Having seen Luke Rockhold tease a return to action in 2023, Chael Sonnen has named a logical opponent for the former UFC middleweight champion.
Rockhold fought for the first time since 2019 last year at UFC 278. At the August pay-per-view, held at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena, the former titleholder jumped straight into the deep end to face high-ranked contender Paulo Costa.
Whilst he was ultimately comfortably outpointed across three rounds, the clearly fatigued veteran didn’t fail to provide some memorable moments during the contest, including a grimace-worthy blood smear in the final seconds.
Following the loss, an emotional Rockhold removed his gloves and announced his retirement inside the Octagon.
But having quickly added an element of uncertainty to the decision post-fight by admitting he might “make another run at this thing” should he feel physically able to, Rockhold recently provided his biggest comeback teaser to date.
In an Instagram post showing him in the gym donning boxing gloves, Rockhold hinted towards an “interesting” 2023.
“Putting the old rig to the test,” Rockhold said. “2023 could get interesting.”
While some have pushed back on the idea of Rockhold making the walk again having suffered three consecutive knockout losses, including fellow AKA standout Daniel Cormier, one former UFC star not only backs the Californian to return, but has an opponent in mind.
Sonnen Has A Name In Mind For Rockhold
During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, former middleweight and light heavyweight UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen discussed Rockhold’s recent post.
After noting that he’s rarely, if ever, agreed with Rockhold’s career decisions, Sonnen included his retirement at UFC 278 under that umbrella. With that in mind, he appeared willing to entertain the prospect of another outing for the 38-year-old.
And given that he boasts a similar mindset in regard to the status of fan favorite Nick Diaz, “The American Gangster” pitched a middleweight contest between the two veterans.
“He (Rockhold) comes out… He does a photo of himself — you know the old expression, a picture paints a thousand words — he’s got his fight gear on, he’s got his gloves on, and he says, ‘It could be an interesting 2023,'” Sonnen said. “The UFC is extremely difficult to compete in if you are not a champion or contender. If you prove through opportunity, hard matchups, competition that you’re not one of the two, it’s a hard place to be at, not to mention for an older fighter.
Like Rockhold last year, Diaz ended a lengthy layoff with an unsuccessful appearance inside the cage in 2021. The Stockton native faced Robbie Lawler at UFC 266 in what was his first fight since a 2015 meeting with the legendary Anderson Silva.
Diaz fell to a TKO loss in what was widely regarded an underwhelming return for the 39-year-old, who ultimately chose to end the contest himself after being sat down by “Ruthless.”
While the performance left some hoping that they’d seen the last of Diaz inside the Octagon, Sonnen believes that’s an unfair judgement of his return performance, especially given how long he’d been on the sidelines for.
“I don’t love that Nick keeps taking breaks,” Sonnen said. “Nick looked a lot better and did a lot better in his fight with Robbie Lawler than he knew at the time. That fight was a lot more competitive than Nick knew at the time.
“I can tell you, for me as a viewer, I brushed that right off, no problem. Nick had been out five years, different weight class, shaking some rust off… everyone has a little bit slower start on their return,” Sonnen continued. “That inactivity is a tough one, unless you find a guy in a similar situation.”
Diaz has openly discussed his desire to fight again in 2023, even pinpointing former champion Israel Adesanya as a possible opponent.
What do you make of Chael Sonnen’s suggestion? Would you like to see Luke Rockhold face Nick Diaz in 2023?
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