Luke Rockhold is one bout away from being on top of the world. | Photo: Esther Lin
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship
Ronaldo Souza (14-2, 1 NC, 4-0 SF) vs. Luke Rockhold (7-1, 6-0 SF)
The Matchup: Fresh off his impressive third-round submission of Robbie Lawler, Souza’s second defense of his 185-pound belt comes against a talented longshot in Rockhold, who, in eight fights, has yet to go past the first round. A staple of the Strikeforce Challengers series, Rockhold has shown a good submission game, as well as a nifty counter right hand and decent kicks. This represents an enormous step up in competition for him, as he tangles with Souza, who, along with Roger Gracie and Marcelo Garcia, is considered one of the three best grapplers on the planet.
Blessed with dynamic mat skills and takedown prowess not always a given with a Brazilian, Souza showed his incredible pedigree against Lawler, frustrating the former EliteXC champion and dominating him on the mat like few ever have.
Rockhold’s work is cut out for him here, and it is the kind of work he is usually not looking to do. He will want to keep this one standing at all costs, because Souza is so adept at grappling that the slightest mistake can mean disaster. “Jacare” is also solid in the standup department, with speed and some power, and he is not afraid to let strikes go. However, when the fight hits the mat, his opponents are truly in trouble, as he masterfully breaks them down by getting a dominant position and just dictating every positional battle en route to implementing his will. This is the kind of fight where he will shine, as he flits in and out, scoring on the feet prior to getting the fight to the ground.
The Pick: Rockhold has nothing to lose, but he is outmatched in this one, as Souza wears him down en route to a second-round submission.
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