Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine, B/R MMA Full Main Card Staff Predictions

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2012

Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine, B/R MMA Full Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Strikeforce's latest pay-per-view installment, which takes place on a free preview weekend for Showtime, is headlined by a middleweight title bout between reigning champion Luke Rockhold and UFC veteran Keith Jardine

    Most fans are less than thrilled for this main event since "The Dean of Mean" is 0-0-1 under the Strikeforce banner, but Jardine is known for pulling off a number of upsets in his career. Rockhold would be making a mistake if he took his opponent lightly here. 

    In a middleweight scrap, Robbie Lawler takes on innovative Russian striker Adlan Amagov in a bout where fans should expect to see very little, if any, action on the ground. 

    Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal takes on undefeated prospect Lorenz Larkin in a bout that will put the winner right in the title mix.  

    However, the bout with the biggest title implications is a welterweight scrap where Tyron Woodley, a man who feels he is a top-10 fighter in the world at 170 pounds, takes on the 21-year-old Canadian journeyman Jordan Mein. 

    Another interesting matchup at welterweight features Tarec Saffiedine taking on relative unknown Tyler Stinson in a bout that could go either way, despite Stinson not being a household name.

    Bleacher Report MMA Featured Columnists Dwight Wakabayashi, Dale De Souza, and myself, John Heinis, let you know who will have their hand raised on Saturday night.  

    Take a look inside for the in-depth fight previews. 

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson

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    John Heinis: Despite only being a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Saffiedine brings a unique grappling style to the cage due to a black belt in the unique martial art of Shihaishinkai Karate. 

    While this has no doubt diversified Saffiedine's striking game, it has allowed him to perfect some judo throws and a number of basic submissions. 

    "Sponge" (what a horrible nickname) is 11-3 in his MMA career, with his biggest win being his most recent unanimous decision victory against Scott Smith this past July.

    Stinson, a former Masters of the Cage middleweight champion, comes in at 22-7 and has shown to be a threat with his aggressive sprawl-and-brawl style. 

    "The Evolution" is also a BJJ blue belt, so if things go the ground, the exchanges should be pretty interesting (even though it may be a little sloppy).

    This one is tough to call, but given Stinson has the much heavier hands (15 KOs vs. Saffiedine's 1 KO), I think the relative unknown pulls off a decent upset here.

    Tyler Stinson via second round KO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: To open the main card, Tarec Saffiedine and Tyler Stinson will do battle to determine which 25-year-old is the better welterweight prospect.

    Saffiedine is coming off a nice win over Strikeforce, and UFC veteran Scott Smith and lost a close decision to top welterweight Tyron Woodley before that.

    Stinson is a young fighter who made his name in Bellator and is looking to make a name for himself with a win on Saturday.  

    Saffiedine has been swimming in deeper waters in Strikeforce. I see that being the difference in this one. He will look to use his well-rounded game to keep the relatively untested Stinson off-guard.

    Tyler is a powerful puncher and dangerous at all times, but he is also vulnerable to submissions, and I see Tarec beating him on the ground.  

    Saffiedine via third round submission

    Dale De Souza: Now, this is an interesting fight—and might be one of the most interesting choices for a bout to start off the first mainstream MMA card. On one hand, Tyler Stinson is a wily cage veteran with a 22-7 record and only one win against Eduardo Pamplona, which took all but fifteen seconds of Stinson’s Strikeforce debut.

    Not only does Stinson have knockout power, but he also is adept when it comes to submissions, as well as a strong wrestling game and the ability to effectively strike from his guard. In every sense of the term “threat," Stinson is a definite threat to anyone who wants to challenge his striking.

    On the other hand, Tarec Saffiedine is coming into his own as a fighter with diverse striking and a dangerous submission game of his own. On paper, it’s believed that Saffiedine will be the better striker, and he probably will be.

    Stinson will look for a good knockout blow, but he might be biting off more than he can chew if he thinks about standing up for serious amounts of times against Saffiedine without at least working for a takedown attempt.

    Stinson can always start off picking his shots and gradually gaining enough confidence in himself before going in for the kill, but Scott Smith was another guy with serious knockout power and durability, and Smith found himself greatly outstruck by Saffiedine.

    You can always count Stinson in when it comes to fights, but if he cannot get Saffiedine down, Stinson’s night could be over before it even begins.

    Tarec Saffiedine by Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3; Saffiedine'’s striking will be the story)

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: Under the watchful eye of the legendary Dan Henderson, Saffiedine has gone from being a heavy-handed striker to an adept wrestler, who fends off the takedowns and opts to keep the bout standing.

    In his last bout, Saffiedine showed that against a dangerous striker like Scott Smith he has the tools to disrupt even the most heavy-handed foe, which stays true in this welterweight encounter against Tyler Stinson.

    The Bellator veteran has garnered 15 of his 22 wins by way of knockout, although the fact that Saffiedine has the ability to take the fight to the ground at any given moment will be cause for concern as "The Evolution" will remain relatively patient on the feet, making it easy for Saffiedine to employ his game.

    Tarec Saffiedine defeats Tyler Stinson by Decision (30-27 x3)

Tyron Woodley vs. Jorden Mein

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    John Heinis: Woodley, the 2010 Strikeforce Rising Star of the Year, last earned a convincing win against Paul Daley this past July, improving his perfect record to 9-0. 

    With Nick Diaz long gone to the greener pastures of the UFC, many expected to see Woodley competing for the Strikeforce welterweight title on the next card. 

    That isn't the case here, which really doesn't make any sense. Instead, he has a non-title bout with Canadian prospect Jordan Mein.

    Mein is riding a six-fight win streak and also looked impressive in his last outing, scoring a convincing TKO win against Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos in September. 

    "Young Guns" is an aggressive fighter with good KO power and sound jiu-jitsu skills, but he is no submission specialist and has no wrestling credentials to speak of.

    That doesn't bode well against an opponent like "T-Wood," a former NCAA Division I All-American whose takedowns and top control transferred perfectly to the world of MMA. 

    Mein may land some good shots standing, but he will be unable to stop Woodley's takedowns, nor will he have any answers off his back.

    Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision (30-27)

    Dwight Wakabayashi: This fight is set to determine the Strikeforce welterweight champion, a title that has been left vacant since Nick Diaz left for the UFC in 2011.

    Tyron Woodley has remained undefeated in his career and is the No. 1 contender for that belt.

    He uses his mauling wrestling, strength and cardio to break the will of his opponents and leave them frustrated at the end of the night.  

    Jordan Mein is a 21-year-old Canadian up-and-comer who has been thrust into this shot following an impressive 5-0 2011.

    During that run, he gained a decision win against Maruis Zaromskis in The Score Fighting Series, and then made an impressive Strikeforce debut with a TKO win over Evangelista Santos.

    Mein is a more well-rounded fighter than Woodley, but Woodley has amazing takedowns and strength. It could be a tough night on the bottom for the Canadian.    

    Tyron Woodley via split decision

    Dale De Souza: Tyron Woodley’s wrestling has been strong enough to handle Paul Daley, Tarec Saffiedine, and Andre Galvao so far in the Strikeforce cage. As a result, Woodley’s managed to neutralize some top competition while staying undefeated.

    That being said, not even Paul Daley—at his current age—could do what 21-year-old Jordan Mein could do.

    Sure, the kid’s last loss was to Jason High, and his first pro loss came against Rory MacDonald (in MacDonald’s third pro bout, which also was Mein’s pro MMA debut), but there’s no shame in losing to arguably the hottest Canadian prospect in MMA right now.

    What Mein has shown is a great deal of upper-body strength for a 21 year-old kid, a willingness to strike and throw elbows—ask Evangelista Cyborg—as well as good kicks and fast hands whenever he keeps the fight standing.

    The kid has also had seven wins by submission in his career. While that shows some well-rounded ability and great potential, it doesn’t answer the question of how he hopes to best Woodley if he’s put on his back.

    Then again, if a kid is 21 and already has wins against the likes of Marius Zaromskis, "Cyborg," and Joe Riggs, there must be something that he picked up to help him out along the way. As good a factor as wrestling, size and reach could play for Woodley, the experience and the speed could play out better for Mein than how some believe it will for Woodley.

    Jordan Mein by Round 2 TKO (punches)

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: Woodley has been knocking at the door for his shot at the welterweight title for some time now, but he has one last hurdle to overcome as he takes on the experienced but young Jordan Mein.

    The Canadian may only be 21 years old, but he fights like a grown man should, wielding a dangerous striking arsenal that recently baffled former Strikerforce title challenger Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, who succumbed to third-round strikes thanks to a hellish barrage of punches and elbows.

    Despite all the promise he's shown, Woodley, who holds an undefeated record of 9-0, has the tools to defeat Mein.

    A collegiate wrestling stud, Woodley has brought his skills on the mat to the cage almost seamlessly. He has since shown that both his jiu-jitsu skills and knockout power are nothing to mess with.

    If you don't believe me, ask ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion Andre Galvao, who couldn't make it out of the first round against the American Top Team product.

    Tyron Woodley defeats Jordan Mein by Decision, (30-27 x3)

Muhammed Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin

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    John Heinis: This fight looks like a joke on paper, but let's not overlook the fact that Larkin is 12-0 in his MMA career, scoring eight knockouts along the way.

    Of course, the level of competition has not been elite, but given that Larkin is only 25 years old, he still deserves a lot of credit.

    However, Larkin is basically a solid boxer that knows how to mix in leg kicks, so it will not be easy for him to overcome "King Mo's" takedowns.

    A former NCAA division II National Champion wrestler, Mo is known for having some great boxing in his own right, but he still has excellent takedowns and top control.

    The best example of this was when he defeated Gegard Mousasi, a very dangerous striker, for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in April of 2010.

    Larkin is a guy to watch this year, and many years to come, but I think King Mo will be too much, too soon.

    Muhammed Lawal via unanimous decision (30-27)

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal has been preoccupied recently trying to pick a fight in the UFC with Quinton Rampage Jackson.

    Lawal is an experienced veteran fighter, with a name and following, looking at his next opponent Lorenz Larkin, you can't blame him for being a bit bored.

    Larkin is 12-0 in his career with eight knockouts, but he has not faced anyone of any significance to establish his level of talent.  

    Lawal has power, experience and a formidable wrestling background in which to draw from while Larkin has a power puncher's chance.

    Many in the MMA world are looking for bigger and better things for King Mo in 2012. I don't see Larkin getting in the way.

    Lawal will be as good as he gets in the stand-up, while using takedowns and top control to set up the fatal blow.    

    Muhammed Lawal via second round KO

    Dale De Souza: King Mo went to a rival high school to the one I graduated from. From there, he developed a pretty decorated and overlooked wrestling pedigree, winning UIL awards before forging one of the most decorated amateur wrestling careers.

    From there, it seemed natural that the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion would try his hand at MMA. Sure enough, he now owns wins against Gegard Mousasi and Roger Gracie as part of the success he’s achieved in only an almost 10-fight career.

    Mo’s wrestling is a caliber of wrestling that Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin has not encountered in a twelve-fight career, but even in the fights in which Larkin was taken down, Larkin still found a way to prevail by using his striking, and he even scored a rather unexpected takedown on Gian Villante when the two collided last June.

    If history has taught us anything—and in MMA, it has taught us only so many things—it’s that Mo has good punching power, definite knockout power, and great wrestling.

    However, the last time he faced a guy that could punish him even close to how Larkin will want to punish him was when Mo went to Houston to oppose Rafael Cavalcante. Despite getting a few takedowns, the man known as “Feijao” dismantled Mo on the feet.

    Mo knows he’ll probably have to pick his times to go in for takedowns, because even one minor thought about standing up to a man that lays in strikes the way Larkin does is basically Mo’s prayer to get knocked out somehow.

    Mo can try to test Larkin’s chin if he so desires, but he should know that not even a well-timed shot will produce the same result on Larkin that Mo got from Gracie.

    As long as Larkin has prepared for Lawal's wrestling and improved his takedown defense enough to force Mo to stand, Larkin should be able to come through in what could be the breakout vvictory of Larkin’s career.

    Lorenz Larkin by Round 3 KO (leg kicks)

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: Even though he's undersized as a light heavyweight, Larkin has been able to maintain his undefeated record thanks to his punching power, speed, technique and pure athleticsm. 

    His lone defect has been his wrestling. In his most recent outings against both Gian Villante and Nick Rossborough, Larkin has shown that he is trying to close those gaps as quickly as possible.

    The mending won't come soon enough as the wily striker takes on one of the best amateur wrestlers to enter the sport in recent years, former world champion Muhammed Lawal, aka King Mo.

    Mo will out-muscle his smaller foe each time they clinch, driving him to the canvas, where Larkin will have little to offer the prestigious grappling skills of Lawal, who has continued to hone his technique with the AKA crew.

    Eventually, those heavy ground-and-pound blows will wilt Larkin, who will fail to make it out of the final round.

    King Mo defeats Lorenz Larkin by TKO, Rd. 3

Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov

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    John Heinis: Realistically, this should be do-or-die for "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler since he has back-to-back losses under the Strikeforce banner to Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy.

    However, given the fact that Strikeforce has absolutely no depth at this point, it wouldn't be surpring to see him hang around after another loss.

    Lawler started his career 7-0, and quite honestly it's been all downhill from there. He has heavy hands and a great chin, but his grappling is abysmal by today's MMA standards. He continues to be reminded of it whenever the fight goes to the ground.

    Luckily for Lawler, newcomer Adlan Amagov loves to stand and trade blows, so it seems safe to say this one will be a stand-up fight.

    Amagov is riding a 10-fight undefeated streak, his only loss coming in his MMA debut over four years ago.

    Some fans may recall Amagov when his spinning hook kick knockout of Maskhat Akhmetov went viral in late 2009 into early 2010.

    If you haven't seen it yet, it's absolutely worth watching.  Amagov has some heavy hands in his own right, and he has some pretty innovative striking and a great chin.

    That is enough to make me think he pulls off a minor upset here. I'm also going on the assumption that Lawler has next to nothing left. He was in those fights with Kennedy and Souza and just gave up if you ask me. 

    Adlan Amagov via third round TKO

    Dwight Wakabayashi: In another case of established veteran-against-new, up and-comer Ruthless Robbie Lawler will put his name on the line against Chechen fighter Adlan Amagov.

    Lawlor has faced the best fighters in his weight class his entire career and has suffered some tough losses in the last few years to the likes of Jason Miller and Jake Shields.

    He is also coming off two straight losses to Jacare Souza and Tim Kennedy. At 30, Lawler is a brawling, fan favorite who badly needs a win to get himself back on track. When Lawler fights, fans tune in, but a couple more losses will put his status in jeopardy.  

    Adlan Amagov made his way here through Strikeforce Challengers and is taking a large step up in calibre of opponent with this fight with Lawler.

    He has some good knockout wins on his resume and will be looking to carry that stand-up confidence in with him to deliver an exciting fight to the fans.  

    In the end I see both these man swinging for the fences early, and then settling into a sloppy, stand-up show in which Lawler will get the better of the exchanges and take a win.  

    Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision

    Dale De Souza: Yeah, yeah, I know—Robbie Lawler is a vicious knockout artist who has been in stylistic mismatches against Tim Kennedy and Jacare Souza, but should easily handle Adlan Amagov in the first round, right?

    Well, maybe, but there’s a bit more to it than one might believe.

    For one thing, Lawler is on a two-fight skid. It’s made people question if Lawler’s losing his touch—remember, Kennedy asked for Lawler after beating Melvin Manhoef. The fight with Lawler was seen by many fans as a fight in which Lawler was to have easily knocked Kennedy out.

    It went the total opposite of how many fans saw it on paper, but then again, Kenendy wasn’t seen as a guy that threw wildly.

    Amagov, on the other hand, has been seen as such, and despite two wins in Strikeforce as well as a 9-1-1 pro record, he hasn’t beaten a Robbie Lawler with his back against the wall, let alone a Robbie Lawler in any situation.

    If Amagov beats Lawler—and actually earns the win—he’ll have a permanent fan in everyone watching the card.

    As for me, I was a fan when I saw him finish Anthony Smith, but Lawler is not Anthony Smith, and when his fists meet the wild Amagov’s chin, the prospect will find that fact out the hard way.

    Robbie Lawler by Round 1 KO (punch)

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: Former three-time world champion Robbie Lawler has been largely unsuccessful inside the Hexagon, although he has left impressive finishes against Matt Lindland and Melvin Manhoef behind in an effort to let everyone just how dangerous "Ruthless" one really is.

    Against a touted and game striker like Amagov, Lawler now has the chance to face a pure striker who has little intentions on bringing the fight to the canvas, where Lawler has shown some deficiencies in the past.

    The leg kicks of Amagov are cause for concern, but just as the Russian over extends himself, he'll get clipped with a Lawler left hand, dropping him where he stands and giving the veteran the win that he's been looking for.

    Hopefully, the 29-year-old will now venture back to 170 pounds where fighters are more his stature.

    Robbie Lalwer defeats Adlan Amagov by Knockout, Round 2

Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine

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    John Heinis: Wow, is this actually the main event?

    That has to be at least a little depressing for Scott Coker and the other higher-ups at Strikeforce.

    Jardine is 2-0-1 in his past three fights, but he has never fought at 185 pounds before and was 1-4 in the UFC before getting cut in the summer of 2010.

    "The Dean of Mean" is clearly on the last legs of his career at 36. While his wild and frantic striking always gives him a puncher's chance, this fight is going to be all Rockhold.

    The American Kickboxing Academy member (whose name also reminds me of an Iron Man villian) was comepletely unknown by mainstream MMA fans when he was slated to take on then middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in September of last year.

    However, Rockhold showcased fast and crisp striking, mixing up nice boxing combinations with flashy kicks that kept the BJJ ace guessing, allowing Rockhold to walk out of the U.S. Bank Arena as the new champion.

    While Rockhold knew he had no business going to the ground with Jacare, he is a BJJ brown belt in his own right. Six of his eight wins have come via submission (with a rear naked choke earning him the tap out four times.)

    Throw in the fact that Jardine's cardio has been suspect for a while now, and I just don't see Keith being able to keep up with Rockhold's pace for five rounds.

    Luke Rockhold via fourth round submission (rear naked choke)

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Luke Rockhold shocked everyone when he defeated Jacare for the middleweight title in September 2011 and now he is the man with the target on his back that everyone is coming after.

    Rockhold won a valiant war with Souza and his heart and toughness can't be questioned. Rockhold won that fight after a long period of inactivity due to injury so I don't think him only having one fight in two years will be a factor.   

    On the other hand, his opponent Keith Jardine has been a very active fighter in the last couple years trying to climb his way back to the place he was once before.

    Jardine has fought five times since 2010 and bounced back from an awful five fight losing streak before that with a three fight undefeated streak. Jardine is coming off a controversial draw with Gerard Mousasi, which many though he lost and on his two fights before that.  

    Jardine brings his unorthodox and effective mix of punches and leg kicks along with some solid grappling to the cage, and will be looking for his experience and savy to keep Rockhold guessing all night.

    Jardine may not be as big a threat to knock out Rockhold that we thought Souza was, but he is very dangerous from different angles.   I think Jardine will be game all night and bring it hard to Rockhold and deliver a very exciting fight, but look to Rockhold to score more takedowns and damage for the victory    

    Luke Rockhold via split decision

    Dale De Souza: I can understand a lot of what Strikeforce does, because they've kind
    of come off as the “Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory” of MMA —in other words, even if it’s weird and lacks all logic, it makes sense.

    Keith Jardine’s Middleweight debut being against Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold in a bout that some believe Jardine might not even make weight for is one such thing.

    Cool, he drew with Gegard Mousasi, but a draw against Mousasi does not speak to Jardine's ability to last beyond two rounds at best with the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion.

    Rockhold would have liked a rematch with Jacare Souza just to prove he earned that “50-45” scorecard, seeing as how Tim Kennedy was injured, but he understands the caliber of foes faced and defeated collectively by Jardine, and he knows that’s why Jardine has this shot in his Middleweight debut.

    It may be his shot and his Middleweight debut, but Jardine was not a guy that was light for 205. With how prepared Rockhold will be after coming off of a long layoff to edge out Jacare, Rockhold might
    actually manage to make Jardine look quite terrible at that weight.

    Rockhold is a well-rounded fighter who has shown the ability to finish fights wherever he darn well pleases, and against Jardine, one should expect no different.

    The bout might start off technical, with Jardine landing leg kicks as he is known to do, but if Rockhold grabs a leg, Jardine can expect to be on his back thanks to the ever-improving Rockhold.

    From the feet, he’s already coming into his own as a force. But if it goes to the ground and Jardine's not ready to put Rockhold in danger while on his back—even if Jardine is eating some punishment from off his back—then Jardine might find himself in a world or more hurt and punishment than he ever encountered in the UFC.

    Luke Rockhold via third round submission (arm triangle-choke)

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: It was a little disappointing to hear that top contender Tim Kennedy would have to step aside for the time being due to injury, but teammate and UFC vet Keith Jardine is picking up the slack.

    A former top light heavyweight fighter, Jardine has shown time and time again that both his conditioning and inability to take a punch make him a fighter with glaring weaknesses, despite his rugged and gritty style of fighting.

    Rockhold is both savvy on the ground and equally dangerous on the feet, wielding punches, knees and a bevy of flashy kicks at his disposal.

    Jardine will remain competitive in the early goings of the bout, but as fatigue sets in, Rockhold will take over, setting up an aesthetically pleasing, fight-ending combination midway through the match, clinching the knockout victory.

    Luke Rockhold defeats Keith Jardine by Knockout, Round 3

Fight Bonuses

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    John Heinis: Fight of the Night—Rockhold vs. Jardine

    Submission of the Night—Luke Rockhold

    Knockout of the Night—Tyler Stinson

    Dwight Wakabayashi: Fight of the Night—Rockhold vs. Jardine

    Submission of the Night—Tyrec Saffiedine

    Knockout of the Night—Muhammed Lawal

    Dale De Souza: Fight of the Night—Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov (if it goes all
    three rounds); Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine (if it goes past the third round).

    Submission of the Night—Luke Rockhold

    Knockout of the Night Robbie Lawler

    Brian Lopez-Benchimol: Fight of the Night—Rockhold vs. Jardine

    Submission of the Night—Tyron Woodley, if it doesn't go to a decision

    Knockout of the Night—Robbie Lawler