The UFC finally reached a verdict for its middleweight contender conundrum. UFC President Dana White announced Wednesday on UFC Tonight that Luke Rockhold, not Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, will be the next challenger to Chris Weidman's UFC middleweight crown.
"We don't have the fight set up yet, we don't know when it's going to be. But that will be the fight," White said. "Luke Rockhold will get the next shot at the title."
The race to the belt has been a neck-and-neck one between Rockhold and Souza for some time, with both former Strikeforce champions rocketing to the top of the division following the UFC-Strikeforce merger. However it was Rockhold's eye-opening domination of Lyoto Machida at UFC on FOX 15 that ultimately sealed the deal in the American's forever.
Rockhold, 30, now rides a four-fight win streak into his contest against Weidman, having finished each of Costas Philippou, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, and Machida within two rounds to bounce back from a loss to Vitor Belfort in his UFC debut.
In Weidman, though, he meets a completely different beast. The reigning UFC middleweight champion has cruised past a cadre of Brazilian legends since seizing the belt from the legendary Anderson Silva in mid-2013. An undefeated 30-year-old, Weidman first defended his title against Silva in the pair's rematch, then bested both Machida and Belfort, the latter of whom Weidman finished via TKO in under three minutes.
Weidman and Rockhold have some heat, as well. The two engaged in a rollicking back-and-forth following Rockhold's win over Machida. Weidman then told MMAFighting.com that Rockhold was "not great anywhere" and was a less dangerous fighter than Souza, both of which were comments that caught Rockhold's ire.
While a date and location have yet to be determined for the fight, Weidman and Rockhold have at least agreed on one thing: they'd love for their meeting to highlight a historic night in the state of New York.
The UFC has a date tentatively booked for Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5, however all plans depend on the New York state government voting to legalize the sport of mixed martial arts before the current legislative session ends in June.