Luke Rockhold defeats Tim Kennedy to retain Strikeforce middleweight belt
PORTLAND, Ore. - Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold became the first fighter in the promotion's history to defend the 185-pound belt twice successfully, earning a unanimous-decision over Tim Kennedy on Saturday night.
Rockhold used a sizable reach advantage to pick Kennedy apart while outmuscling and outscrambling the challenger on the ground en route to claiming four of five rounds on all three judges' cards.
Kennedy showed moments of brilliance, especially early in the fight, but it quickly became obvious that he lacked the intensity necessary to unseat the champion. Rockhold was simply too big and too strong for five rounds, and his work ethic matched his physical tools. Despite the impressive performance, Rockhold was not entirely pleased with the result.
"I could've let a couple combinations go," Rockhold said. "He does some funky stuff. It's hard to let things go when you know he's going to shoot."
With the win, Rockhold (10-1) has now earned nine-straight victories and is generating some real buzz among MMA pundits about his place among the world's best middleweights. Kennedy (14-4), meanwhile, failed in his second bid for the Strikeforce middleweight title.
In the night's co-main event, Strikeforce newcomer Nate Marquardt claimed the promotion's vacant welterweight title with a vicious fourth-round knockout of the previously-undefeated Tyron Woodley
Fighting for the first time in 16 months, the 13-year veteran turned in one of the best performances of his career by fending off Woodley's vaunted takedown attacks and answering with an astounding striking accuracy of 76 per cent.
After dropping the opening two rounds, Woodley looked to mount a comeback in the third, but referee Dave Hagen halted the wrestler's efforts by calling for what seemed to be a premature standup and forcing the fighters to reset on their feet. The move prevented Woodley from gathering a second wind, and Marquardy made him pay in the fourth.
With Marquardt appearing to hold plenty of energy in reserve, he unleashed a brutal combination that started with two pinpoint elbows and a pair of thunderous uppercuts that sent Woodley crumpling to the canvas at the 1:39 mark of the fourth round.
With the win, Marquardt (32-10-2) claimed the Strikeforce welterweight title, which was vacated in 2011 when then-champ Nick Diaz migrated to the UFC. Woodley (10-1) lost for the first time as a professional.
On the night's preliminary card, Canadian prospect Jordan Mein improved to 7-1 in his past eight fights with a one-sided decision win over six-year veteran Tyler Stinson.
The 22-year-old Lethbridge, Alta., resident dominated the action from the opening bell. A combination of textbook footwork and impressive head movement left Mein in complete control of both the distance and pacing of the engagement, and the youngster landed frequently with straight punches and power hooks while outboxing Stinson for 15 minutes.
In the end, Stinson's battered right eye told the story of the fight, and statistics at the final bell showed Mein held a 93-54 edge in strikes. The action was easy for cageside judges to evaluate, and all three awarded Mein the victory by a 30-27 margin.
"This is a really gratifying win," Mein said. "I knew as long as I continued to land on the feet I was in good shape on the cards. Scoring those cuts early in the round and closing up his eye certainly helped, too."
Mein's lone loss under the Strikeforce banner was a controversial split decision to Woodley this past January and he appears primed to remain a factor in the promotion's 170-pound division for years to come. Stinson showed his durability in a gritty performance but has now dropped two straight fights.