Luke Rockhold Champion of Focus & Arrogance

Rockhold champion

Luke Rockhold is a great fighter. In a ten year career, he has compiled a 16-3 record while defeating some of the sport’s absolute best: Jacare Souza, Michael Bisping, Lyoto Machida, and Chris Weidman, three of which were finished by Rockhold. However, he also has some of the most bizarre losses: Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, and Tony Rubaclava (who?). I will say this though, Luke Rockhold is a top fighter and a champion when focused. Rockhold champion.

In a career that has spanned just over a decade, we know Rockhold possesses two dominating qualities: focus and arrogance. These traits have defined his career and one always seems to outweigh the other. 

Focus- Luke Rockhold Champion of Focus & Arrogance

When Luke Rockhold wants to be the best in the world, he is. He seldom makes mistakes and has a flawless offensive skill set inside the Octagon. Striking? Good luck defending his varied strikes and power body/ head kicks. Wrestling? Rockhold trains with the premiere wrestlers in MMA: Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Josh Thomson, and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ( BJJ)? Well he’s also a black belt in that. However, his focus in deploying his skills is what’s most impressive.

Against Chris Weidman, it only took one brief moment for Rockhold to change everything. In the third round of UFC 194, Weidman threw an ill-advised spinning heel kick, Rockhold capitalized on his mistake, and finished him in the fourth round winning the UFC Middlweight Championship. Rockhold’s only UFC title to this day.

Not only did he capitalize, but it was Rockhold’s diverse striking and takedown defense that pushed Weidman to experimenting with more creative strikes. Once Weidman tried to become Anderson Silva, he quickly learned how good Rockhold was at wrestling and BJJ. ONE mistake and Weidman got demolished. It’s difficult to watch.

Costas Phillippou had a tendency to leave his liver exposed in his orthodox stance. During their Jan. 2014 fight, Rockhold being a natural southpaw, exploited this weakness and finished Phillippou with a devastating body kick in the first round. The patient and exacting nature of this fight is eerie as Rockhold strikes with power and surgical precision. Seek and destroy.

Even in Strikeforce, on Nov. 2009, Rockhold defeated The Ultimate Fighter 25  winner Jesse Taylor without even landing a strike! Knowing Taylor possessed inferior Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Rockhold quickly took him down and submitted him in the first round. When Rockhold realized a hole in his game, he wasted no time and ended the fight. Why strike when you can just win already?

Rockhold picks a weak moment, style, or skill, and it exploits it to his advantage. He focuses in on the most minuscule details and shifts the fight to his advantage in one fashion or another. His complete game allows him to expose opponents’ mistakes all the easier. However, he has had costly focus lapses as well.

Arrogance- Luke Rockhold Champion of Focus & Arrogance

Remember when I said Rockhold is a great fighter, if you didn’t know that, just ask him. He’ll tell you. Luke Rockhold thinks highly of himself and as a combat sports athlete, self confidence is a prerequisite. However, this has gotten him into trouble on a few occasions.

Rockhold’s first career loss came to Tony Rubalcava at Melee on the Mountain in 2007. Unfortunately, there is no footage on the fight, but from what I have read, this is what I can infer that happened.

An IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu champion in the blue and purple belt divisions in 2007, Rockhold’s first MMA fight was quick work as he submitted Mike Martinez in the first round. A proficient BJJ practitioner fighting in an organization that sounds like a final stage on the game show GUTS should be a breeze; or so Rockhold presumed.

Rubaclava, who ended his career with only four professional fights, patiently connected and overwhelmed Rockhold less than three minutes into the fight. Rockhold learned from his arrogant and one nine-fight winning streak later, he learned again.

In his UFC debut, Rockhold faced grizzled veteran Vitor Belfort. Unfortunately USADA was not drug testing in the UFC yet or Belfort may not have made it to the fight (TRT Vitor may be the most terrifying fighter of all time). Regardless, Rockhold came in as the former Strikeforce middleweight champion and Belfort was two fights removed from having been introduced to Anderson Silva’s foot. Belfort was a legend, but his best days were behind him; or so Rockhold presumed.

Belfort connected with a spinning heel kick in the first round and ended the much hyped UFC debut of Rockhold. This lesson was a difficult one, but Rockhold once again learned and rebounded better than ever: five-fight win streak and UFC gold.

The golden days were short lived before the next lesson.

Roughly two weeks before their rematch, Chris Weidman was forced to pull from his UFC 199 rematch with Luke Rockhold. Insteps veteran Michael Bisping who is 37 and by all traditional indicators, well past his prime; or so Rockhold (and all of us with a pulse) presumed.

Everyone remembers this fight. Rockhold carelessly threw kicks and walked down Bisping like he was a dog playing with his food. However, he underestimated Bisping and walked straight into a counter shot that left him on the wrong side of history. Did he learn his lesson again or finally understand all three losses were because of similar oversights?

Rockhold faces David Branch this Saturday in Pittsburgh. Will he be driven by the ambition of reclaiming his title or is he arrogantly overlooking another opponent?

It all goes down Saturday! Enjoy the fights!

Luke Rockhold Champion of Focus & Arrogance

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Luke Rockhold Champion of Focus & Arrogance