shots at Vitor Belfort in hopes to get a rematch with the man who finished him in his Octagon debut back at UFC on FX 8. Outside of those two, there are a possible rematches with Jacare and Tim Kennedy. Rockhold’s position in the division immediately creates interest in the 185-pound weight class.

Mixed martial arts is filled with stories that cause interest, concern, and a number of other emotions. For Luke Rockhold, finally reaching the apex of the sport at UFC 194 was a moment that will be remembered in a positive fashion. It’s been a long road for the surfer from California, and the most interesting part is that it’s really just begun.

UFC 194
Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold (UFC Middleweight Championship): Luke Rockhold def. Chris Weidman via TKO (ground and pound) at 3:12 of Round 4.

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UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor took place on December 12, 2015 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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