Echoes of the Past: Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz

Luke Rockhold
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Luke Rockhold celebrates after defeating David Branch in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside the PPG Paints Arena on September 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

On July 6th, 2019, Luke Rockhold returns to the octagon against Jan Blachowicz. This fight takes place at light heavyweight, a first for Rockhold. This move was well foreshadowed as the former middleweight champion has long struggled with the weight cut. With that, coupled with various injuries, it was time for a move.

He faces Jan Blachowicz, a Polish fighter who had found recent success until another middleweight, Thiago Santos, blasted him out of his four-fight win streak.

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In this article, I will discuss what makes this fight eerily similar to the Michael Bisping fights for Rockhold and how Blachowicz fairs against the middleweight transplant. The Bisping fight will tell all for Blachowicz and the echoes of the past may once again haunt Rockhold.

Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz

History Tells All

Rockhold’s last four fights have been a whirlwind of emotions. After claiming the middleweight title from Chris Weidman, he was knocked out cold by the heavy underdog Michael Bisping in their second fight.

What the loss showed the world was that Rockhold was not infallible, in fact, he had a pretty big weakness; his boxing. What came afterwards was a series of mistakes that David Branch could not fully punish him for, but Yoel Romero was able to exploit them and send him to the shadow realm.

Watch how Rockhold backs up and throws a wide right hook with his head straight up.
Branch once again catching Rockhold backing up, with a poor check hook and head up high.

Against Bisping, Rockhold lost his title in the exact same fashion.

Look at how Rockhold drops his right hand after his right hook

Rockhold has a great team behind him, however, his bad habits have gotten him knocked out or hurt badly on numerous occasions. Blachowicz might be a fighter who can capitalize.

The Polish Connection

What Blachowicz excels at is medium-ranged kickboxing. It also echoes the relatively same principles as early Bisping. Against Thiago Santos, Blachowicz stood in mid-range, showing his jab and throwing light kicks to measure range.

Blachowicz can show an educated jab, in order to confuse the hard-hitting Santos.
Bisping showing the jab gets Rockhold to drop his head back rather than actually blocking or parrying the strike.

The first Bisping fight is a great example of how this matchup should play out, in that Blachowicz will likely be able to back Rockhold up with some of his charges and his feints should confuse him.

Blachowicz’s jab should bring some level of confusion for Rockhold.
While horribly over swinging his punches, Blachowicz will likely get the same reactions as Rockhold has shown throughout his career.
Rockhold’s habit of constantly backing up like this is exactly how I think he will react to Blachowicz’s charges.

However, Blachowicz is a fighter that has height and reach parity with Rockhold and should be able to reach him with far more ease than Bisping. Therefore, by drawing Rockhold into passivity with feints, expect Blachowicz to charge in and actually touch Rockhold with some success.

Weidman showing, that with reach parity Rockhold was forced to constantly back up and had got trapped against the fence various times.

While Blachowicz is likely to touch up Rockhold with some jabs and punches, he lacks the explosive charge that Romero and Branch had to close the distance. So drawing Rockhold into his left hook might be a better alternative as Bisping was able to show in their second fight.

Bisping annoys Rockhold with non-commital strikes like the kick and right hand, before letting Rockhold come forward and thus lands the left hook.

However, I argue that this fight will likely end up the same way as Bisping vs. Rockhold 1. This is because Blachowicz may well have the same gameplan that Bisping did in their first fight.

Out With the New, in With the Old

Rockhold has not made particularly huge changes in the way he fights since his debut in the UFC. He prefers the same range and the same techniques as his height and long reach gives the optimal build for his style. The Rockhold classic is left kicks and his right hook.

Rockhold, in every fight, will punt dozens of body kicks and if his opponent stands in kicking range, he can have a field day.

Standing in kicking range against Rockhold is practically a death sentence for your liver.
Rockhold showing that with his left body kick, he can easily drop opponents if they get scared and back up into the fence.

If his opponent rushes in as Philippou did, Rockhold can drop them with a check right hook.

Philippou had no feints or set up to his charge, he simply charged head first and Rockhold was easily able to drop him.

Rockhold adds some variation to his strikes, by adding some stabbing front kicks, which he turns into a question mark kick. But also throwing the left head kick if his opponent begins to reach for his body kicks.

Rockhold uses a front snap kick to set up a punch. Later sequence he gets Weidman reaching for the snap kick and turns it into a question mark kick.
Rockhold here uses a headkick, but notice how he oversells it by dipping hard to the right. This is to give the impression that he’s going to the body but instead, it flies to the head.

Putting it All Together

All of these kicks will serve Rockhold extremely well, as Blachowicz tends to stand inside the mid-kickboxing range. Rockhold can also bring back his check hook as it apparently works wonders against Blachowicz.

Against Santos, Blachowicz’s crazy charge got him caught with a check hook. Rockhold is likely to do exactly the same thing Santos did to Blachowicz.

Blachowicz tends to hang out in kicking range, which is not great against a power kicker like Rockhold.

Blachowicz can limit the number of body kicks from Rockhold, turning southpaw. By employing the southpaw stance, Blachowicz will force Rockhold to kick into the lead side. Kicking into the lead side, of course, will be more dangerous as a result, Rockhold will reduce his kicks. However, in the Romero fight, Rockhold has shown that he has a beautiful southpaw jab. Against the southpaw Romero, he chopped up his leg and used his jab wonderfully to set it up.

Rockhold beautifully doubles up on the jab, and kicks low, breaking down Romero’s stance.
Against Blachowicz, it would serve Rockhold well to drill to the body to give Blachowicz something to think about.

Conclusion

Blachowicz is a great consistency test for Rockhold after a long layoff. His knockout loss to Romero happened over a year ago. For him to return and put on the same display of improvements from that fight would be a treasure. However, Rockhold does not need to tweak much in order to have success in this fight.

For Blachowicz, it would serve him well to approach this fight in distances. Either be all in the way inside of Rockhold’s range, looking to dirty box. Otherwise, Blachowicz should force Rockhold to make commitments in order to do damage and counter off of it.

Regardless of what happens July 6th, this fight should be exciting for the light-heavyweight division as it adds more contenders for the Jon Jones conveyor belt of contenders. If either man wants to succeed they should pay heed, to the echoes of the past.

 

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