On July 6, 2013 the UFC changed forever when Chris Weidman left the legendary Anderson Silva unconscious in the middle of the Octagon.
It was the end of an era, but at the same time, unbeknownst to the MMA world, it was the beginning of a new one.
Just a month later, Luke Rockhold, the last man to hold the Strikeforce middleweight title, made his UFC debut.
We didn’t know it then, but these two superstars, both champions rising in the sport, were destined to meet one day. That day has come – Dec. 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena when Weidman defends his UFC middleweight title against Rockhold in the co-main event.
It took a while for Rockhold to earn his title shot, after a disappointing KO loss against Vitor Belfort in his debut sent him to the back of the line. But since then, Rockhold has won four in a row, all finishes, and there’s been nobody more dominant in the division.
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Well, except perhaps, for Weidman.
More than two years after Weidman won the title in historical fashion, he now faces perhaps the toughest test of his career.
Who will win?
We obviously won’t have that answer until UFC 194. But for now it’s safe to say that it is the entire MMA world that’s going to win when Weidman and Rockhold, two middleweight stars in the prime of their careers, vie for the top spot at 185 pounds.
Making the UFC 194 co-main event even more intriguing has been the burgeoning rivalry between Weidman and Rockhold.
@LukeRockhold ha again this tweet required way too much thought to have been you.Tht being said I will not lose to sum privileged surfer boy
— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) July 15, 2015
While @chrisweidmanufc is nut hugging A list celebrities. I'm here in Strong Island with the people. First I take your town then I take your belt.
A photo posted by Luke Rockhold (@lukerockhold) on Jul 19, 2015 at 1:49pm PDT
.@LukeRockhold that spinning back kick Vitor hit u with must of really messed with your head. Glad you enjoyed Long Island my friend.
— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) July 20, 2015
Before the fight was announced, the two had mostly respectful, playful exchanges whenever the prospect of eventually fighting came up. But since the date was set, there has been a very serious feel to things, probably because both men know what’s on the line on Dec. 12.
The middleweight division is full of sharks circling the championship, including Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero, who meet on the same card right before the title fight.
There is a lot on the line at UFC 194, and the man that comes away with the title will grab hold of the baton in this amazing middleweight era.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC