One champion retained his belt while veteran Nate Marquardt made a blazing return to earn his own as Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy unfolded inside Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon Saturday night.
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy
Over a year after their first match-up was postponed due to injury, Luke Rockhold met Tim Kennedy in the Strikeforce hexagon, this time in Rockhold’s second title defense since winning the belt last September. The middleweight champion used takedown defense, submission attempts and, perhaps most effectively, his long range to stymie the game Kennedy and keep his belt over five hard-fought rounds.
Rockhold took the center of the cage early, with Kennedy – at a four-inch height and three-inch reach disadvantage -- testing his range with long kicks and superman punches. Each striking exchange ended with Rockhold clinching and pressing the fight to the cage. In one such exchange, Kennedy exploded out and reversed, dumping Rockhold in the center of the mat with a huge slam. Rockhold kept half-guard and worked for an armbar, but Kennedy escaped and the two again stood at the end of the round.
In round two, Kennedy ate a knee on a high kick from Rockhold, and in the scramble that followed, Rockhold worked to take Kennedy’s back. The bulk of the fight consisted of Luke staking out the cage, mostly earning points with single kicks and rights, particularly as Kennedy was backed against the fence. Kennedy began timing his counterstrikes and connecting more, dropping levels to try for takedowns, but it was Rockhold who set the pace and scored consistently. The champion was able to stuff several takedowns by clinching and then pushing Kennedy against the fence, at one point in the third drawing a warning for holding Kennedy’s shorts. As the rounds wore on, Kennedy seemed to find success both defensively and offensively with kicks, but was still stuck backing away from the champion save for one takedown in the third which briefly got him Rockhold’s back.
The pace slowed strangely in the fourth, as occasional kicks seemed to punctuate a staredown as Rockhold waited for openings and watched for takedowns. A huge hook to the body and a front kick from Rockhold seemed to frustrate if not wobble Kennedy. As Rockhold patiently closed in, he dropped Kennedy with a right and followed up with more, but Kennedy held on and worked for a guillotine on his way back to life. Kennedy pressed forward for a takedown and wound up taking Rockhold’s back as the seconds ticked down. In the final round, it was Rockhold who scored a takedown of his own.
Judges gave the fight to Rockhold with scores of 49-46 across the board – the win is his 10th in his pro career, with just one loss. Kennedy falls to 14-4.
Hear from the champ following his victory
Tyron Woodley vs. Nate Marquardt
Nate “The Great” Marquardt returned to action, looking better than ever in a bout that marked both his welterweight and Strikeforce debuts. In a battle of superlative names, he took on undefeated Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley, and “The Great” proved to be “The Best,” effectively shutting down Woodley's wrestling, earning a knockout win and nabbing the vacant Strikeforce belt.
Marquardt appeared powerful and fast at 170, coming out with the intensity of a fighter kept on sidelined against his will for over a year. He wobbled Woodley twice with huge rights in the opening round. Woodley rushed Marquardt onto the cage and forced a takedown, but Marquardt worked his way up and came out more aggressively than before, bouncing on his feet and chasing Woodley after every break on the cage. As Woodley shot in the next time, Marquardt threatened with a guillotine that forced Woodley to roll back to the feet.
In round two, Woodley answered low kicks with a huge spinning back fist that caught Marquardt on his shoulder, and the two continued their standoff in the center of the cage, with Nate controlling the action in slow circles drawn closer and closer to the fence. Woodley launched on high kick, and Marquardt answered with a crowd-pleasing spinning back kick to the body. Marquardt followed up a hard right by clinching and forcing seasoned wrestler Woodley to the mat, where he sat in Woodley’s guard before standing up and eating a couple of punches on the exit.
Woodley shifted the momentum in the third, hurting Marquardt with shots and then dropping him with a short right. He followed Marquardt to the mat with ground and pound, but Marquardt survived, even managing to throw up an armbar attempt as he recovered. A referee stand-up put Marquardt back on the hunt, and he followed Woodley around the cage to little avail for the remaining minutes.
Marquardt racked up points with leg kicks early in the fourth, and cracked Woodley against the cage with a straight right on three different occasions. Woodley countered and never wavered in his own strikes, but seemed on the point of paralysis at times. With Woodley backed against the cage, Marquardt unleashed his finishing sequence: a series of right elbows that wounded Woodley, a left hook that dropped him, and a walk-off uppercut.
The end came at 1:39 of the fourth round, giving The Great his 35th win (with 10 losses and two draws); Woodley’s first taste of defeat drops him to 10-1. Marquardt credited his win to experience. "He was throwing a lot of hard shots but I was weathering the storm because I thought I could get him to wear himself out," he said.
Watch Marquardt's post-fight interview
Keith Jardine vs. Roger Gracie
Two more former light heavyweights met at 185 pounds as BJJ royalty Roger Gracie met MMA veteran Keith Jardine in what was their first and second middleweight outing, respectively. In the end, Gracie got his first win at middleweight as well as his first decision victory.
Though only two inches taller on paper, the six-four Gracie seemed far larger than Jardine, especially as Jardine came in low with his notoriously unorthodox style. Unafraid of his strikes, Jardine goaded Gracie forward, only to be bodylocked and thrown to the mat by Gracie, whose prior wins had all come by submission. Jardine valiantly kept Gracie in half guard and backed himself to the fence to get back up. Gracie again tripped the action to the knees where Gracie pinned Jardine’s underhook arm on the mat, punched him, passed to mount and dragged him away from the cage, bloodying him with huge elbows along the way.
As Jardine worked to find an angle in the second, Gracie created space with long front kicks. As Jardine lunged in, Gracie grabbed him by waist and took things back to the ground. He took Jardine’s back and got both hooks in with three minutes left. As he worked rear-naked and head and arm chokes, Jardine’s best defense was his own blood, which was gushing from his forehead and allowed him to slip out of danger multiple times. Although Gracie again got mount, Jardine, who’s never been submitted in pro competition, survived the round.
In round three, Jardine again circled around looking for an opening, this time getting in with a couple of body shots that were enough to keep Gracie at bay. Gracie’s two takedown attempts in the third round were rebuffed by Jardine, who won over the crowd by throwing up his hands and inviting Gracie forward, Nick Diaz style. Gracie wisely kept his distance, going all three rounds for the first time in his MMA career.
"I fell off in the third round because I left too much weight to cut on Friday," said Gracie. "I tried hard to finish the submissions but with all the blood from the cut it made it very difficult to grip."
Gracie earned the win with scores of 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26 and moves up to 5-1 in his relatively young career. Jardine departs still in search of his first win at middleweight, his overall record 16-12-2.
Watch Gracie's post-fight interview
Robbie Lawler vs. Lorenz Larkin
The main card opened with electrifying striker Lorenz Larkin facing dangerous veteran “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. The bout was Larkin’s first at middleweight after being stopped at 205 by King Mo Lawal in January (a bout later ruled a no contest), and he emerged successful, outpointing Lawler in a unanimous decision win.
After a relatively quiet feeling-out minute or so, the two absolutely brawled, swinging wild leather. Larkin was either clipped or slipped, Lawler chased him and things quieted down against the fence. Larkin tripped the action to the ground, where he hopped on top and used elbows and blows before the two returned to their feet. Larkin attacked with a flying knee and a follow-up flurry that motivated Lawler to return things to the cage. Lawler used technique to smotherl Larkin against the fence, but Larkin’s blistering elbows, uppercuts and even knees from close quarters scored points along the way.
Round two started with a huge low kick from Larkin, and this time Lawler left enough space that Larkin could stalk. Larkin ultimately connected with two shots that he followed with a knee, a low kick, and then a knee to the body before being pushed against the fence again. Lawler endeavored for a takedown, but when he finally caught it, Larkin trapped his neck in a modified guillotine so deep that Lawler had to flip over twice to escape. With 30 seconds left in the round, the referee broke up the stalemate on the cage, and Larkin lunged at the bloodied Lawler with two high kicks – one that landed -- and a menacing right.
The veteran’s experience showed in the third, as it was Lawler who brandished the early kicks and then efforted for another takedown, giving it up only to unleash fists. Larkin escaped the clinch and came forward, but his striking slowed either due to fatigue or wariness of Lawler’s oppressive defense. Lawler connected two huge lefts, but Larkin was unfazed and returned fire. Larkin walked down Lawler for the final minute, corningering him against the cage in the last ten seconds.
The 30-27 scores kept Larkin’s record unblemished, as he’s now 13-0 (1 NC); the loss drops Lawler to 19-9 (1 NC). "My plan coming in was to circle and stay away from his heavy hands," said Larkin. "To
me he’s the most dangerous striker at 185 in Strikeforce, so I’m glad
that I stood in there for three rounds and didn’t get knocked out."
Watch Larkin's post-fight interview
Strikeforce Main Card Results: Rockhold Retains Belt, Marquardt Makes His Return
Results of the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy main card, including the middleweight title fight between Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy and the welterweight championship bout between Tyron Woodley and Nate Marquardt.