Souza-Rockhold-Strikeforce-0911-3617After stumbling against Vitor Belfort and then rebounding against Costas Philippou, former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold wants to take the express route to UFC title contention.

His next opportunity to take a step towards the belt currently wrapped around Chris Weidman’s waist will come against Tim Boetsch.

Rockhold and Boetsch will square off as part of the UFC 172: Jones vs. Teixeira fight card slated for April 26 in Baltimore, Md. UFC officials announced the bout Tuesday morning.

Rockhold moved over to the UFC with the rest of the Strikeforce roster when Zuffa shuttered the promotion early last year. Having held the middleweight championship for Strikeforce, Rockhold was expected to move immediately into contention in the Octagon.

He stumbled out of the gate, however, becoming one of the latest head-kick knockout victims of a streaking Vitor Belfort.

After taking a few months to regroup, Rockhold returned to headline a UFC Fight Night in Atlanta last month, where he was the one scoring the knockout blow. He dropped Costas Philippou with a kick to the body, earning Knockout of the Night honors and moving a rung up the middleweight ladder.

Boetsch (17-6) had been streaking towards a 185-pound title shot himself, winning his first four fights after dropping from 205 pounds down to 185, including victories over highly touted fighters Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.

He then dropped back-to-back bouts to Philippou and Mark Munoz, however, derailing his championship aspirations.

Boetsch’s most recent trip to the Octagon saw him get back in the win column with a split-decision victory over C.B. Dollaway last October in Houston. A victory over the former Strikeforce champion would catapult him back into the upper echelon of the weight class.

UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones clashes with Glover Teixeira in the UFC 172 headliner.

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