Rockhold (16-5 MMA, 6-4 UFC) returns from a more than three-year layoff to face former title challenger Paulo Costa (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 278 on Aug. 20. Despite Costa losing his most recent bout to Marvin Vettori last October, Sonnen thinks he’s a tough comeback fight for former middleweight champion Rockhold.
“You have two guys that everybody’s scared of,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel. “There’s a way to beat Paulo Costa, but only one guy has showed us it, and there was a few moving parts there. I gotta take the Vettori fight out. That might not be fair to do, but I gotta take the Vettori fight out. It was missed weight, everything got a little bit goofy, it was very competitive, it was close both ways, Vettori got his hand raised.
“I gotta move that out, because it wasn’t at 185. And there’s a way to beat Luke, but you got to have incredible power, and you got to find that spot. Now that happens to be two tools that Paulo Costa has. It’s just an interesting fight.”
Rockhold has struggled to return to top form, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuously fighting elite-level competition. His past two knockout losses came at the hands of multiple-time title challenger Yoel Romero and ex-champ Jan Blachowicz, and Sonnen praised Rockhold for never shying away from a challenge, especially how injury-ridden his path has been.
“But Luke has also been out for a meaningful period of time. He’s walking right in there against The Terminator,” Sonnen said. “I really think that’s the part of Luke Rockhold’s story that people don’t talk about. That dude might be pleasant to look at, (but) that dude is a straight up badass. Luke doesn’t get in there with anybody easy. Not to mention, getting in there with Paulo Costa on your best of days is a trying situation. To get on there when you’re off of a break, I feel that he should get more credit.”