Anderson Silva dispatched of Chael Sonnen for the second time at UFC 148, and fans immediately speculated who would be next for the seemingly indomitable champion. According to various websites, UFC Tonight reported that Silva’s managers find Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold as a top choice for the next fight with Silva.

The idea of Rockhold getting the next chance at the long-reigning UFC champion is an interesting idea, but an unnecessary option. Although the UFC’s middleweight division is still working itself out to produce the next challenger for Silva, a fight with an outsider is not needed.

The top names floating around the promotion as potential challengers are Chris Weidman, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort, Alan Belcher and Brian Stann. When is the last time Rockhold has faced anyone of the caliber of these fighters? His last two wins are a decision over Tim Kennedy and a stoppage of Keith Jardine. It is a big stretch to go from those two opponents to the most dominant champion in the UFC’s history.

That doesn’t mean a superfight is out of the question. Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza has voiced interest in seeing Strikeforce champions fight their UFC counterparts, so we know such ideas are floating around with the bosses.

Strikeforce is under the Zuffa umbrella and we have seen talent migrate from there to the UFC, but never has there been a cross-promotional fight.

Former Strikeforce fighters (and champions) such as Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson have had success in the company and moved back into the UFC, finding themselves in an advantageous position upon their return. Diaz and Henderson both returned and won a fight against a top-level opponent, which led to a title shot for each.

Diaz’s UFC return was a bizarre tale that ended with his abrupt retirement after a loss to Carlos Condit and a failed drug test for THC metabolites. Henderson is awaiting champion Jon Jones and has never looked better after his memorable five-round war with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rockhold has yet to prove he can beat a top UFC fighter, let alone the champion. Until UFC and/or Strikeforce management announces it otherwise, Rockhold will have to follow the same path as other former Strikeforce champions if he is to face Silva.

Hector Lombard’s UFC 149 performance illustrates how top names from other promotions might not live up to the hype placed upon them. Lombard’s fight against Tim Boetsch was a lackluster affair that was heavily criticized by UFC head Dana White. In fairness, Lombard might have experienced Octagon jitters or had other reasons for his performance, but had it been a title fight, White really might have lost his top. It is highly doubtful the UFC would take a gamble with Rockhold against Silva without him proving himself against other UFC fighters to earn that right.

This isn’t a fight the fans are clamoring for either, but rather a suggestion from Silva’s own camp. Why would they choose Rockhold and believe him to be a better draw over other top UFC middleweights?

Sure, Rockhold is an easy sell given his ascendancy in Strikeforce and marketable looks, but I don’t believe he is well known to most fans. Showtime’s viewership numbers express that. Rockhold’s fight to capture the title from Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov only averaged 274,000 viewers; his first defense against Keith Jardine at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Jardine, 344,000; and his most recent defense against Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy tallied 420,000.

The numbers do reflect an increase of viewers each time out for Rockhold, but those numbers, at their best, are less than half of what the UFC pulls in for its regular programming on Fox and pay-per-view. Also, Strikeforce events occur about three times less often than UFC events each year. MMA fans are more aware of what’s happening in the UFC due to the frequency of events and mainstream exposure. Rockhold just wouldn’t be a bigger draw over established UFC fighters.

Additionally, I don’t believe Rockhold would even be a legitimate challenge to Silva in a fight. Rockhold is known for his striking, but if he couldn’t finish Tim Kennedy or “Jacare,” then how could he be expected to give Silva a challenge? Unless a challenge isn’t what Silva’s team wants. Perhaps they feel it would be an exciting fight with someone who likes to strike.

Silva has finished distinguished strikers such as Henderson and Vitor Belfort. Most of Rockhold’s finishes, with the exception of Jardine, come early in his career and are against unfamiliar fighters. Until he proves he can finish top guys, it is safe to assume he would just serve to pad Silva’s highlight reel.

The “Spider” is moving closer to the age of 40 each year. Now is the time fans wonder how much longer he will continue in MMA and how important the final fights of his legacy are. If his camp is so bored with the options in the UFC’s middleweight division, then they should think about going back to fighting at light heavyweight. If Silva moved up in weight again, I’m sure fans would be more interested in a superfight with Jon Jones over Luke Rockhold any day.

Rockhold is a semi-enticing opponent, but completely unproven against the best middleweights of the world. If he can leave the lesser-viewed middleweight division of Strikeforce behind and prove himself to fans in the UFC, then a fight with Silva will seem like a less puzzling suggestion. At this point, however, there are better flies to get caught in the “Spider’s” web.

Photo: Anderson Silva (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.