Former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold makes his first start since losing his title to Michael Bisping in June 2016, and while he probably expected (or hoped) to get put into a rubber match with “The Count” or at least a title elimination bout, he instead has a five-rounder with ultra tough New Yorker David Branch staring him in the face. All the more reason for Rockhold to try and make an emphatic statement against the former WSOF two-division champion and announce his return in style. Branch won’t go away easy though, especially since he knows a win over the former champ could put him in the title mix.
MIKE PERRY VS ALEX REYES
Mike Perry vs. Thiago Alves was one of the best matchups on Saturday’s card, but there’s no reason Perry vs. Alex Reyes can’t be as good or better. Sure, Reyes is making a jump in weight class from 155 for the bout and he’s coming in on short notice, but he’s won 13 straight, finished them all, and he’s well aware that an upset win over Perry could be a life changer. And hey, Pittsburgh fans won’t ever forget Charlie Brenneman stepping in on weigh-in day to face Rick Story and then upsetting the favorite the next night. Maybe it’s something in Steel City.
HECTOR LOMBARD VS ANTHONY SMITH
It seems like Anthony Smith has waited for a fight like this his entire career, and now he gets the big bout against Hector Lombard this weekend. The question is, can he keep his recent form and defeat the explosive former Olympian, or will Lombard take away his opponent’s height and reach advantages and show off the form he needs to show in order to snap his current three-fight losing streak?
Unfiltered: Luke Rockhold | Pittsburgh fantasy Cheat Sheet| On The Rise: Pittsburgh Edition
GREGOR GILLESPIE VS JASON GONZALEZ
Gregor Gillespie has long been talked about as a top fighter on the east coast circuit, but with a 2-0 start to his UFC career, everyone’s getting in on the action when it comes to the New Yorker. Of course, he’s got to keep steady and hungry because he’s not to the top yet, and if he is looking too far ahead, Jason Gonzalez has the talent to bring him down a couple notches on the lightweight ladder.
KAMARU USMAN VS SERGIO MORAES
One of the most underrated matchups on this card is between two of the most underrated welterweights in the world, Kamaru Usman and Sergio Moraes. Sporting a combined 11-1-1 record, Usman and Moraes have proven they’re among the top 170-pounders in the UFC. Now one of them needs to produce the type of performance that will get the world talking about them on Sunday morning.
JUSTIN LEDET VS ZU ANYANWU
Texas’ Justin Ledet has some of the slickest boxing in the heavyweight division, and he will get to show it off again when he faces late replacement Zu Anyanwu, an alum of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. On paper, it looks like a standup showdown, but Anyanwu is a brown belt in BJJ and Ledet is coming off a Performance of the Night submission win over Mark Godbeer in his last bout. So expect the unexpected.
TONY MARTIN VS OLIVIER AUBIN-MERCIER
Another interesting fight flying under the radar is in the lightweight division, where Olivier Aubin-Mercier faces Tony Martin. OAM looks like he’s finally putting everything together on fight night, but the same could also be said for Martin, who has won three in a row. Either one of these surging prospects is showing us a mirage, or they’re both hitting peak form, in which case we could be in for a barnburner.
ANTHONY HAMILTON VS DANIEL SPITZ
Poor Anthony Hamilton has shown glimpses of his talent in the UFC, but he’s also been on the receiving end of some devastating losses. How he performs on Saturday night against heavyweight prospect Daniel Spitz may determine whether he has a fresh slate in a wide open division or if his Octagon future gets put in question.
KRZYSZTOF JOTKO VS URIAH HALL
Originally scheduled for June 2015, Krzysztof Jotko and Uriah Hall finally meet in Pittsburgh, and this is certainly a “better late than never” matchup that pits the steady attack of Jotko against Hall, whose career can best be described as Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in that we never know what we’re gonna get from the talented, but inconsistent, New Yorker.
JASON SAGGO VS GILBERT BURNS
A fighter with the potential to be scary at 155 pounds, Gilbert Burns has hit a couple rough patches in losses to Rashid Magomedov and Michel Prazeres, but if he can kick off Saturday’s show with a big win over fellow BJJ black belt Jason Saggo, it will be a strong step in the right direction for “Durinho.”