Come the main event this Saturday at UFC on Fox 15, UFC and MMA fans in general will witness one of the most anticipated fights of the year. At middleweight, former Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold takes on former UFC light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida. It’s a fight fans have wanted since Machida made the drop the middleweight. It’s a fight that very well could live up to the hype as one of the best fights of the year.

It certainly topped (or came close to the top) of many “Most Anticipated” lists for 2015 in the MMA world.

So what can we expected Saturday night? Very likely, a back and forth war and a display of mixed martial arts at the highest of levels, but that’s obvious. You will also see Luke Rockhold in what could be the biggest fight of his life: a win over Machida here, and he is more than likely tapped to be the next contender at middleweight.

The outcome of Weidman vs. Belfort will have some bearing on that, but that’s a month down the road.

For now, lets look at three keys to victory for Luke Rockhold.

Beware Machida’s Counter Strikes

Lyoto Machida is a brilliant counter striker who has caught many an unsuspecting opponent by surprise while they were on the offensive. Machida is fast, agile, and perfectly suited to his new weight class, which is why he managed to find himself in a title shot position so quickly. He’d like another one, while Rockhold clearly has plans of his own. To ensure things go his way he’ll need to be on his guard and careful not to be countered badly.

Execute The Perfect Game Plan

Cliche, right? The fight game is full of cliches, however, and in Lyoto Machida, Rockhold faces an elusive, dangerous opponent. He’s capable of knocking you out with hands or feet, and just as capable at avoiding your big shots, hitting and running, and earning a decision. The Brazilian has often be derided over the years by those who feel his “elusiveness” is too akin to avoiding engaging and not aggressive enough, but it does have to be taken into consideration.

So, to, do his recent performances. Machida fought Chris Weidman to a decision in a losing effort, which marked Weidman’s first title fight against someone other than Anderson Silva. Prior to that, he had won a decision over Gegard Mousasi and KO’d Mark Munoz with a head kick to announce his arrival at 185lbs. After the Weidman loss, Machida bounced back with a body kick followed up by strikes TKO of CB Dollaway. In short, he has won three of his last four, and only two men have ever stopped “The Dragon” — Jon Jones and Shogun Rua.

Part of Rockhold’s plan needs to be the readiness to go the full give rounds, the ability to avoid Machida’s counter strike game, combined with the wherewithal to stalk him down in the octagon and connect with offense of his own.

Be The Aggressor

That perfect game plan? It absolutely must feature Rockhold as the aggressor. There’s a good chance this fight goes the distance. Several of Machida’s decisions on both sides of the win column have been razor thin. Fights against Rampage Jackson and Phil Davis he arguably could have won had different judges been watching the fight. Yet his split decision win over Dan Henderson could have just as easily gone the other way.

Be it a stoppage or a decision Rockhold needs to make a statement here. There should be no doubt at the end of this as to who won the fight, and if it goes to decision, it needs to be clear and unanimous.

Rockhold is seen by many to be on the cusp of great things. This fight could just get him there.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.