Monday, October 3, 2022

Rockhold On His Grappling: It Would Be One-Sided If I Faced Maia

Luke Rockhold is feeling confident ahead of his return to action at UFC 278, and the former middleweight champion has even made a rather bold claim about his skills on that mat.

The 37-year-old will appear in the Octagon for the first time in over 3 years when he faces former title challenger Paulo Costa in Salt Lake City. The bout will serve as the co-main event to the welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards, with both Rockhold and Costa trying to avoid losing three fights in a row.

As a teammate of former champions Khabib Nurmagomedov and Daniel Cormier, no one will deny that Rockhold knows a thing or two about high-level grappling. While Cormier and Khabib are both elite on the mat, Rockhold’s comments in a recent interview with Shak MMA suggest that he considers his own skills to be the best in the sport.

“I think I’m the best grappler in MMA,” Rockhold said. “They don’t talk about my grappling because I don’t go for submissions, I go for position… People risk positions by going for submissions, and I just dominate position… I get submissions to gain top position and gain an advantage, a tactical advantage.”

“A One-Sided Show Against Anybody”

Although his UFC career got off to a rocky start when he was head kicked by Vitor Belfort, the California-native did get to display his ground skills in later fights. Rockhold won three-straight bouts via submission before earning a middleweight title shot at UFC 194, where he stopped champion Chris Weidman with ground and pound.

As good as Rockhold’s grappling has been during his MMA career, it’s a bold choice to name yourself “the best” in a sport filled with high-level grapplers. The 37-year-old even decided to name-check one of MMA’s most respected submission artists after making his initial declaration.

Rockhold battered Chris Weidman with ground and pound at UFC 194 to become middleweight champion. (Associated Press)

“I don’t think anybody competes with me in this game on the ground. There’s not one man that understands the position of leverage and dominance (like me)… It would be a one-sided show against Demian Maia if we ever fought. It would be a one-sided show against anybody.”

Former middleweight title challenger Maia hasn’t officially shut the door on his MMA career, but it seems unlikely that he and Rockhold will ever face each other. The 44-year-old spent the last few years competing as a welterweight and is tied with Jim Miller for the second-most submissions in UFC history.

Regardless of how he hypothetically matches up with Maia, taking things to the mat might not be a bad idea for Rockhold when he faces Costa at UFC 278. “The Eraser” has lost his last two fights, but Costa initially built his UFC career on a high-pressure striking style that yielded a number of knockout wins.

How do you think a grappling exchange between Rockhold and Maia would play out?

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