Tonight's Strikeforce event was filled with fighter's failing to capitalize on opportunities and fighter's finding success at a new weight class.
Prior to his fight against Tim Kennedy, Luke Rockhold was being compared to Chris Weidman. It's not that they had similar fighting styles or even similar looks, but the comparisons were being made due to the similar opportunities both men had.
Weidman faced a veteran, top middleweight in Mark Munoz, and he absolutely destroyed Munoz, cementing himself as an elite middleweight. Rockhold faced a veteran, top middleweight in Tim Kennedy, and he proceeded to win a close fight, cementing himself as an above average middleweight.
There is nothing wrong with Rockhold's performance; it's just that the expectations were great for Strikeforce's Middleweight Champion. Those large expectations weren't filled, and the idea of Rockhold hanging with the elite middleweights in the UFC isn't pretty.
He still has time to grow at 27 years old, and he's shown constant improvement with his wrestling game. Only time will until if Rockhold can make an argument for being the best middleweight on the planet, but tonight he didn't look the part.
The stars were aligning for Pat Healy to challenge for Gilbert Melendez's title with a dominate win over Mizuto Hirota, but Healy's victory over Hirota was anything but dominant. Healy was awarded a questionable decision by the judges. Personally I had it 29-28 Healy, I think without a doubt Hirota won the first round, but the last two are certainly debatable.
The rest after the break.
Surprisingly, Healy was outgrappled by Hirota in the early parts of the fight, and he was on the receiving end of Hirota's powerful left punch throughout the fight. Healy won the last two rounds with dominant positions, but they were close periods that likely would have gone the other way had the bout taken place in the land of the rising sun.
The bottom line is that Healy disappointed with this performance against Hirota, and it's hard to vindicate a title shot for Healy, especially since an exciting re-re-rematch between Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez is on the table.
Nate Marquardt returned to the sport after a year and a half lay-off, and there was no ring rust to be seen. The fight played out mostly on the feet, but Marquardt was able to win the wrestling battle against the All-American wrestler in Tyron Woodley, in fact he was able to take him down.
The striking of Marquardt was accurate, and as the fight progressed he was landing more and more significant strikes. He was able to knockout Woodley in brutal fashion, and Marquardt should be able to hold onto the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship for quite a while in a division that is rather shallow.
As far as how Marquardt would fare against the UFC's best welterweights, I believe he would a lot of trouble against the top tier of guys, but he'd have a serious shot at beating Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, and other fighters on that tier.
At 6 foot 4 in, Roger Gracie is a giant middleweight, and if his conditioning improves, he could be a formidable one. He absolutely destroyed Keith Jardine in the first two rounds with take-downs, grappling, and nasty ground and pound. The only thing Jardine could do in the first two periods was survive.
Gracie looked great in the first two-thirds of the fight, but what worried me about him was the third round. He was tired, likely from the weight cut, and he just coasted through the third round. Had Gracie competed against a Rockhold or Kennedy, he would have paid for that lack of aggressiveness dearly in the third round.
The other fight to move to the middleweight class was Lorenz Larkin, and he showed great stand-up skills in a mostly stand-up fight against Robbie Lawler, a powerful, skilled striker. I'm becoming a fan of Larkin, he can do some damage in the middleweight division, and he's probably a fight or two away from challenging Luke Rockhold in a fight between two of Strikeforce's home grown talents.
On the undercard, Ryan Couture showed fortitude and heart in a split decision victory over Joe Duarte. After losing the first round, Couture came back in the second round fueled by his willpower to win. Jorge Masvidal employed his reach and counterstrike Justin Wilcox to win the other split decision of the night. Jordan Mein's technical striking was on display in a decision victory over Tyler Stinson, and despite not being on TV, Jason High recorded a quick guillotine submission victory over Nate Moore.