Rockhold (16-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC), a former Strikeforce and UFC middleweight champion, has struggled in recent years. After he dethroned Chris Weidman at UFC 194 in 2015 to win the title, Rockhold has lost three of four by knockout, including his first attempted title defense against Bisping.
A failed stint at light heavyweight against Jan Blachowicz, who went on to win the 205-pound title, prompted Rockhold to take some time off. But the 37-year-old is set to return for the first time since July 2019 when he takes on Paulo Costa (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) at UFC 278 on Aug. 20.
“If Rockhold beats (Costa), don’t be surprised if he becomes champion of the world once again,” Bisping said on his YouTube channel.
Bisping thinks Rockhold’s well-rounded skill set and strong ground game could pose some problems for UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC), who defends his title against Jared Cannonier in Saturday’s UFC 276 headliner in Las Vegas. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Rockhold said he’s the only man who can beat Adesanya at 185 pounds.
“Adesanya needs fresh meat,” Bisping said. “What does Rockhold have that could trouble Adesanya? Well, for one, he’s about the same height. He’s probably about the same reach. Athletically, he’s just as good. Granted, he’s a little bit older, so maybe not quite as fast. Maybe the reflexes aren’t there. But we know about the ground game of Rockhold, we know about the top pressure, we know about how deadly he can be on the feet.
“I’m just saying, with this new reinvigorated Luke Rockhold, this new version, this samurai that went away and learned from his past mistakes and now has come back centered, grounded, hungry, sober, personal problems behind him, I think this Luke Rockhold could be a nightmare for a lot of people in the middleweight division.”