LAS VEGAS — His body bruised and battered, his championship gone, Baldwin’s Chris Weidman sat in the octagon with his arms draped over his knees and his head hanging low.
His forehead was split open. His face was swollen.
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“At the end of the day, my family loves me and my fans love me,” Weidman said Saturday night in his post-fight interview. “He caught me with those elbows. All I can do now is work hard and get back in the gym.”
Weidman (13-1, 9-1 UFC) lost by technical knockout at 3:12 of the fourth round as referee Herb Dean put an end to the onslaught from Rockhold. Weidman was taken to a nearby hospital after the fight and was released a few hours later.
“I’m still a little in shock,” trainer Ray Longo said Sunday. “I still have to process it all.”
Weidman and Rockhold (15-2, 5-1) exchanged strikes and grappling through the first two rounds, with Weidman winning the first round on just one judge’s score card.
But it was the third round that made the difference. Weidman was starting to mount a comeback until he threw a spinning heel kick. The kick didn’t land, and Rockhold capitalized by moving in, gaining control of Weidman’s back and taking him to the ground. It was the first time Weidman, a two-time All-American wrestler at Hofstra, had been taken down in his UFC career.
Rockhold unloaded on Weidman for most of the final minute of the round, connecting with elbows and punches. Weidman, flat on his back with Rockhold whaling away, blocked several of the shots but absorbed much damage. That the referee didn’t stop the bout there surprised many.
“I’m going to say that was the game changer right there,” Longo said. “Without that kick, it’s probably going five rounds at that point.”
In the corner after the third round, Longo’s message was simple and honest.
“We gotta go for broke,” Longo recalled saying.
Weidman was trailing on all score cards at that point. All three judges scored the third round, 10-8, for Rockhold.
“It was quite the adrenaline dump realizing he was coming back after me in the fourth, and the man obviously came with it,” Rockhold said. “I know he’s a tough guy. I think he’s a cut above technically, and obviously toughness.”
Rockhold landed 161 strikes in total, compared with Weidman’s 62. Weidman found success with powerful right leg kicks to the body in the first three rounds, at one point landing a kick that had Rockhold turning around and moving out of the way to reset.
Weidman likely won’t get an immediate rematch despite being champion for more than two years and successfully defending his title three times. Rockhold figures to make his first defense against Yoel Romero, who defeated Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Saturday night. No official fight announcements were made by the UFC.
“As a trainer, I’ve been there with Matt [Serra] a couple times,” Longo said. “He’ll be back.”