Former two-division UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen believes the returning Luke Rockhold could earn a middleweight title shot with a victory over Sean Strickland at UFC 268.
Rockhold hasn’t been in action since a 2019 light heavyweight loss to current 205-pound king Jan Blachowicz. At UFC 239, the Polish champ brutally knocked out the Californian. Having previously fallen to a KO at the hands of Bellator MMA’s Yoel Romero, Rockhold will be returning to the promotion next month looking to snap a two-fight losing skid.
The former UFC Middleweight Champion is set to face Sean Strickland on November 6. At the pay-per-view, Rockhold will need to put a stop to surging Strickland’s win streak, which has seen him record five straight wins. Given the 30-year-old’s comments about the veteran, their main card clash is likely to be a fiery affair.
Returning to face the #7-ranked middleweight, Rockhold will have his work cut out to beat a man whose only losses in 27 fights came against Santiago Ponzinibbio, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, and current UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. Because of that, Chael Sonnen believes an impressive performance on the first November card could earn the 36-year-old a place opposite the champion.
Speaking on an episode of his YouTube series Beyond the Fight, “The American Gangster” suggested the challenge of Rockhold would be much more appealing for Israel Adesanya than a rematch with Derek Brunson, especially if he defeats “Tarzan” at UFC 268.
“With a little bit of help, if Dana just flirted with this idea one time and put it out there, Luke Rockhold [versus] Strickland could come in and steal the show. Shining Rockhold up on his first one back and the return to the division, I get that that needs some work and is unlikely. But if Rockhold does everything just right, has just the right showing, grabs just the right words in the post-fight interview and gets the attention of Adesanya, it is definitely within the realm of possibility. It is far more reasonable than Vettori getting a win and going into it. It’s far more interesting to Adesanya than having to go in there with Brunson a second time.” (h/t Sportskeeda)
While Rockhold looks to try and secure a date with the champ through a successful comeback next month, Adesanya will need to get past Robert Whittaker before considering his next challenger. “The Reaper,” who lost the belt to “The Last Stylebender” at UFC 243, has looked unstoppable in his three wins since being dethroned, which came against Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Kelvin Gastelum.
Meanwhile, Brunson and Cannonier will also hope to secure the status of #1 contender. The two top-five middleweights are reportedly scheduled to clash at the January pay-per-view. Should Rockhold emerge victorious over Strickland, the pair may be joined by another veteran contender in the battle to secure the next championship opportunity.
Do you think an impressive victory over Sean Strickland at UFC 268 would be enough to earn Luke Rockhold a title shot?