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Luke Rockhold: 'Chris Weidman doesn’t fight with the highest IQ'

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One of the unique things about fighting on a Conor McGregor card is that the promotional angle is already taken care of. Same thing will be the case at UFC 194 on Dec. 12, when McGregor faces Jose Aldo to unify the featherweight title. The Irish firebrand McGregor will act as a pay-per-view magnet all on his own. Only thing middleweight champion Chris Weidman and challenger Luke Rockhold need to do is show up for the co-main event.

Yet, that doesn’t mean the two are going to kick back and respect the hell out of each other like Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler did before UFC 189 while in the shadow of McGregor.

On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Weidman -- who has a degree in psychology from Hofstra -- took a few early shots at Rockhold, saying he believed the challenger was "faking" his confidence in the fight, a little bit, and that he was "insecure."

Weidman’s exact words were, "I think he’s just insecure and I think he knows what’s coming. I think he’d much rather be fighting anyone else but me."

That interview made its way to Santa Cruz by Tuesday, and Rockhold said it was all he could do to suppress a yawn.

"It sounds like [Weidman]’s asleep in bed," Rockhold told MMA Fighting. "I just don’t know what the hell’s going on in his head. I don’t know if he’s psychologically convinced himself that we’re scared of him or something, but he’s not on the right page. I feel like he’s in for a rude awakening.

"I know one thing…I’m going to start bringing Monster Energy drinks to our press conference and all our media engagements, just to give him something extra to promote this fight. His interviews are like watching paint dry."

Rockhold, who trains with current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at the American Kickboxing Academy, said that he and Weidman have been friendly with each other over the years, but with a dose of caution.

"I think we always knew there’d be a fight one day, so it’s been a weird situation to be in."

On Dec. 12, when they do finally come together, it will be at the height of their careers. Each man in his prime. Weidman, who trains with Ray Longo in Long Island, is undefeated in his mixed martial arts career. Rockhold, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has peeled off four victories in a row since losing to Vitor Belfort in May 2013. All of them have been finishes.

And Rockhold said it amuses him that Weidman, who defeated Belfort in July at UFC 187, uses those past performances as a comparative analysis. He said he sees the psychological game in play, and that he understands how Weidman might gain some measure of confidence holding up the two Belfort fights -- but that perhaps Belfort is the wrong gauge.

"I feel the same way that he feels," Rockhold said. "The only difference is I train with elite level fighters and he doesn’t. I know what I’m capable of. He’s been in there and he’s fought some tough guys, I’ll give him that. He fought the old lion with his balls cut off. I fought a different fighter. He wants to keep comparing our two fights, it’s a joke. I got caught, and that doesn’t tell the tale of a fight. I got caught by a juiced-out animal. Him? He fought an old lion with his balls cut off.

"We fought Machida in the relative same time. You saw how I dealt with Machida and how he struggled with him in five-round fight, and almost got beat multiple times. I don’t believe there was one moment where I struggled with Machida. If there’s a difference on the ground, if he thinks his grappling’s superior, look at that fight. He couldn’t hold Machida down and I completely dominated him on the ground. Stand-up realm, he’s tough on the feet -- but he’s slow. He’s slow, he’s clumsy…he kicks like Michael Bisping, really the most awkward, funky kicks."

Rockhold, a southpaw with power and range, is known as one of MMA’s most obsessive game-planners. He has said in the past that he prides himself on being able to pick out an opponent’s tendencies before they meet. When evaluating his fight with Weidman, who also has power and length to go along with an aggressive brand of MMA wrestling, he says it’s no different.

"You build these instincts," he said. "A training camp is, I do my homework and I build my instincts in training camp, so things will come off naturally. I know how to adjust, and I know what he’s going to bring to the table. Usually things play out the way I see them, or the way I set them up in my training camp. Things almost always work out the way I envision.

"I think there’s a relaxation that I have over Weidman that he hasn’t realized yet. He’s so tough, he gets by on a lot of toughness, but I don’t think he uses his head too well. It seems like he’s a little cloudy in his vision in a fight. He doesn’t fight with the highest IQ. You can see when he comes in, he comes in kind of carelessly, kind of going through the motions. He doesn’t adjust well. It seems like he’s almost seeing red at times. I was there at one point in my career. I learned how to adjust and see my opponent and what he brings, and counter."

Rockhold said he envisions "teeing off" on Weidman at some point in the fight.

"I understand that Chris is a good offensive wrestler, but this is not wrestling," he said. "He’s not going to be able to dictate the pace of the fight. He’s going to run into a wall. He’s going to come forward and expect to control the cage like he usually does with these guys who are scared of his wrestling and I’m going to meet him right in the middle and stop him dead in his tracks. I’m about to wake this fool up."