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Luke Rockhold dethrones UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Luke Rockhold completed his rise atop the UFC middleweight division by climbing on top of Chris Weidman and punching a hole in the champion's undefeated record.

Rockhold claimed the UFC's 185-pound title Saturday night with a punishing fourth-round stoppage of Weidman at UFC 194.

Rockhold (15-2) finished it with brute style, pounding Weidman on the ground late in the third and again in the fourth. When referee Herb Dean finally pulled Rockhold off the bloodied Weidman (13-1), the new champion collapsed face-down on the canvas in relief.

"It's hard to take this all in," Rockhold said. "I went through hell to get here, but it's all worth it now."

Rockhold, a native of Santa Cruz, California, has stopped his last five opponents. The son of a pro basketball player and the brother of a pro surfer, he trains in the same Bay Area gym with light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier and former heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez.

And now Rockhold is the man who beat the man who beat Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest mixed martial artist in the sport's history.

Rockhold seized control of the fight when Weidman attempted to throw a wheel kick in the third round. Rockhold dodged it and took the champ to the ground — the first time Weidman had ever been taken down in a UFC fight.

"He shouldn't be trying that kind of stuff on me," Rockhold said.

The middleweights met in the co-main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on a card headlined by Conor McGregor's 13-second stoppage of featherweight champion Jose Aldo. For just the third time in UFC history, two undisputed title belts changed hands on the same card.

Weidman's fourth career title defense against top contender Rockhold was a tantalizing appetizer fit to headline almost any other UFC card. The bout matched the world's top two 185-pounders in the prime of their careers, and Rockhold backed up his incredible athleticism with a superb all-around performance.

The fighters didn't touch gloves to start, and they both landed solid blows in a competitive first round. Rockhold had control of Weidman in early stretches, and he gave a superior striking performance in the second round.

After the wheel kick went wrong, Rockhold rained blows on Weidman's head for the final minute of the third round, but Dean decided not to stop the fight. Rockhold got back on top again in the fourth, and Weidman finally couldn't defend himself effectively.

Weidman had reigned atop the division since dethroning Silva in 2013 and breaking Silva's leg in the rematch. Injuries limited Weidman's activity, but Rockhold established himself as the clear No. 1 contender with four straight UFC victories since a testosterone-aided Vitor Belfort stopped him in Rockhold's only loss in 14 fights since November 2007.

Rockhold was already asking UFC President Dana White for revenge.

"I'm not very impressed with what's going on in the division right now," Rockhold said. "All I can think of is Vitor Belfort on a silver platter. Give him to me, Dana!"

Weidman and Rockhold took a back seat to McGregor and Aldo during the event's promotion, but they also traded verbal jabs for several months after Rockhold called out the champion. Rockhold insisted Weidman had gaping holes in his game, while Weidman claimed Rockhold was unexceptional in any MMA discipline.

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