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Fightweets: Did Luke Rockhold deserve a title shot over Kelvin Gastelum?

UFC 199 Press Conference Photos

You don’t feel like listening to me babble with a big flowery introduction to this piece, and I’m not one of those people who jibber-jabber forever just to hear the sound of my own voice, so let’s just agree to go straight into another edition of Fightweets:

Did Rockhold deserve shot over Gastelum?

@auggie85: Who DESERVED the fight with Whittaker? Rockhold or Gastelum? Gastelum definitely earned it. Stayed busy kept fighting top 10 guys.

Well, you leave no doubt where you stand. And there’s no denying that Kelvin Gastelum has gone on a solid run at 185 pounds, most recently netting a knockout win over Michael Bisping.

Still, when it comes down to picking who is next in line for a crack at champion Robert Whittaker’s belt, it’s hard to get around watching Gastelum get absolutely demolished by Chris Weidman over the summer, which accounted for Weidman’s only victory since mid-2015.

Luke Rockhold, however, has exactly one loss on his record over the past four years, an upset against a short-notice replacement he had previously defeated in Bisping (who at that time wasn’t three weeks removed from being choked out in a fight). Rockhold rebounded from his title loss to Bisping by finishing former two-weight class WSOF champ David Branch, giving him six finishes in his current 6-1 stretch. And he’s never missed weight in his career, which you can’t say about Gastelum.

Besides, the main reason Rockhold hasn’t already gotten a title shot (aside from an injury that kept him out awhile) is that Bisping jerked around the division for so long. Rockhold *should* have gotten a title rematch long before this.

So pairing Rockhold with Whittaker in the UFC 221 main event helps the UFC come full circle and move on from the events of the past couple years. Yes, it pairs the top two guys in the division in what on paper looks to be a barnburner of a fight.

Gastelum very well might be No. 3, top five at worst, and considering where he was two years ago, that’s a hell of a spot to be. With one more victory, he could very well be next in line after UFC 221.

What next for GSP?

@hunt5588: With GSP vacating at 185, what fight makes most sense for him next?

I came to my take on Georges St-Pierre the day after he finished Michael Bisping, and I’m sticking by it (and will again link to it): GSP can fight whomever he damn well pleases.

St-Pierre provided one of the greatest moments we’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing in this sport when he came back from a four-year hiatus, having never lost his welterweight title, and going up to middleweight and finishing Bisping at UFC 217 to become only the fourth man to hold UFC titles at two different weights.

If you want to blame anyone for the middleweight division getting thrown out of whack, blame Bisping for not fighting the top contenders, and blame Dana White for enabling it. Don’t blame GSP taking an opportunity anyone else also would have accepted had it been presented.

Also, consider the good that St-Pierre did by competing at UFC 217: His return was a giant event. There were hundreds of thousands of eyeballs who had strayed away from the UFC in recent years who not only saw GSP, but saw the generation of fighters who have grown up in his absence. They also saw a tremendous night of fights with three title changes via finish.

Six weeks ago, we were all bemoaning what was becoming of the UFC and whether the new ownership was the Titanic heading toward the iceberg. Now, on the heels of back-to-back killer PPVS in 217 and 218, there are a ton of fresh faces and interesting matchups. GSP played a giant part in helping kickstart the UFC’s new sense of momentum.

Then, knowing he has medical issues which will keep him on the shelf, GSP wasted no time doing the right thing, relinquishing the belt, and letting the division move on with one hell of a fight in Robert Whittaker vs. Luke Rockhold.

And while all this may seem a tangent, it ties back to the original question. GSP has given more to the sport than any of us deserve from any one man or woman. He only enhanced his legacy upon his return. GSP doesn’t have to make any decisions right now on who he wants to fight, or whether he wants to make a run at the welterweight bout, or, hell, I’ll even say the C word (you know, “Conor”). What ever he does will be a big deal. He’ll pick the fight he wants, and the UFC will thank him for it.

Title shot for Cub?

@Misa_1000: Do you think the winner of Cub vs Ortega should be next in line for a title shot against Holloway or will they have Frankie fight the winner of that fight for a contender spot.

You know, my knee-jerk instinct was to go with Frankie Edgar for the next shot at Max Holloway’s belt, no matter what. And at the end of the day, that would probably still be the right call. After all, Edgar was next in line. He’s won two straight, seven of eight, and one of his victims during that run happened to be a guy named Cub Swanson.

But what if Swanson puts on an impressive show and finishes one of the featherweight division’s real up-and-comers in Brian Ortega on Saturday night? That would give Swanson five consecutive victories as he finishes up his UFC contract. And if the UFC wants to hang on to Swanson, which they should, than using that elusive title shot which has always been just out of Swanson’s reach could very well be the sweetener that gets him to stay.

How long does Stipe Miocic vs. Franic Ngannou last?

@Carl_MacFarlane: Do you think Stipe will be able to survive 1 round against @francis_ngannou?

I don’t know. I also don’t know if Ngannou survive ones round against Miocic. And that’s what makes the UFC 220 fight Miocic and Ngannou next month so relentlessly intriguing.

Miocic is on a run that really isn’t properly appreciated. He’s won five straight via knockout, he’s won eight of nine fights going back five years, and has avenged his only loss in that span, which was a debatable decision to Junior dos Santos. He knocked out Fabricio Werdum in a soccer stadium in Brazil and he showed resilience under fire in rallying over Alistair Overeem.

He’s also right on the brink of that magic three-title defense mark that has eluded every heavyweight for a belt with a lineage that dates back to the Superfight belt all the way back in 1995.

There’s been a debate over whether this fight with Ngannou is being rushed. It does kind of feel that way and it would be nice to have a proper buildup, but at the same time, given all the headaches the UFC has had putting fights together in the WME era, I don’t blame them in the least for striking while the iron is hot.

And in a weird way, given the division’s historical rapid turnover, it’s almost fitting that this fight’s being a bit rushed, that the fight which would potentially put Miocic alone for most title defenses is against a fast-tracked potential Next One. Ngannou has been starching his opponents. Those who are against making Miocic-Ngannou have simply shifted the “but he hasn’t proven himself at this level yet”-type critiques that were being laid down this time last week and subsituted Miocic’s name for Overeem’s.

Sure, maybe this is the time Ngannou gets exposed, just like they said would happen to him at UFC 218. Or maybe the UFC will finally end up with their version of Mike Tyson. If they don’t, they’ll have Miocic claim his perch as the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history. It’s a win/win.

What next for Eddie?

@Nilfsama: Where does The Underground King go from here?

Man, what a redemption story for Eddie Alvarez. The man went back to his roots and went all “Michael Chandler fights” on Justin Gaethje. By bestowing himself the “Most Violent Fighter” title, he’s staking a pretty lucrative claim for himself during this period of protracted lightweight title confusion, one in which it appears he’ll be on the fringe of the title discussion for the foreseeable future.

If Alvarez is serious about wanting to retain that MVF championship (and really, why hasn’t anyone started a GoFundMe to create an actual belt yet?) then a runback of the fight with Dustin Poirier should do the job, right? Because that was a hell of a violent fight, and it certainly wasn’t settled, and it would make for a hell of a UFC on FOX main event or PPV co-feature.

Granted, Alvarez turns 34 in January and has 35 bouts on his resume. Who knows how long his run will last? But this is the path he wants to pick, and it’s one that has helped him to wins over former UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, Bellator, and WSOF champions over the past few years. His legacy as an all-time great lightweight is already secure and his fights are still must-watch events, though, so why should we question the path he decides to choose?

Who wins?

@MitchClarkeMMA: Who wins in a fight? Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster (with the Chupacabra reffing)

Depends. Are we talking on land or in the water?

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