By Steve Davies – mmabay.co.uk
Rockhold makes statement, destroys Jardine in round one of first title defence
Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold’s fine run of form continued last night as the American Kickboxing Academy prospect looked to prove his victory over former champion Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza was no flash in the pan. The Californian’s first title defence came against former UFC veteran Keith Jardine – making his first appearance at 185lbs, and looking like death warmed up at the weigh-ins – and Rockhold made it look like a walk in the park.
As expected, Jardine came out game and tried to get in the champion’s grill but once Rockhold started putting his kicks together – including some decent turning kicks to the body – ‘The Dean of Mean’ unravelled like a cheap Christmas jumper. Rockhold floored Jardine with a right hand, then staggered the challenger again when he regained his footing before dropping Jardine twice against the cage. Herb Dean gave Jardine time to recover but further punches forced his hand at 4:26 of the first round, giving Rockhold the TKO stoppage.
Next for Rockhold: Rockhold moves to 9-1 and the 6ft 3in middleweight is beginning to really look the part, but let’s not get too carried away here. The AKA fighter called out the UFC’s best talent but the reality is, Rockhold’s challengers are few and far between in Strikeforce – a title fight with Tim Kennedy is not only a potential classic, it’s also the only fight that makes sense right now.
Next for Jardine: Whether he’s given another fight in Strikeforce or not, I hope we never see Keith Jardine fighting at 185lbs again – it did not look a good weight-cut, to say the least. Always game to take on the best, ‘The Dean of Mean’ might have done so for the last time, in Zuffa-owned companies at least.
Lawler plays spoiler, blitzes surging prospect Amagov in first round
After a demoralising decision loss to Tim Kennedy at the tail-end of last year, ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler returned to the cage last night to try and halt the charge of Russian wrecking machine, Adlan Amagov. It was expected to be a slugfest, and the fans got what they wanted as Lawler threw down the gauntlet and made short work of the Russian kickboxer.
Amagov’s tactics appeared spot-on at first when he overpowered Lawler to the mat but an illegal knee to the head of the downed Lawler forced the stoppage and saw Amagov have a point deducted. When action resumed, Lawler suddenly threw an awkward flying knee of sorts that grazed Amagov and crumpled him off-balance onto his front where Lawler landed a series of vicious left hands to end the fight. The TKO stoppage came just 1:48 of the first round.
Next for Lawler: Who knows? Looking at the available names, there are barely any that jump out as being a step-up or a logical fight for the ‘Ruthless’ one. The best suggestion would be for Lawler to rematch ‘Jacare’ Souza with the winner getting a shot at the title down the line.
Next for Amagov: It’s back to square one for the dynamic striker but Amagov will be back and had he not made a schoolboy error, he could have won that fight with his grappling. A fight with Lumumba Sayers or Benji Radach on a future ‘Challengers’ card is most likely for the Russian.
‘King Mo’ reigns supreme, puts Larkin through the mill en route to TKO stoppage
Another surging prospect was handed a harsh reality check last night as light-heavyweight Lorenz ‘The Monsoon’ Larkin found out the hard way that playing with the big boys is a different story altogether. Former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal was the teacher, and he dished out a painful lesson to the undefeated Larkin.
‘King Mo’ barely broke a sweat, quickly grounding the flashy striker with a single-leg and containing him for the first round before picking up where he left off in round two. Lawal unloaded with right hands from the guard of Larkin who was pinned in position by ‘King Mo’s left arm and after his lights seemed to flicker, Kim Winslow eventually stepped in at 1:32 of the second round to hand Lawal a decisive victory.
Next for Lawal: The Strikeforce 205lb title is still vacant but you can bet ‘King Mo’ will be rematching Gegard Mousasi or Rafael Feijao in the coming months with the winner being crowned champion. Lawal has signed a new four-fight contract with Strikeforce and his personality and marketability will be crucial for the promotion’s success in 2012.
Next for Larkin: ‘The Monsoon’ was way out of his depth but has always been considered a small 205lb’er. Expect the kung fu stylist to hit the gym hard and make his middleweight debut later in the year.
‘T-Wood’ scrapes by Mein, split decision puts him in line for title fight
Unbeaten welterweight prospect Tyron Woodley kept his record intact last night as he edged out impressive Canadian youngster Jordan Mein to put himself in title contention but the wrestler will have won few new fans in the process.
As expected, ‘T-Wood’ imposed his elite wrestling from the off and Mein had little answer for it although he did his best to stay active and try to score points off his back with elbows. But Woodley was too seasoned for ‘Young Gun’ and the Missouri native cruised to what should probably have been a unanimous decision but one judge saw the fight in favour of the Canadian.
Next for Woodley: The wrestler is now 10-0 and 8-0 in Strikeforce, meaning a title fight is pretty much locked for Woodley in the coming months. The problem is, the only relatively worthy contender is Tarec Saffiedine, a man who Woodley has already beaten handily and limped to victory himself last night. Hardly a mouth-watering prospective title fight, but welcome to Strikeforce in 2012……
Next for Mein: The plucky youngster should hold his head high as he never gave in despite being frustrated by a better wrestler. Mein will be back in action soon enough, a fight with Scott Smith might be decent filler for an upcoming major fight card.
Saffiedine ekes out decision over Stinson in bloodbath
The card was opened by another welterweight scrap, this one seeing Belgian prospect Tarec ‘Sponge’ Saffiedine take on heavy-handed banger Tyler ‘The Evolution’ Stinson in what turned into a bloody war of attrition.
The taller Stinson surprised us in round one as he out-struck the usually pinpoint striker and opened up a nasty cut around the eye area but Saffiedine followed a rigid game-plan in the next two rounds that revolved around his wrestling. ‘Sponge’ showed that training with Team Quest has paid off as he wore down the resolve of Stinson and returned the favour by busting him open on the mat. After three gruelling rounds, Saffiedine sneaked the split decision.
Next for Saffiedine: ‘Sponge’ has won back-to-back fights and the Belgian is more than likely going to fight Tyron Woodley later in the year in a rematch with higher stakes as the title will be on the line.
Next for Stinson: ‘The Evolution’ played his part and came close to raising a few eyebrows. Stinson clearly has talent and is a natural fighter, we could see him on a ‘Challengers’ card against fellow prospect Jordan Mein.
That’s a wrap for ‘Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine’, the first Zuffa fight card of 2012. In six days time, ‘UFC 142: Aldo vs. Mendes’ goes down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so make sure to hit up MMABay to keep on top of all the breaking news surrounding the card.