Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy ended up being a great card. Mostly overlooked because of Ronda Rousey’s upcoming fight, the card had two championship fights that didn’t disappoint and even included two fights on the main card that were also action-packed bouts.
The Portland crowd was witness to Luke Rockhold’s second title defense as Strikeforce middleweight kingpin and even witnessed the return of Nate Marquardt as he won the vacant Strikeforce welterweight crown.
The main card also featured two light heavyweights dropping to middleweight, as Roger Gracie and Lorenz Larkin beat Keith Jardine and Robbie Lawler respectively in their new weight class.
Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold improved in this fight, and it was definitely noticeable. Kennedy tried repeatedly to take down Rockhold, but Rockhold’s wrestling improved enough going into this fight that he was able to avoid getting taken down for most of the bout.
Rockhold was able to stifle Kennedy with his striking, and in the fourth, he came close to ending the fight when he clipped Kennedy. That was the closest the fight came to being ended.
In the end, Rockhold pushed a good enough pace and outclassed Kennedy in a five-round war that earned Rockhold his second title defense.
Marquardt made his return to the cage with an excellent display against Woodley. Marquardt did an excellent job of neutralizing Woodley with crisp striking that had Woodley rocked throughout the second round.
In the third round though, Woodley seemed to push through fully recovered and did well. He was able to push off Marquardt for most of the round. The fourth round went in Marquardt’s favor when he landed a few elbows and two finishing uppercuts to what seemed like an already knocked out Woodley.
Marquardt won the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title with that beautiful execution to finish the fight.
Gracie made his middleweight debut against Jardine and dominated in the first two rounds.
The first round saw Gracie get the fight to the ground, but it was nothing compared to how he performed in the second round. Gracie got Jardine to the ground and eventually cut him open. Blood poured from his face onto the mat, making it tough for Gracie to submit Jardine.
Gracie couldn’t seem to get his arm under the chin of Jardine—and the blood probably had something to do with it—and he couldn’t finish the rear-naked choke. Gracie dominated the round with his excellent top control and even threw in some vicious strikes. Two judges scored the round 10-8 in favor of Gracie.
Gracie slowed down in the third and Jardine took advantage, but it was too little, too late as Gracie won the unanimous decision nod.
Like Gracie, this was Larkin’s debut at middleweight. Larkin looked really good and dictated the pace of the fight and was able to make Lawler fight his game.
Lawler couldn’t find an answer to anything Larkin was throwing, and outside of the first three minutes he seemed pretty average. Lawler was able to rock Larkin early, but Larkin pressed forward and in the last two rounds he wore out Lawler utilizing all kinds of strikes and eventually earned the decision victory.
Nate Marquardt def. Tyron Woodley by knockout (elbows and uppercuts), Round 4, 1:39
Roger Gracie def. Keith Jardine by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Lorenz Larkin def. Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Pat Healy def. Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Ryan Couture def. Joe Duarte by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Jorge Masvidal def. Justin Wilcox by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Jordan Mein def. Tyler Stinson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jason High def. Nate Moore by submission (guillotine choke), Round 1, 0:26
Photo: Luke Rockhold (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)