This weekend in Pittsburgh, former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (15-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) takes on former WSOF middleweight and light-heavyweight champion David Branch (21-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC).
This will be Rockhold’s first outing since losing the UFC middleweight title to 6/1 underdog Michael Bisping last year, a result which saw Rockhold join the 43% of UFC champions who lost the belt before making a successful title defense.
Branch hasn’t lost a fight since 2012 and is currently on an eleven-fight winning streak. He made his return to the UFC earlier this year following a six-year spell outside the promotion.
Let’s take a look at the recent results of the two men in Saturday night’s main event:
Rockhold followed a second-round submission of former UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida with a fourth-round TKO victory that ended Chris Weidman’s 2 and a half year title reign. These wins came as part of a five-fight winning streak that consisted of 3 submission finishes, two TKO stoppages and four fight-night bonuses.
In June 2016, Michael Bisping, whom Rockhold had already defeated via second-round submission 18 months prior to this rematch, stepped in on just 17 days’ notice and defeated Rockhold via first-round KO to claim the UFC middleweight title in one of the biggest upsets in UFC championship history. Rockhold later claimed he was overconfident to the point of complacency.
David Branch defeated The Ultimate Fighter 8 finalist Vinny Magalhães via unanimous decision last October to defend his WSOF light-heavyweight title, before successfully defending his WSOF middleweight title just 85 days later with a fifth-round submission win over Louis Taylor.
Branch, who had a 2-2 spell in the UFC between 2010 and 2011, made his promotional return in May with an uneventful split-decision victory over Krzysztof Jotko that snapped Jotko’s 5-fight UFC winning streak.
Here’s a look at how these two fighters fared when competing against common opponents shared throughout their careers. On the left of the graphic, you’ll see how Rockhold fared against any shared opponents, and on the right, you’ll see Branch’s results against the same men.
The two men share just one common opponent; Jesse Taylor. Rockhold submitted Taylor, who won The Ultimate Fighter 25 earlier this year, with a first-round rear-naked choke back in November 2009, whilst Branch submitted Taylor via first-round D’Arce choke in June 2014.
The Dwyer Score
Each event I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It essentially gives a numeric value to the momentum of fighters competing at any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. A fighter coming off a No Contest, a draw, or a bout with another promotion has a streak of 0, and only UFC results are considered. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card, you get a total for the event, the ‘Dwyer Score.’ This score does not claim to predict or measure the quality or excitement of any one card, but it does give you an idea of the general momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. The graphic to the right displays some of the highest-scoring events of all time, to help give some context to this score.
UFC Fight Night 116: Rockhold vs. Branch checks in with a decent Dwyer Score of +6. This ranks joint-15th of 2017’s 26 events and joint-6th of the 15 Fight Nights.
Here’s a look at how this score compares to other events’ scores over the past year:
This score beats the +5.7 average for Fight Nights, but does fall short of the +12.2 average for all UFC cards in the last twelve months.
Let’s take a look at exactly how this score breaks down:
The highest individual contributor to the score is Kamaru Usman (+5), with Tony Martin (+3) in second place. Hector Lombard and Uriah Hall (both -3) have been ranked as high as 4th and 6th in the world respectively in their careers, yet both find themselves struggling for form with the worst individual scores on the card.
Fan-favorite Mike Perry will hope to add to his record of 10 TKO/KO stoppages in 10 career wins when he takes on UFC debutant Alex Reyes, who stepped in for Thiago Alves on less than 3 days’ notice.
If Kamaru Usman wants to extend his UFC record beyond 5-0 he’ll have to overcome Sérgio Moraes, who himself hasn’t lost in his last 7 UFC bouts, whilst the out-of-form former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard takes on an in-form Anthony Smith, who has two TKO/KO victories in his last two fights.
Fans will be excited to see the return of the undefeated Gregor Gillespie, who looked fantastic last time out in a 21-second KO victory over Andrew Holbrook. Gillespie takes on Jason Gonzalez, who is coming off an impressive performance of his own earlier this year where he rocked J.C. Cottrell early before submitting him with a first-round brabo choke.
Luke Sanders will be looking to rebound after finding himself on the wrong end of one of the comeback performances of the year, whilst heavyweight Justin Ledet aims to reignite his hype train in his first fight since serving a 4-month USADA suspension after testing positive for a banned substance due to a contaminated supplement.
We’ve got former champs, rising prospects, aging veterans and title contenders. In fact, we’ve got former UFC (Rockhold), Strikeforce (Rockhold again), Bellator (Lombard) and WSOF (Branch) middleweight champions on display. All in all, there really is a lot to like at UFC Pittsburgh.