Luke Rockhold | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Strikeforce’s March 5 bill in Columbus, Ohio, will feature an important middleweight showdown between Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold, as well as a lightweight bout pitting unbeaten Billy Evangelista against veteran Jorge Masvidal.
The promotion on Monday announced that both fights will be featured on the Showtime-televised portion of Strikeforce “Columbus,” which emanates from the Nationwide Arena. Two expected title bouts were also made official, as 205-pound champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante will defend against former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson, and 135-pound women’s ace Marloes Coenen will meet Miesha Tate.
A former U.S. Army Ranger, Kennedy will make his first appearance since losing a five-round unanimous decision to Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in August. That loss snapped a four-fight win streak, during which Kennedy finished veterans Trevor Prangley and Nick Thompson. Kennedy was originally rumored to take part in a rubber match with Jason “Mayhem” Miller in Columbus, but that matchup was scrapped for unknown reasons.
Rockhold, a product of the vaunted American Kickboxing Academy, is unbeaten inside the Strikeforce cage, having finished all six of his opponents inside the first round. He last competed in February 2010, when he dispatched of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 participant Paul Bradley via first-round technical knockout. Rockhold had been tabbed for an October meeting with veteran Matt Lindland but was forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.
Sporting a perfect record of 11-0, Evangelista has spent the majority of his career competing for Strikeforce. His last two wins have come in the form of decisions against Waachiim Spiritwolf and Jorge Gurgel on Strikeforce Challengers cards. The Californian also holds notable career wins over Nam Phan, Ryan Healy and Harris Sarmiento.
The hard-hitting and well-traveled Masvidal was involved in three close decisions in 2010, winning only one. While he bested Zst star Naoyuki Kotani in Japan, he dropped verdicts to Paul Daley and Luis Palomino stateside. The 26-year-old American Top Team fighter will make his first Strikeforce outing since February 2008, when he took a unanimous decision over the aforementioned Healy.
Advance tickets for Strikeforce “Columbus” -- which will be held in conjunction with the annual Arnold Sports Festival -- go on sale to Strikeforce mailing list subscribers Tuesday. Tickets go on sale for the general public on Friday.