Top MMA News Breaks Down Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy
Strikeforce returns on July 14th as they make their way to the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The event will be headlined by current Strikeforce Middleweight title holder Luke Rockhold as he defends his belt against U.S. Army veteran Tim Kennedy. The co-main event on the card will be for the vacant Strikeforce Welterweight title as UFC veteran Nate Marquardt makes his long awaited return to step in the cage with Tyron Woodley. Canadian Jordan Mein returns to action on the preliminary card as well. The four main card bouts will be aired on the Superchannel in Canada and Showtime in the U.S. The preliminary fights will air on Showtime Extreme in the U.S.
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship Bout
Champion Luke Rockhold (9-1) vs. Tim Kennedy (14-3)
After a close decision to win the title back in September against Ronaldo Souza, Luke Rockhold returned in January against Keith Jardine and looked extremely impressive in putting away the former UFC veteran. He now goes up against Tim Kennedy, who fought for the title nearly two years ago against Souza and lost a razor thin decision. Both fighters are talented and underappreciated considering their lack of competition at this stage. Kennedy has not fought since last July when he looked mediocre in a decision victory over Robbie Lawler. He was able to get Lawler to the ground but struggled in doing so. His best chance to come out with a victory is to turn this fight into a long grind and wear out Rockhold.
Rockhold is a much better fighter than Lawler at striking and his takedown defense. He was able to display that against Souza. Rockhold will likely circle Kennedy and throw powerful leg kicks and show off the versatility in his striking as he attempts to slow down his opponent. Kennedy is the better grappler of the two, but it is hard to say by how much. If he is able to push the pace and frustrate Rockhold, he could easily earn a decision victory. His game plan will undoubtedly include dirty boxing against the cage as he looks to grab onto Rockhold and force him to fight his fight. Rockhold is very good at keeping his distance and sprawling which will make it tough for Kennedy to get into a rhythm. Rockhold will likely manage to manipulate the fight in his favour as he wins a tight decision and remains atop the Middleweight division in Strikeforce.
Prediction: Rockhold via Unanimous Decision
Vacant Strikeforce Welterweight Championship Bout
Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) vs. Tyron Woodley (10-0)
The Strikeforce Welterweight division is finally ready to crown a champion after the organization lost former title holder, Nick Diaz. Fighting for the belt will be Nate Marquardt, who will be making his Welterweight and Strikeforce debut, and Tyron Woodley, who has long asked for the opportunity to fight for the title after winning all eight of his fights in Strikeforce. Marquardt has not fought since he beat Dan Miller in March of 2011 and was cut before he could fight again due to failing to follow medical requirements. Over a year later, he is set to make his return and gets an opportunity to make a statement against one of the better prospects in the Welterweight division.
Woodley has been on a tear in Strikeforce. Although his fighting style is less than stellar, his wrestling ability has carried him through tough opponents such as Tarec Saffiedine, Paul Daley and most recently defeated Jordan Mein. He has been able to takedown his opponents and dominate from top position. Marquardt is the much bigger fighter but the world has yet to see how he will perform in this weight class. Marquardt will be a massive Welterweight as he was already a pretty big Middleweight. He is a talented fighter with great striking and solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Woodley has the wrestling advantage but he has proven to be a one-trick pony. It will be tough to go up against a much bigger fighter. Witnessing him struggle to consistently get Daley to the ground makes it hard to believe he will be able to get through Marquardt. If he is able to successfully get down to 170 with no issues, Marquardt could have a very good career in the division. He should be able to frustrate Woodley and rock him with a knee as the former collegiate wrestler shoots in and from there, he will likely finish the fight.
Prediction: Marquardt via TKO Round 2
Roger Gracie (4-1) vs. Keith Jardine (17-10-2)
The Gracie family has not been successful in MMA since the early UFC days but there is a lot of hope in Roger Gracie, who has already proven to be more talented than the rest of his family in MMA. He clearly has extremely dominant BJJ and is considered among the best in the world but what really separates him from the rest of the Gracie’s is his length and pretty decent striking. He is going up against Keith Jardine who some huge wins in his career against Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Brandon Vera but is far from his old form. He is an aggressive, go for broke kind of fighter which explains how he has been put to sleep so often in his career. He is a very unorthodox fighter and is tough to adjust to. Both fighters are new to the Middleweight division as this is Gracie’s first fight at 185 and this is Jardine’s second appearance after being knocked out in his debut against Luke Rockhold. Gracie looked very good against Kevin Randleman and Trevor Prangley and was actually doing well against Muhammed Lawal until he was rocked and finished. His striking is coming along nicely and although he lacks power, he uses his length to his advantage as he utilizes very nice jabs and works into clinches and gets takedowns in a very technical manner.
For Jardine to succeed against Gracie, he will need to push forward and get the Brazilian up against the cage and make it a dirty fight. He has excellent dirty boxing and could do a lot of damage if he is able to repeatedly get in tight. Gracie will need to keep his distance and as soon as he feels trapped, his only escape will be to clinch up and get the fight down. Gracie is a smart fighter and although he is not as strong as Jardine, he has the technical ability to get the fight down and use his BJJ to dominate from top position for a submission victory.
Prediction: Gracie via Rear Naked Choke Round 2
Lorenz Larkin (12-0) vs. Robbie Lawler (19-8)
If Strikeforce gave out end of the night bonuses, this would easily be fight of the night. Lorenz Larkin is an exciting striker making his Middleweight debut after getting dominated by a much bigger Muhammed Lawal. Fortunately for him, the fight did not go into the loss column because Lawal tested positive for an illegal substance so he is looking stay undefeated against devastating striker, Robbie Lawler. Both fighters like to keep the fight standing but they have completely different striking styles. Larkin is as talented a prospect as they come when it comes to the striking game. He has spectacular kicks and is a quick fighter that throws combinations at a consistent pace.
Lawler has been given the nickname ‘Ruthless’ for a reason. If he lands a right hook and you are still wide awake, you deserve an award. Watching his knockouts of Melvin Manhoef, Matt Lindland and most recently, Adlan Amagov shows how devastating his strikes can be. This is a clear battle of finesse against power. Larkin, the more talented striker, will need to safely move in and out and avoid the power of Lawler. He must play it safe on the feet or his night could end at any point. Larkin has the ability to finish a fight on the feet but for him to utilize his power, it may put him in a tough position. He will need to throw leg kicks similar to what Manhoef was doing but avoid getting too confident and moving in too close. Distance is the key to victory for Larkin. Lawler will need to be the one that pushes the pace and he should not hope to land that one knockout punch and get into a rhythm before he gets too wild. This will be an exciting back and forth that will see Larkin frustrating Lawler with his quickness at some points but Lawler has been there before and he should be able to land a finishing blow.
Prediction: Lawler via KO Round 3
Jordan Mein (24-8) vs. Tyler Stinson (23-8)
Canadian prospect Jordan Mein returns and looks to get back into the win column against Tyler Stinson. It is rare to see two young fighters with so much fight experience and that is especially true in the case of Mein who has 32 fights as a 22 year old. Both fighters prefer to keep the fight standing and after both lost decisions by being wrestled down to the ground and out grappled for three rounds, this should be a nice change of pace for both. Mein has looked extremely impressive of late against Cyborg Santos, Marius Zaromskis and Joe Riggs although his recent loss to Woodley showed a glaring hole in his game.
Stinson has been successful using his length against his opponents but struggled against Tarec Saffiedine, who is primarily a striker but was able to get him down with ease and grind out a decision. Despite losing, he did give Saffiedine a lot of trouble on the feet which nobody has really been able to do. Mein usually walks in with the size advantage but that will not be the case in this fight. Stinson is a huge Welterweight and will need to use that against Mein; however, Mein is a smart fighter with spectacular boxing that he uses efficiently. It will be a tougher than expected fight for the Canadian but he should come out on top with a victory.
Prediction: Mein via Unanimous Decision