Judging by the activity in our liveblog’s comments section, there weren’t many of you who tuned in to last night’s Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy. Judging by the “advertising” that went into this event, which included Frank Shamrock’s acting chops and a last second plug on the UFC’s Facebook page (to which one of the comments with the most “likes” asked who the guys were in the main event that looked more like accountants than fighters), Zuffa is perfectly okay with this. And from the two – yes, two – reporters who even bothered to show up to the pre-event press conference, we have to admit that the ghost ship that has become Strikeforce is partially all of our faults.
It’s a shame that Strikeforce is getting the Bamboo Lounge treatment, but after the entertaining main card that those of us who watched were treated to, at least the promotion is fading into obscurity with dignity.
Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold earned a convincing unanimous decision over the formidable Tim Kennedy. He came forward with an aggressive striking attack throughout the fight, managing to stuff numerous takedown attempts as well. Granted, Kennedy never seemed like he was in danger of being knocked out or submitted, but that’s far more of a testament to how game Kennedy is than it is a criticism of Luke Rockhold.
For the twenty-seven year old, the Strikeforce championship has to feel far more like a curse than an achievement. He’s arguably a top-ten middleweight, but can’t book a fight against a big enough name to prove this. He’s defeated virtually everyone that Strikeforce can offer him, yet still has to stick around to be used as a measuring stick for guys like Roger Gracie and Lorenz Larkin (more on that later). In the post-event press conference, Rockhold called for a rematch with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, because hey, what else can he rally for? All of the top non-Zuffa middleweights are going to be offered UFC contracts without even discussing the possibility of sending them to Scott Coker. And frankly, when the UFC is in the position to offer a top non-Zuffa middleweight a laughably bad contract, that speaks volumes about the “future plans” for Strikeforce.
On a slightly less depressing note, Nate Marquardt answered almost all of the questions that we had about him after his year-long absence from the sport in his welterweight title fight against up-and-comer Tyron Woodley. How did he look without using TRT? Pretty damn good, if you managed to catch the fight. Is he still a dynamic striker? Was he able to keep his power while dropping to welterweight? Did his cardio hold up by the end of the fight? Could he still be a top-tier fighter in a new weight class after all of the time away from competition? Yes to all of the above - just ask Tyron Woodley’s face after eating those elbows and uppercuts.
Of course, the only question that remains unanswered is can Nate “The Great” do the same thing against the UFC’s welterweights. To which, we can do nothing but speculate for the time being.
As for Roger Gracie and Lorenz Larkin, I say make them fight each other before putting them up against Luke Rockhold. Both fighters looked impressive last night, but I’m not convinced that either guy is ready for a title shot yet.
This is especially true in Roger Gracie’s case; his fight was far more of a wake-up call for Keith Jardine that he should retire than a breakout performance for Roger. This isn’t meant to disrespect either fighter, but when you manage to land only three strikes in the first round – and five total power strikes, according to the Strikeforce announcing crew - against a Gracie on your way to a unanimous decision loss, it’s time to call it a career. “The Dean of Mean” is the same fighter that had been figured out years ago, except now he’s in the twilight of his career. A prospect that’s ready for the big leagues can beat an opponent like Keith Jardine, and that’s exactly what Gracie did…
…Wait, didn’t I write the exact same thing last time Jardine got in the cage? Yeah, I did. You looked good in your middleweight debut, Roger Gracie, but failure was literally never an option against Jardine. I’ll need to see one more convincing victory before I clamor for a title shot.
Likewise, Lorenz Larkin was always small and doughy at light-heavyweight. When he decided to drop to middleweight, we all assumed it would be a good idea. Sure enough, Larkin looked convincing in his middleweight debut against Robbie Lawler. While the aging veteran managed to rock Larkin early on, Lorenz Larkin kept his composure and out-struck him for the remainder of the fight, earning the unanimous decision victory. But again, I’d like to see one more test for Larkin before Strikeforce offers him a title shot. Lawler always shows up ready to scrap, but let’s be honest with ourselves – he’s also in the final stages of his career and has lost three of his last four outings.
For the time being, I say let Rockhold have his rematch against Jacare and let Larkin fight Gracie. It may not be the best option, but it’s probably the easiest option. And the easiest option for Strikeforce is just business as usual.