Middleweights Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza both won their last bouts decisively at UFC on Fox 15 in Newark, New Jersey, on April 18. Both fighters are deserving of a title shot against the winner of Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort. Weidman will look to defend his belt at UFC 187 on May 23.
Souza was the front-runner to earn the next title shot a couple weeks prior to the event, where the winner of his match with Yoel Romero would have likely earned the chance at the belt. Romero suffered an injury and pulled out of the fight with a torn meniscus, leaving Souza to face Chris Camozzi instead.
On paper, Camozzi was a total mismatch for Jacaré, and that turned out to be the case in the octagon as well. Like his first fight against Camozzi, Souza submitted him in the first round, this time via armlock. Camozzi should be applauded for his guts though, stepping in on a week’s notice to fight Souza.
In the very next fight of the evening, Rockhold would take on UFC legend Lyoto Machida in the main event. Before Romero pulled out, the winner of this fight would likely have been next in line after Souza or Romero had their shot.
Machida recently challenged Weidman for the belt and lost via unanimous decision in the fight where Weidman clearly won. Machida fought back into the win column with a devastating first round knockout of C.B. Dollaway.
Entering the bout, Rockhold was riding a three fight win streak, the latest being an impressive choke submission of Michael Bisping.
Rockhold, the favorite, dominated Machida to the surprise of some. The general consensus of UFC fans on the winner of the fight was about 50-50. Rockhold exercised his control over Machida in the first round before earning a submission via choke in the second.
Souza and Rockhold both winning their last fights in impressive fashion makes the opportunity to battle the winner of Weidman and Belfort interesting. A case can be made for both men.
You can’t blame Souza for Romero’s injury He did what he needed to do when he handily submitted Camozzi in two and a half minutes. He is still on an eight-fight win streak, including wins over Francis Carmont and Gegard Mousasi.
Rockhold is on a four-fight win streak, but has arguably taken down bigger names in Machida and Bisping.
Who gets the next title shot may very well be determined by the winner of Weidman and Belfort’s battle. Machida recently lost to Weidman, and Rockhold recently lost to Belfort, who was using illegal performance enhancing drugs at the time.
If Weidman wins, fans might want to see a fresh matchup between him and Rockhold. If Belfort wins, they may want to see an equally fresh fight between him and fellow Brazilian Souza.
There’s also the slim possibility that the UFC matches Rockhold and Souza fighting against each other. It would be unlikely, as the UFC may want to give both men a shot in rapid succession. It’s just a matter of who gets dibs at the belt first.
Both men are arguably better fighters now, but Rockhold also owns a 2011 victory over Souza. I doubt fans would be opposed to see their paths cross again in the future sometime.
No matter who gets the next shot, fans will be in for a treat with the upcoming middleweight division title fights.