Luke Rockhold (185) makes weight during the Strikeforce weigh-ins on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 in Cincinnati. Esther Lin, MMA Fighting.
This Saturday, Strikeforce presents their latest event, Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy. Headlined by a pair of title fights, the show features four main card fights airing on Showtime, plus five prelim fights. The prelims for this card are actually a bit better than normal, with fighters like Ryan Couture, Jorge Masvidal, and Mizuto Hirota all competing, but here, we'll focus on the four main card fights. Be sure to check Dallas Winston's great prelim dissection for more on those prelim fights. Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy airs this Saturday July 14 on Showtime, starting at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT.
The highlights here are clearly the two title fights. The title scene in Strikeforce has always been a little bumpy, but it's been even more messy ever since the Zuffa buyout, with numerous titles vacant. Gilbert Melendez has managed to bring some stability and credibility to the Lightweight title - can the winners here do the same at Middleweight and Welterweight?
Luke Rockhold looks to make his second defense of the belt here. He won it from Jacare last September in a mild upset, and defended it in a KO of Keith Jardine in January. Our rankings have him as the #7 Middleweight, but he's still not widely recognized as a real top level fighter. He brings a good mix of ground game and striking from his time at AKA, and he's faced a steadily rising level of competition, always succeeding. At 27 years old and 5 years into his career, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Tim Kennedy is well known for his decorated Army career, and has been able to juggle his time in the Army with his MMA career successfully so far. He really hit his stride in Strikeforce, and has gone 5-1 for the organization, with the lone loss coming against Jacare. Here, he comes in off a win over Robbie Lawler last July, but he has been inactive ever since. Kennedy has a greast story, and would make a very marketable champion, and he definitely has the skills to win this.
This one is for the Welterweight title, which has been vacant since Nick Diaz left for the UFC. Tyron Woodley is sort of the uncrowned champion, as he has used his wrestling to win 8 straight in Strikeforce. Like many wrestlers, he's also often accused of putting on incredibly boring fights that focus on control instead of damage. Nate Marquardt makes his Strikeforce debut here in what marks his return to action since his controversial departure from the UFC last summer over issues related to testosterone levels. It's also his Welterweight debut, as he was set to fight at 170 in his cancelled UFC bout, and last year in BAMMA, but neither fight materialized. He's a decorated veteran, with huge credentials, but this is an absolute must win for him.
Last two fights, plus more Strikeforce coverage in the full entry.
Roger Gracie (4-1) vs. Keith Jardine (17-10-2)
Keith Jardine fights for the 3rd time in Strikeforce here. Since being released from the UFC in 2010 on a 4 fight losing streak, Jardine has gone 2-2-1, with his biggest accomplishment being a draw with Gegard Mousasi last year. Jardine is a solid veteran, but his chin has always been a question mark and has become increasingly suspect over the years. At 36 years old, how much does he have left? Roger Gracie is one of the most accomplished submission grapplers we've ever seen in MMA. He has an incredible list of Jiu Jitsu credits to his name, but is now focused on his MMA career. He started that career going 4-0, and comes in here off the first loss of his career - a KO at the hands of King Mo. There's no doubt what Gracie will look to do here, which is drag The Dean of Mean down and tap him out.
Lorenz Larkin (12-0, 1 NC) vs. Robbie Lawler (19-8, 1 NC)
Ruthless Robbie Lawler is one of the true veterans of Strikeforce. An 11 year pro, Lawler has experience in the UFC, Pride, Elite XC, and Strikeforce. He's a long time training partner of Matt Hughes, first at Miletich Fighting Systems and now at The Hit Squad. Lawler is a powerful KO puncher, who has become more technical and patient over the years. But he's struggled to find consistency in Strikeforce, going 3-4. Lorenz Larkin comes in with some solid momentum and an undefeated record. His last fight was against King Mo. Lorenz was knocked out in the 2nd round of that fight, but when Mo later tested positive for steroids, the result was changed to a No Contest. He needs a win here to erase the memory of that KO, even if it was tainted.
More Bloody Elbow coverage of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy: