Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 172 Prediction: Tim Boetsch vs. Luke Rockhold

On paper, it’s a fight that looks like it’s a complete blowout. One of the very best fighters in his weight class is taking on an opponent who clearly has no business being in the cage with him. The betting lines are lopsided as the favorite is -750 with the underdog at +600. If anything, those betting lines understate how lopsided the fight is.

Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Boetsch? No, I’m talking about Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins.

That’s right, Cormier closed as a -750 favorite to defeat Cummins in the co-main event of UFC 170. Meanwhile, Luke Rockhold opened as a -600 favorite to defeat Tim Boetsch… and then betting action inflated the line. At one point, Rockhold was a massive -1800 favorite while Boetsch was a +1000 underdog. Apparently, the betting public thinks Rockhold-Boetsch is less competitive than Cormier-Cummins.

Since that point, sanity has set in a little bit and returned Rockhold to his current betting line of -900 with Boetsch at +600. Even so, there’s clearly a disconnect here. Boetsch is not a world-class fighter but he is a jack of all trades. He can strike, he can wrestle, and he knows submissions well enough.

Boetsch is at least something of a threat to win by knockout; he has seven wins by KO/TKO in 23 fights. He has a chance to win a wrestling-based decision; he did that to Nick Ring and Kendall Grove, and Rockhold has only landed one takedown ever. There are paths to victory for Boetsch. He’s good enough that he doesn’t deserve the disrespect the betting public has lobbed his way.

With that said, this really is a fight Rockhold should win. I don’t mean to give the impression that I don’t think highly of Rockhold, because I do and I have for a while now. Rockhold is one of the middleweight division’s best strikers. He’s doubled up his opponents in significant strikes landed, with 254 landed and 127 absorbed in 69 minutes of UFC/Strikeforce action. He’s defeated high-level opponents in Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Tim Kennedy, and he’s done so early in his career.

Even better, Rockhold has landed eight knockdowns in those nine fights, thanks to his mix of knees and kicks to the body and straight punches to the head. Rockhold is a genuine volume striker with power and that puts him on the short list of best strikers in the division.

Rockhold’s takedown defense has also been solid at 70 percent overall. This served him well against Kennedy in particular as Kennedy completed just two out of 12 takedowns in their fight. And unlike Michael Bisping last week, Rockhold was able to prevent Kennedy from controlling him on the ground.

And again, Boetsch is a jack of all trades and master of none. He isn’t exceptionally good at any one thing. Boetsch is tough enough that he can hang around against more talented opponents most of the time, but against a fighter like Rockhold, I expect him to get picked apart on the feet and possibly stopped. Rockhold should have the conditioning edge as well.

My only real concern with Rockhold is that both of his losses are by knockout, against Vitor Belfort 11 months ago and against Tony Rubalcava in an early-career fight. Boetsch is not a knockout artist but hits hard enough that a stunning upset is in play.

But unless that happens, I don’t see any scenario where Boetsch out-strikes Rockhold with volume. A grinding decision win based on takedowns is possible, but if Kennedy couldn’t do it I doubt Boetsch will be able to do it either. It will be a big surprise if Boetsch wins this.

Pick: Luke Rockhold by TKO


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