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Monday Morning Hangover: What’s next for Luke Rockhold after knockout loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 221?

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UFC 221: Romero v Rockhold Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone, as UFC 221 blew the roof of Perth Arena last Saturday night (Feb. 10. 2018) in Perth, Australia.

Plenty of fighters were left licking their wounds, including Mark Hunt, who was outgunned by Curtis Blaydes in the co-headlining bout, getting tossed around by the towering big man en route to losing a unanimous decision (see it again here). And Cyril Asker, who was knocked out by Tai Tuivasa in the very first round.

But which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now 48 hours removed from the show?

Luke Rockhold.

Going into his interim title fight against Yoel Romero, Luke was riding high with confidence, feeling he had “Soldier of God” outmatched in every facet of the fight game. With a win, Rockhold would pass the first step in trying to reclaim his Middleweight strap, as winning the interim gold was on the line.

Or was it the “real” title?

Luke started off his attack with patience, picking his shots with calculated precision, though nothing ever really hurt Romero to the point where he was in danger of getting finished. Going into the third, Romero started finding his groove, operating on patience, as well, other than his second round blitz to start round two.

Then, out of nowhere, “Soldier of God” unleashed a devastating left hook — which resembled the one Michal Bisping used to drop Luke way back at UFC 199 — sending him to the canvas. Before Rockhold had a chance to collect himself, Romero lunged in with a devastating uppercut that put him out of commission (see it again here).

It was “third-round Romero” striking again.

And despite Rockhold being rightfully upset at Romero for missing weight, he did give him props for the win.

It was a disappointing end to Luke’s quest to get back to the top of the 185-pound mountain, which will now be harder to come by after his latest loss.

Or will it?

The middleweight division has been a mess for a while, as the former champion, Michael Bisping, didn’t defend for over a year, and when he did, he lost the strap to a welterweight in Georges St-Pierre who vacated the title soon thereafter.

The current champ, Robert Whittaker, is on the mend following a sever case of staph infection and should be ready to unify the strap against Romero — a man he defeated last year — down the road. Then you have a former champion who recently broke a three-fight skid who thinks he should be the front-runner for the next title shot in the division.

Confusing times.

That said, with how the division played out in 2017, Rockhold shouldn’t count himself out of the race just yet. Sure, it will be a tougher climb up, but if he stays ready he could get an unexpected shot at a moment’s notice just like Bisping and Romero did.

In the meantime, why not go toe-to-toe against Derek Brunson? Derek was calling for it prior to this fight, but the promotion opted to go a different direction at the time of his request. As for Luke, he wasn’t too interested in the bout, either, saying Brunson was nowhere near his level.

But after his latest defeat, Rockhold is in no position to start demanding opponents.

For complete UFC 221: “Rockhold vs Romero” results and play-by-play updates click here.