Luke Rockhold did what he said he was going to do.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion stopped Constantinos Philippou in the main event of UFC Fight Night 35, dropping the hard-hitting Cypriot in the very first round of their FOX Sports 1 headliner, which took place on Wednesday night (Jan. 15, 2014) inside Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
See how it all went down in our "Rockhold vs. Philippou" results and live play-by-play thread by clicking here.
Following the liver kick heard 'round the "Peach State," Rockhold told cageside commentator Jon Anik that he was still pining for a Vitor Belfort rematch, in an attempt to erase the painful memory of going beddy-bye in Brazil last year by way of "Phenom"-enal head kick.
And he even managed to sneak in a testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) barb in the process.
The good news is, the win over Philippou puts him back into the mix at 185 pounds, boosting his record to 11-2 overall with nine finishes. The bad news is, he doesn't really gain any traction in a weight class that boasts several top contenders.
Including a few familiar faces.
We know that Rockhold isn't getting Belfort, because the Brazilian earned a division title shot against reigning titleholder Chris Weidman, which is expected to take place over Fourth of July Weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. And it would be difficult to put him above the winner of Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi, who bang it out next month in Santa Catarina.
And let's not forget about the winner of Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont.
By his own admission, Rockhold acknowledges that he still has some work to do, and vowed to earn his way back up to Belfort, even if it meant disposing of Michael Bisping. On paper, it's a fight that makes sense, particularly after this incident, but "The Count" is a popular fighter.
That's pretty much every fighter currently ranked in the top 10 at 185 pounds, not including the injured Anderson Silva. Since Rockhold hovers around the No. 5 spot (see the complete rankings here), it doesn't give him anywhere to go, so expect a holding pattern until some of the aforementioned fights take place.
But do you put the winner of Souza vs. Carmont against the winner of Machida vs. Mousasi, with the winner of that bout moving on to fight the winner of Weidman vs. Belfort? If so, that leaves Rockhold vs. Bisping, because there is no way fans should be forced to endure another five rounds of Rockhold vs. Kennedy.
And Munoz is coming off a loss.
As you can see, there is a bit of a bottleneck at the top of the middleweight division and Rockhold has a long way to go before he gets back to Belfort, unless "The Phenom" get choked or smoked in his "All American" title fight. What happens in the interim?
We'll have to wait and "see."