Luke Rockhold’s road back to the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight title runs through David Branch.
Rockhold will face the former two-division World Series of Fighting champion in the UFC Fight Night 116 main event this Saturday at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. There, they will flesh out their places in a weight class that has grown in depth and quality in recent years. Rockhold has compiled a 5-2 record inside the Octagon. The 32-year-old Santa Cruz, California, native and longtime American Kickboxing Academy representative boasts 13 finishes among his 15 professional victories, having established himself as one of the most dynamic offensive fighters in mixed martial arts.
Now more than a decade into his career, Rockhold has amassed his share of intriguing statistical data:
0: Appearances in 2017. Rockhold has not competed since he surrendered his middleweight crown in an upset loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 199 on June 4, 2016. By the time he steps in the cage against Branch, he will have been inactive for one year, three months and 12 days.
2: Brazilian jiu-jitsu world championships on his resume, one as a blue belt, the other as a no-gil purple belt. Rockhold won both titles in 2007.
3: Wins over current or former UFC champions. Rockhold has beaten Bisping, Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida. None saw the final bell against him in those losses.
4: Fighters other than Rockhold who held the Strikeforce middleweight championship. They were Frank Shamrock, Cung Le, Jake Shields and Ronaldo Souza.
4.9: Strikes landed per minute in Ultimate Fighting Championship competition, according to FightMetric. It places Rockhold fourth on the UFC’s all-time list for middleweights, trailing only Martin Kampmann (5.35), Nate Quarry (4.96) and Robert Whittaker (4.96).
8: Victories by submission. Rockhold has five wins by rear-naked choke, one by guillotine choke, one by armbar and one by inverted triangle kimura.
10: First-round finishes to his credit. Among those Rockhold has victimized inside the first five minutes: Jesse Taylor, Keith Jardine, Costas Philippou and Tim Boetsch.
67: Percentage of takedowns Rockhold has successfully defended since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster in May 2013. Only Weidman managed to take him down, doing so three times in their UFC 194 encounter.
131: Total strikes by which Rockhold has outlanded his opponents in seven UFC appearances.
175: Days spent as the UFC middleweight champion. Rockhold’s reign ranks as the third shortest in Ultimate Fighting Championship history. Only Dave Menne (105 days) and Evan Tanner (119 days) spent less time on the 185-pound throne.