Luke Rockhold easily took out Keith Jardine. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
Much like fellow Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold has the look of a very big fish in an increasingly smaller pond.
Rockhold retained his middleweight championship with a stirring first-round knockout against UFC veteran Keith Jardine in the Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine” main event on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The 27-year-old American Kickboxing Academy representative was superior to Jardine in every regard, as he battered him with subtle but effective knees in the clinch and countered beautifully with his right hand.
Jardine, 36, staggered backward when met with a Rockhold right late in the first round and hit the deck when struck with the next. The Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts mainstay tried in vain to survive, only to get cracked with another power shot from the younger, more polished champion. Rockhold, who has finished eight of his nine victories inside one round, unleashed on the downed challenger until referee Herb Dean intervened. According to FightMetric figures, he outlanded Jardine by a 34-14 count in terms of significant strikes.
Unlike Melendez, Rockhold still has several intriguing matchups available to him under the Strikeforce banner. In wake of Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine,” here are seven fights we want to see made:
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy: An injury to Kennedy opened the door for Jardine and robbed Rockhold of the opportunity to compete against the one man in the Strikeforce middleweight division with the all-around skills to hang with him in a five-round fight. Kennedy may not dazzle in any one area, but he can be a handful in top position, with heavy ground-and-pound and underrated submissions. Rockhold seemed indifferent to a matchup with Kennedy in the aftermath of his latest conquest, but, at this point, no other foe makes more sense for him at 185 pounds. By this time next year, both men figure to be swimming in UFC waters.
Muhammed Lawal vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante: No one at 205 pounds can sleep on Lawal, as his combination of world-class wrestling and wicked ground punching power have turned him into the scariest of propositions. The former Strikeforce champion manhandled the previously unbeaten Lorenz Larkin, eventually stopping the flashy California striker with a series of brutal right hands in the second round. Lawal has one loss on his resume, courtesy of a third-round technical knockout from Cavalcante in August 2010. The time for their rematch has come, with the vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight belt on the line.
Tyron Woodley vs. Tarec Saffiedine: Woodley may not move the needle in terms of excitement, but his style has proven most effective. Unbeaten in 10 professional appearances, the American Top Team representative took down and grinded through highly regarded Canadian prospect Jordan Mein, earning a split decision from the judges.
In order for him to become an elite welterweight, Woodley will need to trust in and improve his ability to strike and learn to be more aggressive on the ground. For now, he has what it takes to carry the Strikeforce gold, and a second bout with Team Quest standout Tarec Saffiedine -- himself a split decision winner over Tyler Stinson -- is in order for the vacant 170-pound title.
Robbie Lawler vs. Derek Brunson: Unless an injury to Kennedy clears a path to a title shot for Lawler, the UFC veteran has few realistic options at 185 pounds in Strikeforce. The 29-year-old knockout artist could move back to the UFC after his first-round technical knockout over Adlan Amagov, or he could provide a litmus test for another up-and-comer while the top of the division shakes out in Strikeforce. Brunson, an undefeated Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts prospect with seven first-round finishes on his ledger, fits the profile and would undoubtedly relish the opportunity to take a crack at an established veteran like Lawler.
Keith Jardine vs. Adlan Amagov: Jardine may be nearing the end of the road. At 36, he has won only three of his last 11 bouts, and his debut at 185 pounds did not go as he had hoped. Should he move forward with fighting, perhaps a matchup with Amagov would provide “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 2 alum with the chance to re-establish himself.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Ovince St. Preux: No one questions Larkin’s ability to strike, but his lack of a viable ground game may leave his ceiling far lower than first hoped. Some have called for the Californian to downshift to the middleweight division, but if he chooses to remain at 205 pounds, a showdown with fellow young gun St. Preux promises fireworks for however long it lasts.
Jordan Mein vs. Jason High: Mein’s stock will not fall far in wake of his loss to Woodley. However, the Canadian will have to improve his game off his back if he intends to take another step forward in his career. The 21-year-old lost a unanimous decision to Jason High, another wrestling-centric fighter, in August 2010. With both men under the Strikeforce umbrella, a rematch between them might prove a worthy venture. If not, matchmakers could always pair Mein with someone willing to entertain him on the feet, someone like Stinson.