David Branch put in a spirited performance against Luke Rockhold, but the former UFC champion beat the spirit right out of him.
Usually, a win brings joy to a fighter, but Luke Rockhold could not wipe the mean off his mug after literally beating David Branch into submission in UFC Pittsburgh’s main event.
The former UFC middleweight champion had a point to prove in his first fight since losing his belt to Michael Bisping in June 2016 – he only has eyes for that coveted golden strap.
However, it appeared that ring rust may have had an impact on Rockhold, although Branch deserves all the credit in the world for bringing the fight to him in the first round. Branch immediately went on the offensive and even caught Rockhold off balance with a stiff combination in the early exchanges. A late takedown from Rockhold to close out the round saw the momentum shift, and also gave everyone an indication what was to come next.
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Branch again came out the aggressor in the second, but Rockhold took him on in the grappling department with overwhelming success. After pinning his opponent up against the cage, he brought proceedings to the ground, transitioned to full mount and took his back. From there, the finish was inevitable.
He relentlessly hammered Branch with vicious ground and pound until he was left a broken man. Branch eventually tapped giving Rockhold the submission victory via strikes in the second round.
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After getting one back in the win column, a panting Rockhold had a clear message to Georges St-Pierre, the welterweight great set to take on his arch nemesis Bisping for the 185 lb strap next. He wanted GSP to know that he feels he’s not equipped to deal with the heavier weight class.
“I’m coming for that belt. GSP, I don’t know what I need to do. You want me to beat some sense in you? You don’t belong here.”
Should GSP not make the walk to fight the champion, Rockhold will undoubtedly be ready to step in as a replacement, especially considering interim champion Robert Whittaker will be out with an injury.