Mention Anderson Silva’s name and even non-MMA fans are likely to respond with something along the lines of “Oh yeah, that guy? He’s a bad ass.” Mention Luke Rockhold, however, and see how many blank stares you get in return. For many casual fans of the sport, Strikeforce’s last Middleweight Champion is a virtual unknown. Entering the UFC under the radar with Strikeforce gold in tow, Luke Rockhold plans to announce his arrival by extending his nine fight win streak with a victory over top-flight UFC workhorse Vitor Belfort.
Rockhold could have been a professional surfer (his brother is) or a professional basketball player (his Dad was), but as fate would have it, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of the fight game. Hailing from sunny California and brandishing an AKA pedigree, Rockhold’s Strikeforce experience and time in the gym with the likes of Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez leaves little doubt that he’s ready to test the waters in the big show.
Strikeforce may be officially shuttered, but the company’s spirit persists. As Luke Rockhold makes his way to the UFC, other former champions and elite level fighters will be transitioning as well. On page 62, we take a look at the best talent making the crossover, including Lightweight Champ Gilbert Melendez, Army Green Beret Tim Kennedy, and other top talent like Terec Saffiedine and Gegard Mousasi. You can expect these guys to get thrown into the deep end almost immediately—they are good enough to be there—and you can expect the already established UFC rank and file to defend their turf without remorse. Will they be able to hold the line, or will the invading Strikeforce combatants make names for themselves in their new home? I hope you’re ready, because if the success of the WEC’s former roster is any indication, we are set for an exciting series of match ups over the coming year.