In a bout that was high in intensity, but light in significant action, Luke Rockhold fell short on the scorecards as he made his debut for the Polaris grappling promotion.
Rockhold faced Nick Rodriguez in the main event of Polaris 12, which took place in Newport, Wales, and aired on UFC Fight Pass on Saturday, and after 15 mostly uneventful minutes, Rodriguez was awarded a unanimous decision victory.
Despite the MMA accomplishments of Rockhold, a former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion, the result was not unexpected given that Rodriguez is one of the rising stars of the competitive grappling scene. The ADCC silver medalist scored the most significant offense of the bout en route to defeating Rockhold.
Post-fight, Rockhold apologized for the lack of action and complimented Rodriguez and his team on their game plan.
“I’m no stranger, I can play the bull or I can play the matador,” Rockhold said. “I didn’t have enough to keep up with him. Credit to him, the kid’s tough. I thought he would shoot more, I thought I could play more of a different game. I didn’t realize it would just be stuck on the feet and the kind of push-pull, sorry about that, but I wanted a little more action.
“I tried to bait, I tried to give it, but the man did his homework. He comes from a good team, they know what to avoid and where to attack, so credit to him.”
In an amusing moment, Rockhold’s post-fight interview was interrupted by a compliment from the audience and he offered a playful response.
Rockhold added that he enjoyed the competition and that he would consider competing for Polaris again, though he is currently planning to take some time off.
“It’s just fun for me,” Rockhold said. “Competition is a part of my life and this kind of lightens it up, takes me away from all the political bulls*it that you deal with in the UFC. There’s a lot more to it. This is just fun and it keeps that goal-oriented mindset.”
The majority of the bout saw Rockhold and Rodriguez battling for position on the feet, with Rockhold looking for an underhook or a body lock and Rodriguez shrugging him off while occasionally threatening to shoot in for a takedown. Early on, what appeared to be an accidental headbutt opened a cut over Rockhold’s eye bringing a pause to the bout and prompting Rockhold to call for some Vaseline.
For the most part, the cut was not an issue after the opening five minutes. Rockhold’s troubles weren’t over though as Rodriguez later scored an impressive takedown and quickly took Rockhold’s back.
Rockhold rotated to give Rodriguez full mount and avoided submission attempts from bottom position before managing to bridge out of danger and return the action to the feet. Rodriguez continued to pour on the pressure, landing a couple of takedowns that pushed Rockhold out of bounds.
A late shot from Rodriguez in the closing seconds put Rockhold on the mat to seal the deal.
In other notable action featuring MMA standouts, UFC welterweight Gilbert Burns lost a unanimous decision to Norway’s Tommy Langaker in a gi match, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Michelle Nicolini—fresh off of an MMA win over ONE Championship star Angela Lee in July—made a successful return to grappling with a toe-hold submission of Vanessa English.
See highlights from Burns’s and Nicolini’s bouts below: