Strikeforce were back in action last night with two title's on the line, as Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold successfully defended his title for a second time against Tim Kennedy and Tyron Woodley suffered the first loss of his career to Nate Marquardt, who won the vacant Welterweight Championship from inside the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Rockhold Outworks Kennedy To Retain Title
Luke Rockhold retained his title in Portland, Oregon last night in a hard fought victory over top contender Tim Kennedy, although his performance wasn't his greatest inside the cage, Rockhold did enough to take home the win and keep hold of the belt.
The pair went back and forth from the outset, Rockhold utilized the clinch early to land knee's to the body and thigh's. The Champion scored with a big right hand in the first round that seemed to have Kennedy in trouble but rather than go all out, Rockhold again went to work the clinch. Kennedy did have it his way in the opening round too with a powerful takedown, Rockhold looked for a Kimura but was unable to execute it and the fight made it's way back to the feet.
In the second round the Champion began to connect more fluidly but again Kennedy when he got inside looked to land big punches. Kennedy looked for a couple of takedown's but couldn't complete them. The third and fouth round went in similar fashion with both men engaging with punches and kick's, while Kennedy looked to take the fight to the ground but Rockhold showed good defence and composure to keep the fight where he wanted it.
In the last round the two exchanged, while Kennedy again had his takedown's stuffed. Rockhold did manage to score his own takedown but not for long as the fight got back the feet and the two threw down until the end of the round and the fight. Rockhold picked up the decision 49-46 on all the judges scorecard's.
Rockhold didnt look at his greatest but he still managed to control the fight for almost all of it. The current Champ doesn't have too many stand out challenger's available to him in the Strikeforce rank's so it may be a case of being a matter of time before we see him in the Octagon. One match up that would be a good test for Rockhold would be against Lorenz Larkin who impressed in his 185lbs debut on the same card.
Tim Kennedy is still a serving US Army Staff Sergant, whilst carving out his MMA career so to be able to combine the two is an achievement in itself. Kennedy is a tough opponent to face and is definalty one of the best in the Strikeforce rank's. I think a match up with another loser on the night's card Keith Jardine is a good tune up fight for Kennedy.
Marquardt Steal's The Show With 4th Round KO of Woodley
Nathan Marquardt and Tyron Woodley put on a great show last night, but it was Marquardt who took home the prize after scoring a devastating 4th Round KO over his opponent. The former UFC MIddleweight Number 1 contender was making his debut in Strikeforce and his debut as a Welterweight when he took on Woodley for the vacant 170lbs title.
The first round kicked off and Woodley looked to make a statement from the offset, swinging big punches till one connected leaving Marquardt dazed and staggering, Woodley shot in and took the fight to the ground but lost his momentum in doing so. Marquardt recovered and responded by himself landing flush and knocking Woodley down, who immediately responded with a failed takedown attempt, the round closed with Marquardt in a strong position.
The second round's biggest shock was the easiness in which Marquardt took down his opponent, not something you would have expected against a standout wrestler like Woodley. The round again was a back and forth battle, but a quieter one at that. Woodley picked up the pace in the third, again staggering Marquardt with some big punches before taking him down and working some big ground and pound. Nate came back towards the end but Woodley's hard work had paid off in the early part of the round.
The four and what turned out to be climactic round saw Woodley beggining to tire, Marquardt still full of life, made it count. Scoring with some big standing elbow's, Marquardt had Woodley back against the cage where he unleashed a brutal combination and two huge uppercut's that dropped and finished Woodley. Marquardt become's the 170lbs Champion.
Both fighter's put on one hell of a show, Marquardt hadn't competed since his last UFC fight in March 2011 but didn't look as if he'd been away from action at all. At 185lbs, Marquardt was one of the best in the world if you removed Anderson Silva from the equation. At Welterweight, he's an all together different prospect. Nate's made no secret of his desire to make it back to the UFC, and I'm certain Dana and co. will be alittle more forthcoming after watching his performance last night. I think Marquardt will defend his Strikeforce title in the meantime possibly against Kazuo Misaki.
Tyron Woodley was handed his first loss but can take alot of heart from his performance. He took on one of the best in the world and until his cardio began to fade, was in the fight for the duration. Woodley would make a good addition to the UFC rank's but again I think another Strikeforce fight is on the card's, with Nah-Shon Burrell a good return fight option.
Gracie Proves He Has More To Offer Than Submission With Beatdown of Jardine
A Middleweight contest between two fighter's who recently dropped from 205lbs also took place last night, as Submission's ace Roger Gracie showed more to his game than slick submission's as he laid a beating on Keith Jardine. Jardine came out from the start looking to take the fight to his opponent in the stand up, but Gracie looked more than confident in his ability to stand with the Former UFC vet. Jardine was over eager engaging and ended up being dragged to the mat after Gracie secured a body lock. Gracie showed some of his grappling credential's, transitioning his way to the mount position. Although unable to secure any submission, Gracie landed some big elbows in the final minute of the round to leave Jardine in a world of trouble
A bloodied up Jardine came out for the second and tried in vain to get the fight to lean in his favour, but his overzealousness again lead to his downfall and he was once again took down to the ground. Gracie took his back this time, and again the submission finish allouded him. Gracie landed with ground and pound over and over, more nasty elbow's landed to the head of a worn out Jardine.
In the final round Jardine looked as if the game plan had finally clicked, only two round's too late. Fighting from the outside instead rushing in and making mistake's, The Dean of Mean landed some well placed uppercut's but wasn't able to land that telling strike to end the fight. In the end the danage had been done, Gracie walked the first two round's and picked up a victory on his Middleweight debut.
Gracie looked impressive at 185lbs, although Jardine is struggling for form, the submission whizz showed a more developed and well rounded game to highlight his other strength's in MMA. I think that Gracie may not be too far away from a shot at the title with a couple of more win's, mainly because of the lack of top talent on the Strikeforce roster, a match up with the winner of the Ronaldo Souza and Derek Brunson may decide a future title challenger.
Larkin Grab's Debut Middleweight Win Over Lawlor
Seasoned vet, Robbie Lawlor took on Lorenz Larkin last night, in what was Larkin's first fight as a Middleweight. Lawler started the fight strongly in his usual fashion, clocking his opponent with a short right hand that had the former Light Heavyweight reeling. Lawler swarmed but was unable to land the decisive blow to finish the fight. Lawlor controlled the majoity of the first round, until Larkin tripped Lawlor to the ground and followed up with some heavy ground and pound to end the round strong.
In the second and third round's Lawler seemed hesitant as Larkin began to take a stranglehold on the fight. Landing a varied attack of kick's to the leg and body, while also landing with some telling punches. In the end Larkin breezed the final round's to walk home the victor. Lawler's first round burst was all he had to offer and looked like a punching bag for the remainder of the fight. Larkin picked up an easy Unanimous decision win.
Larkin successully made the cut in weight to 185 and also picked up a victory to keep his undefeated record in tact. He hardly looked like a world beater, but he went about his work with relative ease after a tricky opening couple of minutes. Despite the lackluster performance, I think Larkin may be next in line to take on Champion Luke Rockhold in his next outing
For Robbie Lawlor it will have been a frustrating evening, after starting the fight well, he was completely dominated by his opponent for the final two round's. Like Keith Jardine his saving grace maybe the fact of the lack of depth in the Strikeforce roster and I think the two will square off next.
Check out the video highlight's of the two main fight's below