Rockhold vs. Tim
April 26 | Baltimore
There are heaps of adjectives one could use to describe Rockhold’s bounce-back 2014 campaign. Given how badly he was knocked out in his lone 2013 appearance courtesy of Vitor Belfort’s spinning heel kick and how emphatically dominant he was against quality 185-pound opposition this year, “creative” or “technical” probably would not be on top of that list. Nonetheless, the final Strikeforce middleweight champion’s game is built on his athleticism and technical acumen, and his submission of the ever-rugged Boetsch at UFC 172 in April was a perfect display of those foundational traits.
Admittedly, Rockhold was an enormous favorite, as high as 10-to-1 in some places after opening above 6-to-1. Gamblers laid the price on Rockhold all the way up to the fight in spite of his being an enormous favorite, steadfastly confident that Rockhold, who had just trashed Costa Philippou in January, would easily thwart the lumbering Boetsch’s wrestling and hit him with all sorts of strikes. Historically, “The Barbarian” had been a tough man to tap, conceding submission only once previously in his MMA career, and that was to a bigger, stronger Phil Davis, who caught him with a unique kimura-hammerlock he calls “The Wonderbar.” Well, apparently Boetsch’s Achilles’ heel in the grappling department is the exotic and the rare, as Rockhold forced him to tap for the second time in his fighting life with a snappy inverted triangle kimura.
The ending was in motion within 20 seconds of the contest starting. Rockhold threw his first kick, a teep to the body, and Boetsch drove a single-leg attempt. Rockhold reached through his legs, switched and rolled and came out sprawling on top of Boetsch, who was still in on his left leg. Boetsch ripped Rockhold’s leg to his chest and then tried to post on the mat with his left hand. It was 27 seconds into the fight, and everything was about to go wrong for Boetsch.
Rockhold rushed nothing. He held the position, squeezed his legs selectively and let Boetsch wear himself out as Rockhold dug into his body with punches and elbows. Sixty seconds later, when Rockhold swept Boetsch and put him in the fetal position with the inverted triangle on the topside, it was basically academic. Boetsch’s face already wore the signs of serious struggle and then Rockhold was attacking his right arm. Rockhold’s focus allowed him to readjust the triangle to sink it deeper before tightening the whole works to force the tap.
It is interesting to note that Rockhold’s preference for the position -- which he calls his “bread and butter” despite being rare by MMA standards -- is not unlike that of young French-Canadian Olivier Aubin-Mercier, another fighter whose grappling style is heavily influenced by growing up doing judo; he pulled off the same move five months later against Jake Lindsey. “The Quebec Kid,” though, still has a ways to go to catch up to Rockhold. Mercier might have some grappling similarities and even great hair, but this was not even Rockhold’s finest submission of the year.
More Year-End Awards » 2014 Knockout of the Year