July 14, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Luke Rockhold celebrates his win over Tim Kennedy in the middleweight championship fight at MMA Strikeforce at the Rose Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
Another day, another MMA event. This time it was Strikeforce's turn and while most of the bouts went to decision, the card was fairly entertaining overall. I've been a big fan of Strikeforce forever, but it's really, really hard to get up for their shows when you just know they're in the death throes. We got to see one belt successfully defended tonight and another finally given to someone, yet there is no true challenger in line for either of them. Or the other two Strikeforce belts. If you're just looking for a fun night of MMA, Strikeforce almost always delivers and they did again tonight. If you're looking for relevance - well, that's a different story. Anyway, onto the winners and losers from tonight's show.
Luke Rockhold - He defended his belt for the second time and defeated a tough, legitimate opponent in the process. It wasn't the best MMA fight you'll see this month, but it certainly wasn't bad either. He was able to drop Kennedy in th fourth round and almost finished him, which is something I didn't expect. Rockhold's game has grown in leaps and bounds and he has firmly established himself as one of the top middleweights in the world. The biggest question is pretty obvious - who will he face next?
Nate Marquardt -When Nate's on, he's excellent. He wasn't timid at all, and he showed no fear of Woodley's vaunted wrestling. He's never had the best chin or striking defense and it's not all that surprising that he got hurt a couple of times. But he persevered and showed that he was the better fighter overall. And the finish was just a thing of beauty. Nate has taken a lot of heat over the last two years, and some of it was deserved. But this man is still one of the best fighters in the world, and he proved it tonight by stopping a very game, undefeated fighter in one of the best fights of 2012. It's just too bad he's in such a shallow division.
Roger Gracie - The drop to middleweight was a success, but not getting the finish definitely hurt his stock a bit. That might be a product of fan expectation being too high though. I'm interested to see where he goes in the division with such limited striking. I have absolutely no idea who he'll fight next, but just about anyone would be interesting.
Lorenz Larkin - Another guy that made a successful drop to 185. He got his bell rung early but worked through it and controlled Lawler the rest of the way. He proved me wrong by handling the weight cut just fine, and he's well-suited to the SF middleweight division. Some are calling for an immediate title shot, but I think that's very premature. It's nice that Strikeforce has some options in at least one division though.
Losers after the jump.
Tim Kennedy - I don't understand why he fought how he did. Coming out for rounds and walking to the center, only to immediately start backing up to the cage again? It wasn't Guida-like or anything - he engaged with Rockhold as soon as Rockhold waded in - but why back off so much? It looks terrible to the judges and he just didn't have the counterstriking ability to make it effective. He fought a solid fight, but he is a small step below the best guys in the division. There has been some talk that he is going to go back to active military duty if he lost tonight. If that's true, SF just lost another quality middleweight and a good test for the newbies in the division.
Tyron Woodley - He got brutally knocked out in a title fight, but there were a lot of positive signs. He showed off improved striking and did his best to prove he's not just a one-trick pony. He also showed better cardio that he has in previous fights. How he bounces back from this will say a lot about him though. Some guys just aren't the same after a loss like that, while others grow from it. Woodley seems like a smart, dedicated fighter and I think he'll rebound just fine.
Pat Healy - That was not the Pat Healy that we've seen in the Strikeforce cage lately. He got outwrestled by a smaller Japanese fighter over the first half of the fight, but still won a pretty disputed decision. That is not the kind of win that earns you title shots. Well, it wouldn't be in any other promotion anyway. In Strikeforce, he might still get it. Either way, this is one of those cases where a win can still be viewed as a step back. He's lucky there aren't really any other options at lightweight for the promotion.
Jason High - If you submit your opponent in 26 seconds and absolutely no one sees it or hears about it, did it really happen? High got straight up shafted by the promotion tonight. His bout was the only one shut out of TV, and it wasn't even featured in the preliminary show highlights that aired on the main card. He put on one of the most impressive performances on the card, he's 3-0 in a thin SF welterweight division, and they don't even have the decency to say his name? High was quite vocal on twitter after the card and he had every right to be. It's the only outlet he has available.