Luke Rockhold wanted to make a statement Saturday night, fighting on his biggest stage in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card on Fox against legendary Lyoto Machida.
Rockhold did just that, brutalizing Machida with punches and dominating him on the ground before submitting him in the second round with a rear naked choke.
The emphatic victory leaves no doubt that Rockhold is the top contender for the UFC middleweight title. He will wait for Chris Weidman to take on Vitor Belfort next month and should get the chance to fight the winner in the fall.
With size, strength and a refined game when standing or on the ground, Rockhold could pose the stiffest challenge available for the undefeated Weidman. After his victory, Rockhold expressed interest in fighting Weidman at Madison Square Garden.
“I did my part,” Rockhold said. “Weidman, you're going to do your part. Let's take this across the way. Madison Square Garden, let's make history.”
In the co-feature, top middleweight contender Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza made quick work of Chris Camozzi, submitting him with an arm bar in the first round. Camozzi was previously submitted in the first round by Souza but took the fight on short notice when Yoel Romero dropped out.
Max Holloway announced his presence as a top-notch featherweight with a submission of rugged contender Cub Swanson in the third round. After a few rounds of back and forth standup action, Holloway caught Swanson in a mounted guillotine choke and forced the tap.
“I want to get the shot at the title next,” Souza said. “It's my time. I'm coming off five victories.”
In the Fox opener, 21-year-old Paige VanZant continued her rapid rise to stardom with a dominant unanimous-decision victory over Felice Herrig. VanZant, with an aggressive fighting style and striking looks, is being groomed for big things.
Beneil Dariush picked up an important win over a name opponent, besting Jim Miller via unanimous decision in an exciting ground battle. Dariush is looking to capture attention and recognition in a lightweight division deep with talent.
Ovince St. Preux turned in another impressive performance, knocking out Patrick Cummins in the first round. Cummins, an excellent wrestler, took down St. Preux a number of times but St. Preux bounced back up every time before devastating Cummins with hard shots just as the round was about to end. St. Preux is one of the few top fighters on the rise in an aging light heavyweight division.
Gian Villante handed former Ultimate Fighter winner Corey Anderson the first loss of his career via third round TKO. Villante continually pounded Anderson with leg kicks before rocking him with punches in the final round. Anderson was unable to defend himself and the fight was stopped. Villante, whose career has been marked by inconsistency, did a real number to the perception of Anderson as a high level prospect.
Undefeated rising prospect Aljamain Sterling scored the biggest win of his young career, submitting perennial bantamweight contender Takeya Mizugaki in the third round of their fight. With the win, Sterling graduates into contender status in his own right. He had fought impressively thus far in his UFC career but not against anyone the caliber of Mizugaki.
Tim Means won his fourth conscecutive UFC fight, submitting George Sullivan in the third round with an arm triangle choke. Means, with an entertaining action-oriented style, could find himself in some significant welterweight fights in the near future.
Diego Brandao picked up a win under unfortunate circumstances over Jimy Hettes. After an exciting first round, the doctor ordered the fight stopped due to a cut on the ear of Hettes.
Earlier, Chris Dempsey scored an upset victory over former Ultimate Fighter winner Eddie Gordon via split decision in a sloppy fight. Gordon protested the judges' decision loudly, but the fight was close and the decision justifiable.