Strikeforce held an event in the State of Oregon for the first time in organization’s history with a stacked card that produced a number of exciting fights.
Two title fights headlined the event as Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy fought in the main event for the middleweight championship while Nate Marquardt and Tyron Woodley met for the vacant welterweight belt in the co-main event. Rockhold defended his belt for the second time as he defeated Kennedy by unanimous decision in a very tough and close fight. The Marquardt vs. Woodley bout was one of the best fights of the year as Marquardt scored a memorable fourth-round knockout finish after a gritty battle to become the first Strikeforce welterweight champion since Nick Diaz vacated the belt to move to the UFC in mid-2011.
The card produced some very competitive fights but few finishes were delivered, and the event was heavy on decisions as seven of the nine bouts on the card went to the judge’s scorecards.
Catch my Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy post-fight thoughts and analysis for the main card below.
- Luke Rockhold became the first man in Strikeforce history to defend the middleweight championship more than once when he defeated Tim Kennedy by unanimous decision in the main event on Showtime. It was a strong performance by the championship, as he was able to fend off a majority of Kennedy’s takedown attempts and stay on the outside to land his strikes, which is exactly how he wanted the fight to play out. Rockhold nearly knocked Kennedy out with a right hook in the fourth round but the quick recovery skills of the former Army serviceman allowed him to stay in the fight and compete until the final bell. Ultimately though, Rockhold controlled most of the 25-minutes of action and that’s why he won the decision. There is no clear-cut next challenge for Rockhold in Strikeforce and while many people would like to see him fight the best in the world in the UFC, we know that’s not going to happen anytime soon. It should be interesting to see what the Strikeforce matchmakers muster up for Rockhold’s third title defense.
- Nate Marquardt had a highlight reel start to his run under the Strikeforce banner with an absolutely brutal fourth round knockout of Tyron Woodley to win the vacant Strikeforce welterweight championship of the world. Marquardt and Woodley put on a great back-and-forth fight for three rounds and change before the knockout finish came. Both fighters were hurt on multiple occasions throughout the bout, but neither man was able to do enough damage to finish the fight until Marquardt’s final flurry came out of nowhere to give Woodley the first loss of his professional career. Marquardt looked in outstanding physical condition for his first fight at welterweight and clearly the drop in weight class was the right decision, as his power and conditioning didn’t seem hindered in the slightest. The finish was nasty as Marquardt landed three elbows to the head of Woodley against the cage followed by a clean uppercut that put Woodley’s lights out and ended the fight. Just a tremendous performance by “Nate The Great” and judging by the way he looked tonight, it is going to be very difficult for any 170-pound fighter on the Strikeforce roster to dethrone the new champion.
- Roger Gracie was victorious in his 185-pound debut, earning a lopsided unanimous decision win against Keith Jardine. Jardine was put on his back in the early going of the first and second rounds and spent pretty much the entire time on his back, simply surviving and avoiding the submission of Gracie. While Jardine had his mind on the submission attempts, Gracie worked some nice ground-and-pound that opened a cringe-worthy cut on the forehead of “The Dean of Mean”. Trailing two rounds to none, the third round was Jardine’s best as he managed to keep the fight standing and arguable won the round. However, it was too little too late as he was unable to use his superior striking and advantage to score the much-needed fight ending shot. Jardine’s ability to avoid the submission prowess of Gracie in the first two rounds deserves applause, but that doesn’t make up for the loss. Overall, it was a great performance by Gracie except for the fact he looked slightly gassed in the final round. That said, he gets a pass considering it was the former heavyweight’s first cut down to middleweight. Only six fights into his professional MMA career, there is still a lot of room to grow for Gracie, but a win over a gritty veteran like Jardine is a solid addition to his resume.
- Lorenz Larkin looked spectacular in is middleweight debut. “The Monsoon” outworked veteran Robbie Lawler to earn a unanimous decision victory by throwing and landing a diverse set of strikes in the opening fight of the Showtime broadcast. After getting wobbled by Lawler in the early moments of the first round, Larkin recovered, found his groove and was the much busier striker compared to his more experienced opponent. The decision was well deserved and after a very tough weight cut, the 25-year-old showed no signs of fatigue from going 15 hard-fought minutes. The high point in the fight for Larkin came in the second round when he landed a grazing head kick that came inches from taking Lawler’s head off. Even though it didn’t connect flush, the grazing kick cut Lawler open and blood began pouring out. Larkin is a very young fighter with a lot of potential, if he is given the proper amount of time to develop then he has a good chance of becoming a top-10 middleweight in the future.