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Morning Report: Anthony Smith says Luke Rockhold can beat Paulo Costa at UFC 278 if he ‘decides to check his f****** ego for one time in his life’

Luke Rockhold
Luke Rockhold
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Anthony Smith may not like Luke Rockhold, but he’s still picking him to have a successful return to the octagon.

This Saturday, Rockhold faces Paulo Costa in the co-main event of UFC 278. It’s Rockhold’s first fight in over three years, and he comes in as a sizable underdog to Costa. Despite that, and despite the fact that he has no love for Rockhold, Anthony Smith is still picking the former middleweight champion to get his hand raised.

“I think I’m going to pick Rockhold,” Smith said on Michael Bisping’s Believe You Me podcast. “I think that Rockhold has some similarities to some of the things that Adesanya does. They’re both very kick heavy, they’re not huge boxers as far as the striking goes. I think that Paulo freezes a little bit when he gets big kickers in front of him. He does really well in the boxing range but not so well in the kicking range. So I think there’s that and I think that if Rockhold decides to check his f****** ego for one time in his life, just one time, shoot a f****** takedown, like a real one. Shoot an actual f****** takedown and you will finish people. Not everybody. He had a tough time with Jan Blachowicz, Blachowicz has got pretty good takedown defense and he’s significantly bigger. But shoot a god damn takedown for once in your life and get on top of somebody and get a finish or whatever.

“I think if he can do that, and I hear some things a little bit different from Luke, recently. It seems like he’s kind of gone through some s*** and it’s seemingly maybe humbled him a little bit. It if even humbled him 10 percent, enough to get him down to shoot a takedown and show off his top game, stay safe on the outside, tuck your chin, keep your f****** hands up, that 10 percent ego check needs to mean bring these f****** things to your face and protect yourself, I truly believe Luke Rockhold has more than enough skills and abilities to beat Paulo Costa. If he hasn’t gotten old in the last three years.”

Rockhold worked his way up the middleweight ranks to claim the title on the back of his potent kicking game and lethal grappling, but in recent years, the former champion has struggled on the defensive side of things. Rockhold has been brutally knocked out in three of his four most recent fights. That’s a slight concern against Costa, who has finished 11 of his 13 career wins by KO. But while Rockhold’s chin has been questioned in recent years, Smith believes it’s more a matter of his defense.

“I don’t think it’s a chin thing,” Smith said. “It’s not his ability to absorb damage, it’s his bad defense. He has terrible punch defense. It’s just bad. His hands are low, his chin is up, his legs are wide. There’s nothing in his stance or the way that he fights that is cohesive for absorbing punches. Nothing he does. Chin up, hands down, stance wide, feet flat. That doesn’t work. All of that is wrong. And that’s what I mean. If he hasn’t changed that, it’s tough. If he hasn’t humbled himself enough to say, ‘I’ve got to fix that.’”

That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement from Smith, however, for the first time Rockhold spent his entire training camp with coach Jason Parillo, and Smith believes that is going to be the difference in this fight.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Parillo,” Smith said. “He gets to people in a way that a lot of people don’t. I’ve never worked with him before, we’ve talked about it a bunch of times but he’s one of those three or four coaches in the world that I’ll regret if I never get an opportunity to spend a week or a couple weeks with, just learning. So the more I see Luke with Parillo, the more confident I am that at least the really, really detrimental mistakes that he makes are going to be smaller.”

UFC 278 takes place this Saturday at the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.


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Thanks for reading! See y’all tomorrow.



Who wins this weekend?

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  • 65%
    Jose Aldo
    (428 votes)
  • 34%
    Merab Dvalishvili
    (223 votes)
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