Strikeforce middleweight championship bout: Luke Rockhold (c) vs. Tim Kennedy
The Strikeforce middleweight championship is up for grabs as pretty boy Luke Rockhold puts his strap on the line against United States Army veteran Tim Kennedy. Rockhold is one of the very best middleweights in the world and proved that in his victories over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Keith Jardine, but he doesn’t get much credit because he’s in Strikeforce. Kennedy, though, knows just how talented his opponent is, and the two will finally end their quasi-feud in what has the makings of a great fight.
Rockhold is very tall and long for the middleweight division, and possesses a well-rounded skillset with his wrestling, knockout power, and submission prowess. Kennedy, on the other hand, is one of the toughest, most game fighters in the sport and is pretty well-rounded himself. Still, though, I don’t think he has the natural athleticism or talent that Rockhold possesses, and that’s why I see him being a little bit below Rockhold in most facets of the game.
Still, though, Kennedy’s tough as nails, and he’s very hard to finish. And while I see Rockhold scoring the decision here, it should still be a close and competitive fight, one in which Kennedy could easily steal a round or two. But I do like Rockhold to win and further prove why he might be the most underrated middleweight in the world.
Pick: Luke Rockhold via unanimous decision
Vacant Strikeforce welterweight championship bout: Tyron Woodley vs. Nate Marquardt
The vacant Strikeforce welterweight title is up for grabs as Tyron Woodley takes on former UFC title challenger Nate Marquardt, who is making his welterweight debut. Marquardt was a long-time stalwart of the UFC middleweight division, but after some problems with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission he was booted from the UFC by Dana White and has been out of action since last March as he tried his best to work his way back into the good books of Zuffa. But he did so, and Zuffa signed him to a Strikeforce contract to redeem himself and provide a legitimate challenge for Woodley, the undefeated wrestler.
Woodley, despite an unblemished record, is also considered by many observers of the sport to have one of the least entertaining fight styles out there. Thought he started off his Strikeforce career with a number of submission victories, he’s basically held guys down and tried to ride them to a decision in his last few outings. His fights against Jorden Mein and Paul Daley were very hard to watch at times, and there’s concern that, if Marquardt can’t stop his powerful takedowns, this will be another boring match.
Unfortunately I don’t see Marquardt’s takedown defence holding up for five rounds, and I see Woodley pretty much looking to take the fight to the ground whenever he can and try and win the fight via points. Although Marquardt will definitely be big and strong at welterweight, and although he has knockout power in his hands, I don’t think he’ll be able to use it as Woodley holds him down and grinds out a five-round unanimous decision victory.
Pick: Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision
Middleweight bout: Roger Gracie vs. Keith Jardine
Keith Jardine had his first career middleweight fight in his last outing, losing via first-round KO to Rockhold. But Rockhold is one of the top five or 10 middleweights in the world and, after coming down in weight and scoring a fluke draw with Gegard Mousasi, Jardine had no business being in the cage with him that night and it showed. However, if there was one thing to take away from that fight it’s that Jardine can make 185 under the guidance of nutritionist Mike Dolce.
Similarly, Roger Gracie is dropping down for his first middleweight contest, but according to Showtime commentators Mauro Ranallo and Pat Miletich, he’s struggling to make the weight. And it’s not surprising considering he’s 6’5″, and no one that height should be weighing 185 pounds. I already liked Jardine — with his experience, his unorthodox striking style, and his wrestling — before I heard Gracie was struggling to make weight, and with the world Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Gracie not being a knockout threat, I can’t take him over Jardine, especially since Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal showed that Gracie’s chin can be cracked, headbutt or not. I think Jardine will score the underdog victory tomorrow night in emphatic fashion as he makes his claim to become the new gatekeeper of the Strikeforce middleweight division.
Pick: Keith Jardine via first-round TKO
Middleweight bout: Lorenz Larkin vs. Robbie Lawler
After his opponent Lawal tested positive for banned substances in his system, Lorenz’ Larkin’s KO loss to the recent Bellator signee was changed into a no contest and now he looks to take his undefeated record to middleweight when he takes on veteran Robbie Lawler, who is fresh off a fantastic flying knee knockout victory over Adlan Amagov in his last Strikeforce appearance. Although Larkin, coming down from 205, will surely hold the size advantage in this fight, he showed in the bout with Lawal that he can be knocked out and Lawler is one of the sport’s all-time knockout artists. Although Lawler isn’t talked about much anymore, he still possesses the potential in his hands to end fights, and I think he’ll score the knockout blow tomorrow night and keep his name in the hat as a contender in the shallow Strikeforce middleweight division.
Pick: Robbie Lawler via second-round TKO
Lightweight bout: Pat Healy vs. Mizuto Hirota
Quick pick: Pat Healy via second-round submission
Lightweight bout: Jorge Masvidal vs. Justin Wilcox
Quick pick: Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision
Lightweight bout: Joe Duarte vs. Ryan Couture
Quick pick: Joe Duarte via split decision
Welterweight bout: Jordan Mein vs. Tyler Stinson
Quick pick: Jordan Mein via third-round TKO
Welterweight bout: Jason High vs. Nate Moore
Quick pick: Jason High via unanimous decision