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Luke Rockhold: Chris Weidman has 'decent fight IQ until he gets hit'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Luke Rockhold may be facing Chris Weidman for the first time on Dec. 12, but it's a fight he said he's expected would happen dating back to the time both were unknowns in the MMA world, and one he's played out mentally on a regular basis.

"I've known Weidman for a long time, before we were both in the UFC," said the challenger in the middleweight title fight on UFC 194. "When I was a Strikeforce Challengers guy on the way up and he was on the way up (2009-2010), I saw him as a prospect.  I never thought he was that good (at the time), but he was tough and his wrestling was good. Maybe it's the confidence I have in myself. I think I'm the guy who is going to be his superior. I bring everything he's going to have trouble with.

"There's always been tension between me and Weidman," he said. "We've known each other this whole time. I knew the fight was going to come and he knew it was going to come, just we didn't know when and where. Now it's come, and it's for the world title on one of the biggest shows ever."

Now that the fight is reality, Rockhold has been playing it out in his head, and said he's the kryptonite for the unbeaten champion of two-and-a-half years.

"I understand the magnitude of what's ahead, but a fight's a fight," he said. "I've watched the tapes of Weidman and  it's becoming that much more real, but it's just a fight. I visualize every day putting myself in that arena and walking that walk.

"He's got a decent fight IQ, until he gets hit," said Rockhold. "If things don't go his way, he sacks up and bites down on his mouthpiece and tries to be a tough guy. That's where he's really going to find trouble. I'm going to push him to that point, I'm going to outclass him, dominate him and finish him. Almost every time I see the fight, it comes out that way. I play it over-and-over in my head."

One thing that surprised Rockhold was the word from Weidman that he's training and walking around about 10 days before the fight at 192 pounds, far lighter than usual, and if that's going to be his fight weight. Rockhold, who was 202 pounds 10 days out, the weight he expects to go into the cage at, sees that as a big advantage.

"I'm looking forward to throwing him around, all 192 pounds of him," said Rockhold, who doesn't think releasing that information may be a psychological ploy against him.

"He's not one to lie, he doesn't make up things, he's not that type of person," said Rockhold. "For him to say that, I don't think his nutritionist understands anything about fighting."

But on the flip side, he also thinks that Weidman would know in camp if losing the weight would make him less effective.

"If something wasn't going right in camp, he'd feel it, but that's a light weight for him. I don't think he's ever fought that light. I think people will be surprised when I stand next to him. He's going to look pretty small, especially now."

This will be both fighters first time out since IVs were banned when he comes to rehydrating after weighing in, which will make it more difficult in a long fight for a fighter who has cut a large amount of weight. That could be part of Weidman's strategy for staying light. Rockhold said he's within a pound or two of what he would normally be at this point in time, and making weight has never been an issue with him in the past. He said that he's used IVs in the past, but has often not used them as well, so fighting under the new rules isn't something that will be a new experience.

"I think he's getting a little bit better here and there, but I still see him getting overaggressive which obviously will cause him to be clumsy and leave openings," said Rockhold. "He hasn't fought anybody who can exploit his holes in his game and his openings. He's fought a bunch of guys who are scared of him, that don't have the wrestling and ground game to keep up with him. He's fighting a guy who is better than him on the ground, who can defend his wrestling, who can fight him on his feet, and who can pick him apart. I believe, I really think I can control this fight wherever it goes. He has to pick his poison, does he want to get beat on the feet or does he want to get beat on the ground. His back has never touched the mat and in this fight it surely will. I'm comfortable wherever the fight goes, on my back, or on top. I don't care where the fight goes. That gives me relaxation, gives me the confidence and takes away all the anxiety and tension that all these fighters have. If he loses control of the situation, he panics, freaks out and he can't adjust. He doesn't have a clear vision, and that's where the fight will change."