Rockhold cements contender status with win at UFC Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) - No. 3 middleweight Luke Rockhold beat David Branch with a flurry of strikes in the second round of a showdown between ranked fighters Saturday night, re-establishing himself as a top contender in the division.

Rockhold (16-3) took Branch to the ground in the second round and established top control, hammering blows on Branch's head and neck. Branch submitted 4:05 into the period.

Branch (21-4) showed off his boxing prowess early, backing Rockhold up against the cage with an aggressive attack in the first round. That led the jiu-jitsu-trained Rockhold to take him to the ground.

The fight was Rockhold's first since losing the middleweight title to Michael Bisping last June. Rockhold suffered a knee injury while training for a fight against Jacare Souza in November.

Branch, who entered the fight ranked ninth in the division, took his first defeat since May 25, 2012, breaking an 11-bout unbeaten streak.