Who Deserves The Next Middleweight Title Shot?

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UFC Fight Night 55 went down last night (Friday, November 7, 2014) from Sydney, Australia. It was an exciting night of fights featuring 11 finishes in 11 bouts. The main event featured the highly anticipated trash talk-fueled brawl between Luke “Rocky” Rockhold and Michael “The Count” Bisping.

Rockhold got the better of the Brit by landing a myriad of strikes in the second round followed by a guillotine choke to finish the job. The finish earned the AKA product a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus, marking his third win in a row as well as his third finish in a row.

His only flaw in the UFC came in his debut, where he was knocked out by Vitor Belfort.

It is clear that “Rocky” is one of the middleweight division’s most talented fighters and he has looked dominant as of late. Although Bisping may be on the tail end of his career, he is no easy test and Rockhold put him away rather easily while not absorbing too much damage. Prior to the bout, the former Strikeforce champion put together two straight first-round finishes when he knocked out Costas Philippou at UFC Fight Night 35 in January and submitted Tim Boetsch at UFC 172 in April.

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This presents an interesting question. Does Rockhold deserve the next shot at middleweight gold?

It’s tough to say. In my opinion, Rockhold definitely deserves a shot at the belt. He has looked better than ever as of late, and could give current champion Chris Weidman a difficult challenge. However, the same could definitely be said for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

“Jacare” currently sits at No. 2 in the middleweight division, as opposed to Rockhold, who sat at No. 5 prior to last night. The Brazilian is also riding an ultra-impressive seven-fight win streak that dates back to his Strikeforce days. Interestingly enough, his last loss came to none other than Rockhold himself.

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The two fought back in 2011 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov where Rockhold scored a unanimous decision win over “Jacare”. Since then, both men have clearly improved immensely. Souza proved this when he fought Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 50 in September. Mousasi previously held a win over “Jacare” as Rockhold did; however, “Jacare” destroyed Mousasi in the rematch.

So Rockhold deserves a title shot. But does he deserve the next shot? That’s a more difficult question to answer. In my opinion, the only way to decide this is to schedule a rematch between “Rocky” and “Jacare,” and the winner gets a shot at gold.

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Luckily for us fight fans, the middleweight strap will be on the shelf until February when Weidman defends it against Belfort at UFC 184. If you think about it, this is perfect timing.

Souza fought in September and doesn’t have a fight scheduled. Rockhold doesn’t seem too banged up from last night either. This means they could hypothetically fight right around the time the belt is being defended and a middleweight showdown for the title could go down in the summer.

So why not Rockhold vs. Souza for the true number one contendership? Is there any other fight to make?

Photo Credit: Jason Silva for USA TODAY Sports