Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 116


Fifteen months after he ceded the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
middleweight throne to Michael
Bisping
, Luke
Rockhold
started to pick up the pieces.

The
American Kickboxing Academy
standout and Henri Hooft protégé
overcame a slow start to strike former two-division
World Series of Fighting
champion David
Branch
into submission in the second round of their
UFC Fight Night 116
main event on Saturday at the PPG Paints
Arena in Pittsburgh. Branch, who entered the cage on an 11-fight
winning streak, tapped out 4:05 into Round 2.

Rockhold spent the first round getting his bearings. Branch
employed heavy pressure, did all he could to capitalize —
FightMetric showed him outlanding the favorite by a 36-19 margin in
the first round — and seemed to have the Californian reeling with
a flurry of power punches inside the first five minutes. Rockhold
answered his aggression with some of his own in the second ground,
where he grounded, mounted and eventually finished the Renzo
Gracie
-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Rockhold vs. Branch,” here are
five matches that ought to be made:

Luke
Rockhold
vs. Chris
Weidman
: The fact that the middleweight championship figures to
remain tied up in the Bisping-Georges St.
Pierre
Robert
Whittaker
triangle well into 2018 leaves two former
titleholders on the outside looking in at 185 pounds. Of course,
Rockhold and Weidman are intimately familiar with one another
following their December 2015 encounter at UFC 194. There, Rockhold
stopped the “All-American” with fourth-round punches to claim the
undisputed middleweight crown. With both men coming off wins and
nearing the end of their respective primes, perhaps now is as good
a time as any to book the rematch.

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Mike
Perry
vs. Tim Means:
Perry may not be the most likeable individual on the UFC roster,
but no one can deny what he brings to the table. Brimming with
bravado and the ferocious power to back it up, the 26-year-old
followed a “Knockout of the Year” contender against Jake
Ellenberger
on April 22 with a 79-second stoppage of
promotional newcomer Alex Reyes in
the UFC Fight Night 116 co-headliner. Perry now owns a 4-1 record
inside the Octagon and does not lack ambition, as he has called for
a bout with former welterweight champion Robbie
Lawler
. Means seems like a much more reasonable challenge at
this juncture. The former King of the Cage champion last competed
at UFC Fight Night 112 in June, when he took a unanimous decision
from Alex
Garcia
.

Kamaru
Usman
vs. Demian
Maia
Colby
Covington
winner: Rising quickly on the welterweight totem
pole, Usman improved to 6-0 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship
with his one-punch knockout of longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black
belt Sergio
Moraes
. The loss was the first for Moraes in more than five
years. Since arriving in the UFC via Season 21 of “The Ultimate
Fighter,” Usman has rattled off victories over Hayder
Hassan
, Leon
Edwards
, Alexander
Yakovlev
, Warlley
Alves
, Sean
Strickland
and Moraes. Maia and Covington will lock horns at
UFC Fight Night 119 on Oct. 28 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Gregor
Gillespie
vs. Rustam
Khabilov
: Gillespie fought like a savage, as he remained
unbeaten with a second-round arm-triangle choke submission on
Jason
Gonzalez
. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler obliged
Gonzalez with a firefight on the feet — he wound up on the right
side of most of the exchanges — and swarmed him with takedowns
before executing the finish. Gillespie, 30, has all the makings of
a future contender at 155 pounds. Khabilov has pieced together a
five-fight winning streak since he suffered back-to-back defeats to
Benson
Henderson
and Adriano
Martins
in June 2014 and February 2015. The 30-year-old sambo
practitioner last appeared at UFC Fight Night 115 on Sept. 2, when
he was awarded a unanimous decision over Desmond
Green
.

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Anthony
Smith
vs. Uriah Hall:
The resurgent Smith picked up arguably the most significant win of
his long career, dismissing former Bellator MMA champion Hector
Lombard
with punches in the third round of their middleweight
showcase. Lombard appeared to be in control for much of the first
10 minutes but could not put away the determined Factory X
representative. Smith rallied late in the second round and into the
third before cutting down the Cuban judoka with a right hand and
follow-up punches. Hall staged a comeback of his own on the
undercard, as the two-time Ring of Combat champion survived a
near-finish in the first round and knocked out Krzysztof
Jotko
in the middle stanza.

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