When then-Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold crossed over to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) back in early 2013, Anderson Silva was the promotion’s 185-pound titleholder and widely considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Unlike Jon Jones and George St-Pierre, “The Spider” had already secured wins in two different weight classes, including his UFC 101 laugher against former light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin, in summer 2009.
But the promotion passed on the “incoming champion battles existing champion” narrative in favor of alternative bouts. Silva would defend against middleweight phenom Chris Weidman, while Rockhold went on to fight the murderous, TRT version of Vitor Belfort in Brazil.
Where he was summarily destroyed.
“I wish I would have had the chance to fight Anderson,” Rockhold told Major Waves Podcast (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “Especially in that time, I think I would have beat him. I don’t know – I think there’s just promotional reasons. They didn’t see it quite right at that time. If I would have beat Vitor, then me and Anderson would have fought right away, straight away. But then I had to go reprove myself through the ranks after that loss.”
He did, quite emphatically I might add.
After his loss to Belfort, Rockhold (16-5) fired off five straight wins — with five nasty finishes — including his UFC 194 dismantling of then-undefeated Chris Weidman. Sadly, the part-time model went on to struggle in the second half of his career, leading to his current hiatus.
Like Rockhold, 35, the trio of Silva, Weidman, and Belfort also went into a career tailspin, paving the way for an entirely new crop of middleweight killers, including undefeated striker and reigning 185-pound titleholder, Israel Adesanya.
Rockhold vs. Silva instead of Weidman vs. Silva ... what happens?