Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns to the Octagon after a fifteen month absence as he takes on former WSOF middleweight titleholder David Branch in the main event of UFC Fight Night 116 at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Long Layoff

Luke Rockhold has not fought since losing the middleweight title to the brash Briton Michael Bisping at UFC 199. Bisping upset Rockhold via first round knockout to win the world title for the first time in his career. Rockhold was set to return last November to face Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza at UFC Fight Night 101 but pulled out from the bout with an injury.

Rockhold’s opponent is the former WSOF’s inaugural middleweight and light heavyweight champion David Branch. Branch defended the middleweight title thrice and the light heavyweight crown once. He is on his second tour of duty with the UFC and is coming off a win over Krzysztopf Jotko. Branch had a mediocre 2-2 record during his first stint with the  UFC.

Odds and Prediction

Rockhold is a big -450 favorite against Branch who is currently a huge underdog at +350 and there’s no surprise to that. Luke Rockhold is one of the best all-around fighters in the sport. He is dangerous with his leg kicks and strikes but is equally deadly with his wrestling and submission game. Rockhold’s last five wins have ended in a knockout.

On the other hand, David Branch is a smart fighter who who has solid defense. He is a proven takedown artist with an average of 2.33 takedowns landed per 15 minutes. Rockhold only averages 0.56 takedowns per 15 minutes but is by far the more productive striker between the two with an average of 4.17 significant strikes landed per 15 minutes. David Branch only averages 1.49 significant strikes landed per 15 minutes.

Will Layoff be A Factor

It will be interesting to see how Rockhold performs after a fifteen month layoff. He’s never lost back to back fights in his career and he’s hoping to avoid that.

Branch meanwhile has won 11 consecutive bouts and hasn’t lost since he was beaten by Rumble Johnson in 2012. Branch has a slight advantage in reach and is the naturally bigger man here. This is a dangerous fight for Luke Rockhold. But Rockhold’s got the experience and the better wrestling game here.

We’re picking Luke Rockhold to win. He’s going to end this fight early and win in style.

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