Part of that is due to the fight's significance in the divisional scheme. Rockhold was the final Strikeforce middleweight champ and brings a nine-fight win streak into the UFC on FX 8 bout in Brazil. Belfort, since dropping to 185 pounds five years ago, hasn't lost to anyone who wasn't holding a UFC championship at the time.
The fire has been fueled by the heated words exchanged between the two in the lead-up to the fight. The 28-year-old Rockhold stated his opinion on the 36-year-old Belfort's use of testosterone replacement therapy and his checkered history; Belfort shot back on this week's edition of The MMA Hour.
This is the type of hype which tends to get the attention of your peers.
Chris Weidman has a big fight of his own coming up; he meets Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title in the main event of UFC 162 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But Weidman took some time out from a recent UFC 162 media tour to give MMAFighting his breakdown of Belfort-Rockhold.
"I think it's a great fight," Weidman said. "But I think Luke's going to take it. I'm not counting Vitor out, not with everything he's accomplished. You have to respect his heavy hands. But I think the more the fight goes along, the stronger Luke is going to become. I think he's going to weather the early storm and gets stronger as the fight goes along."
Weidman has projected confidence as he gets ready to face Silva, speaking in terms of "when" he wins the title instead of "if" and of granting Silva a rematch. So, would Chris Weidman, the UFC champion, take on Rockhold?
"Well, look, if I'm the champ, Anderson Silva's earned the right to a rematch, you know?" Weidman said. "He's defended his title 11 times, he'd deserve a rematch. But Luke's coming up. He's going to have his day. We'll probably cross paths eventually, but I've got nothing but respect for Rockhold and his skills."
Shane Carwin's legacy
@Ruckeryeah: What do you think Shane Carwin's biggest legacy is? Or do you think he fulfilled his potential?
I think there are two ways to look at the career of Shane Carwin, who announced his retirement this week. The first: He's a guy who won an interim UFC heavyweight title and came oh-so-close winning the real thing, then had his career hit a rapid decline. And you can't talk about Carwin's career as a whole and ignore the fact that he was implicated in a steroid scandal and chose to completely ignore it, rather than address the situation. That's the "glass half-empty" approach to Carwin's career.
I don't think that's the fairest way to look at it, though. Rather, I think Carwin's accomplishments should be celebrated. This is a guy who didn't have his first pro fight until age 30. He has a well-paying engineering job, one he never quit even through his rise through the ranks to UFC main events. He's 38, he's not getting any younger, and he's had some serious injuries. He has other options in life, so why not walk away now and be remembered as a guy who could hit like a truck, rather than as someone who stuck around too long?
When we all have grey hair and live in nursing homes, we'll babble about how back in our day, fighters like Rich Franklin and Shane Carwin kicked ass in the Octagon, then went home to their jobs as school teachers and engineers, and damnit, that's how we liked it. Sure, no one will believe us, but that's not the point. When you're part of a rare breed, you get remembered in history, and Shane Carwin will be remembered.
Stop writing about Sonnen
@orderx7: Can we stop covering Chael Sonnen? Isn't it getting just a tad ridiculous?
Depends on how you mean this. Should we stop covering Chael Sonnen, the fighter? Not happening any time soon. This is a guy whose record in non-championship matches since the start of 2008 is 7-1, and those victories include the likes of Yushin Okami, Nate Marquardt and Michael Bisping. Sure, he's not winning a UFC title, but he's still a relevant player.
I think what you might be getting at here, though, is more along the lines of "When are you going to stop publishing every little troll move Sonnen makes?" And the answer is "not quite yet."
I think you can look at the general histrionics in Tito Ortiz's career as an example. When he was the champion, his every move was reported on, at least to the point real MMA media existed at that point. (Side tangent: Part of me wonders what things would have been like had Twitter been around during Tito's prime, and another part of me doesn't want to know). When he was no longer champ, but still one of the company's leading pay-per-view draws, he still attracted headlines every time he opened his mouth.
Once Ortiz started an undeniable career slide, though, the constant complaints about his treatment by the UFC, and the pre-fight "I had the best training camp of my life" quotes followed by "I fought with my skull cracked in 17 places, nine broken toes, and a tummyache" after each loss, first starting wearing thin, then morphed into a self-caricature.
Granted, Sonnen and Ortiz aren't an exact match. For one thing, Sonnen doesn't make excuses after losses. But in terms of creating hype and creating the fighters are similar. Ultimately, I think Chael's too smart to let things get to the point his trash talk becomes a punch line. But for now, while Sonnen still has substance behind the hype as a fighter and a potential big bout out there with Wanderlei Silva, he's not going to shut up just yet, and his moves are still a legitimate story.
UFC roster cuts
@mmmayo13: Lenny Garcia? Good call? Too late? Where does he go now?
@ricoj3323: the recent roster cuts are all justified except for Pablo Garza.. That's my only complaint.
Garcia's going to find gainful employment. My colleague Shaun Al-Shatti reported he's fielded several offers, including from World Series of Fighting. I've found it a bit appalling the way some people have dumped on Garcia, a warrior who's been part of a Fight of the Year and collected Fight of the Night bonuses like they were going out of style. If nothing else, Garcia will land on his feet.
As for the rest, the only one who really raised an eyebrow for me was Holobaugh, who lost a decision to Steven Siler in a very good scrap in his UFC debut at UFC 159. Holobaugh is one I could see the UFC taking back in the future with a bit more experience and a few wins on a smaller stage; same goes for Lawrence. Garza was 12-1 before hitting his current stretch of three losses in four fights. If he gets back on the right track, I could see him back at some point.
All in all, there aren't any cuts in the current batch which qualify as an outrage. I don't have a desire to see anyone lose their employment (particularly a dude like Palaszewski, who lost his first four pro fights back in the day, stuck with it, and made something of himself in the business). But if someone's simply taking up a roster spot with no apparent upside it doesn't do either the fighter or the promotion any good in the long run.
@Christopher_Kit: What's happened with the Chuck Liddell spinning back fist? Been years since I last saw it.
I don't know how to break this one to you, Chris, but, ummm ... Chuck retired.
@TannerRuss2: Best walkout music you've ever heard?
That's a tough question. How can you pick just one? I always liked Matt Hughes walkouts to "A Country Boy Can Survive" by Hank Williams Jr., even though I'm not a country music fan. Maybe it's because the music really fits the fighter in this instance. Maybe it's because I've associated that song with so many great fights over the years. When that song started playing in the arena, you know something big was about to go down.
I'm also partial to Urijah Faber with Tupac's "California Love," which really should be the official California state anthem by this point. I've seen arenas rock from Sacramento to San Diego to Anaheim when Faber's making his way to the cage and there's nothing in MMA quite like it.
I could go on and on with thoughts about walkout music, from the classics (Anderson Silva with DMX's "Ain't No Sunshine") to the offbeat (the time Jeff Monson walked out to John Lennon's "Imagine," or Dave Herman to Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me").
But I'll leave it to you, readers: What's your favorite walkout music, and why?
If you want to be included in an upcoming edition of Fightweets, hit me up on Twitter.