Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold earned an opportunity to potentially add a UFC belt to his trophy case on Saturday when he submitted second-ranked Lyoto Machida in the UFC on Fox 15 main event in New Jersey.
Rockhold pressured Machida from the sound of the opening bell inside the Prudential Center. He inched forward as Machida circled on the outside. Machida landed first and looked confortable in the early going.
During an exchange, Machida either slipped or was knocked down. Rockhold seized the opportunity to gain top position. He quickly applied a guillotine choke, but the Brazilian defended the submission attempt. Rockhold mounted Machida and delivered punches and elbows. Machida rolled, and Rockhold took his back. From there he battered the former light heavyweight titleholder with elbows.
Machida survived the round, but staggered his way back to his corner. In the second frame, Machida was on wobbly legs. His lateral movement was nonexistent. He was uncharacteristically stationary.
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Rockhold shoved Machida away while the two were on the inside, and Machida lost his footing and ended up on the ground. Rockhold gained top position and Machida gave up his back. Rockhold applied a rear-naked choke and Machida tapped out with little resistance.
“I landed a clean elbow to finish that first round. I knew I hurt him. I saw him kind of wobble up to his corner. I knew I had him from there. I saw his timing. I thought he’d be faster,” said Rockhold following the biggest win of his career.
“Did you hear my walkout song? I’m the best around. I did my part. Weidman, are you going to do your part,” he said. “Madison Square Garden. Let’s make history.”
“I’ve got confidence in myself. I know I can strike with the best guys in the world. I know where I’m at; I know what I can do,” added the top 185-pound contender.