Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold retained his title with a 49-46 victory over the decorated Tim Kennedy (14-4) in the main event of the Strikeforce card from the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Though not perhaps thrilled with his performance, Rockhold (10-1) was able to thwart Kennedy's offense in crucial parts of the fight and on his own, landed enough strikes and remained active enough to retain his title in the eyes of the judges.
According to Compustrike, Rockhold landed 60 of 176 attempted strikes for a 34% connect rate. Kennedy had better success with his punches (51%) but threw less, landing 57 of 111 strikes. Perhaps a key outlier in the fight was the 34-16 edge Rockhold enjoyed in power strikes landed.
Kennedy was able to successfully grab two of eight takedown attempts as well but ultimately, they would not be enough.
After the fight, Rockhold spoke openly about not being thrilled with his performance. As to what is next? The 27-year old Californian sees a rematch with "Jacare" Souza on the agenda
There's a new welterweight King in town. His name is Nate Marquardt. And following his sensational fourth round KO of Tyron Woodley in their title fight, few can argue that Marquardt (32-10) isn't a force to be reckoned with. The stoppage (coming at 1:39 of the fourth round) followed some violent punches from "The Great" as Woodley (10-1) was backed up against the cage.
The rounds leading up to that were much better than anticipated. Both fighters were throwing leather early on and Marquardt (making his welterweight debut) looked to be getting the better of the exchanges. But sprinkled in with the sporadic takedowns and clinching, Marquardt and Woodley both had their moments in the stirking department that had the other badly hurt. The first round alone saw both fighters dropped from strikes.
"This feels great it’s truly a dream come true," Marquardt said. "I think I made some mistakes and backed up giving him the opportunity to come forward and take me down. He was throwing a lot of hard shots but I was just weathering the storm because I thought I could get him to wear himself out. Experience was definitely the difference in this fight. I trained so I hard for this and I just want to be in the moment and enjoy it with my family and team who helped me get here."
The victory is Marquardt's first in over a year. His most recent fight was Dan Miller at UFC 128 in the Spring of 2011. Woodley loses his first professional fight.
The most lop-sided victory of the night goes to Roger Gracie (5-1) who bullied and battered "The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine for three round en route to a 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26 unanimous decision.
Jardine was in the fight with his striking early in the first until Gracie took the fight to the ground. Once there, the 30-year old Brazilian showed off his immensely talented ground game to complete negate all of Jardine's offense while still maintaining dominant positioning. From mount, Gracie looked for submissions and was throwing elbows all the way to the bell in what looked much like a 10-8 round.
The second and third round were more of the same. Gracie enjoying dominant positions on the mat and never really looking uncomfortable on the feet. Jardine did muster a little offense in the third, attacking with leg kicks but it was too little, too late. Gracie and Jardine, both visibly tired would head to the judges for the verdict - one that caught no one by surprise.
Gracie's victory gives him his first win back from a loss to Muhammed Lawal last September. Jardine drops his second straight fight.
Lorenz "The Monsoon" Larkin's middleweight debut kicked off the main card as the 25-year old Riverside-native was set to square off with brawler Robbie Lawler (19-9) and he did not disappoint taking home a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over "Ruthless."
The undefeated Larkin (13-0) was faced with a bit of a feeling-out process early on with Lawler as neither fighter looked ready to commit to their strikes. A few flurries here and there eventually made it look like someone might be leaving the Rose Garden on a stretcher.
But both fighters would find themselves in the clinch, taking the fight to the ground and as the third round wore on, Larkin started to open up his diverse striking game on Lawler while able to avoid a counter-right hand.
Larkin's victory in the bout keeps his undefeated record intact. Lawler's loss puts his Strikeforce record at 3-5 with the promotion.
In the last undercard fight of the evening, DEEP champion Mizuto Hirota shocked a lot of people by coming out and bullying the much larger Pat Healy in the opening frame of the fight. Using his speed and left hook, Hirota was scoring points and moving Healy around the cage at will. Healy, however, was starting to find a home for his elbows in the clinch as he tagged Hirota a few times following an exchange.
The second round was extremely close but Healy started employing more aggression, looked for the takedown and finally got in position to use his size and strength to grind on Healy. And in the third stanza, Healy's gameplan would be put in full effect as he controlled the action with takedowns, top control and submission attempts.
Though the fight felt extremely close, Healy would have his hand raised and pick up the victory as the judges scores read 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. Healy (28-16) may have earned himself a title shot with the win. Hirota falls to 14-5 with the loss and drops his first fight on American soil.
Ryan Couture came into his fight with Joe Duarte looking to move up the ranks of the lightweight division. By taking home a close split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28), it would seem there is still work to be done.
Nevertheless, Couture got the better of the exchanges on the feet early on, forcing Duarte to look for takedowns at various parts of the bout. Once on the ground, Duarte seemingly wanted no part of Couture's submission game as the fight wore on. But it was those early submission attempts and some improved striking that earned Couture enough points to walk away from the Rose Garden with a victory.
Couture (5-1) picks up the biggest victory of his career while Duarte (10-3) snaps a five-fight winning streak.
Jorge "Gamebred" Masvidal had a hard time pulling the trigger at certain parts of his bout with Justin Wilcox (11-5) but in the end, two of three judges found that he had done enough to merit a split decision win. In the first round of the contest, Masvidal looked to counter for the majority of the stanza until Masvidal (23-7) landed a big knee that put Wilcox in reverse. Unable to finish, Masvidal slowed down in the second and third round but continued to avoid takedowns and outpoint Wilcox on the feet. When the scorecards were tallied, the scores read 30-27, 28-29 and 29-28 in favor of Masvidal.
The loss for Wilcox is his second straight. Meanwhile, "Gamebred" picks up his first victory since losing a five-round title shot to Gilbert Melendez last December.
Jordan Mein (25-8) took home a 30-27 decision across the board over Tyler Stinson (23-9) in their welterweight scrap. Mein was surgical with his striking in the first round, landed at will and was able to bloody Stinson. As the second round wore on, it seemed as though Mein was fading a little due to the pace but he continued piling up enough to points with strikes to take home the second and third round of the contest on all three judges cards.
With the loss, Stinson drops his second straight and the 22-year old Mein rebounds from a split decision loss to Tyron Woodley in January.
In the first fight of the evening, the "Kansas City Bandit" Jason High (16-3) met Nate Moore (8-2) in the center of the Strikeforce cage and was immediately taken down by the San Jose-native. Unfortunately for Moore, High locked up a very slick guillotine that forced Moore to tap only 26 seconds in the first round of their welterweight bout.
High pushes his winning streak to seven with the victory. Moore falls to 8-3.