Strikeforce was live from Las Vegas on Saturday night as UFC veteran Keith Jardine dropped to 185 pounds to challenge new Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.
Rockhold looked like a champion in his first defense of the title, picking apart the older Jardine with some nice body shots before catching him with a staggering jab to the mouth.
Moments later, the fight was over as Rockhold wasted no time smashing Jardine with numerous brutal punches until referee Herb Dean finally pulled him off.
The champion was obviously one of the big winners from Saturday, but he wasn’t the only one whose stock rose or dropped significantly on Jan. 7.
Let’s take a look at the real winners and losers from Saturday night’s fights.
It wasn’t the best performance of his career, but Tarec Saffiedine got things done tonight in the opening bout on the main card by winning a split decision over Tyler Stinson.
It was a tough fight to score as there wasn’t an extremely dominant round by either fighter, but Saffiedine came out on top.
The victory itself wasn’t particularly spectacular, but it could be huge for him as the thin welterweight division in Strikeforce may work to his advantage in the way of a title shot in his next bout.
With Tarec Saffiedine earning a split-decision victory earlier in the night, consensus top Strikeforce welterweight Tyron Woodley followed suit, winning his own split decision over Jordan Mein.
The normally dominant Woodley was unable to control Mein like he does most of his opponent, but still got the win and improved his MMA record to an impressive 10-0.
Like Saffiedine, the thin welterweight division may end up being a great thing for Woodley as he is almost guaranteed to be fighting for the vacant title sometime in 2012.
The title previously helped earn Nick Diaz a championship opportunity in the UFC, so big things could be coming from Woodley in the near future.
The “WTF” moment of the night came in the semi-main event when Adlan Amagov laid his body on Robbie Lawler’s back before delivering a flagrant knee to the top of his opponent’s head.
The knee itself would have been fine if it landed to the shoulder, but it was thrown very poorly and smacked Lawler right on the top of the skull causing a stoppage in the fight and an immediate point deduction.
It wasn’t long after that when Robbie Lawler stood up and caught him with a flying knee, earning a TKO victory over the the Russian.
Robbie Lawler’s career seems to be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but tonight was certainly an “up” as he earned a first-round knockout victory over Adlan Amagov.
The knockout mostly came due to a flying knee, which by itself is an impressive maneuver. But what made it even better was that it came just moments after Amagov had a point taken away due to a cheap shot from a knee of his own.
Lawler showed his toughness and bounced back, earning his first victory in over a year.
Very few gave him a real shot at winning this fight, but Keith Jardine is always a gamer who comes in and has a chance.
His aggressiveness seemed to be catching Luke Rockhold off guard tonight, but Jardine didn’t do anywhere near enough damage and didn’t land anything that was able to stop the Strikeforce middleweight champion from beating him around the cage.
It was Jardine’s first fight at 185 and he looked to be in great shape, but this may be the last time we ever see him in a cage. “The Dean of Mean” has now dropped six of his past nine fights.
Keith Jardine’s lackluster performance tonight helped to make Gegard Mousasi look even worse than he did before when he fought to a draw with Jardine in 2011.
The two light heavyweights fought in April 2011 with Jardine taking the bout on very short notice but still nearly edging out the highly touted Mousasi in a fight that was expected to be extremely one-sided.
Even without a loss, the draw knocked Mousasi down quite a few pegs in the rankings.
Mousasi has since won back-to-back fights, but the poor performance against Jardine is going to keep him from moving up too far again until he gets a big-time quality win under his belt.
The Strikeforce middleweight champion helped to make a name for himself on Saturday night as he headlined the fight card, earning a brutal TKO victory over Keith Jardine in the first round.
Rockhold has been disrespected by MMA rankings systems for quite some time and is rarely even ranked in the top 10 despite him being on an eight-fight win streak that includes a victory over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.
This victory isn’t likely to move him up too far, but the fact that he earned a TKO victory over a legitimate fighter is a good step in the right direction.
Perhaps the fighter who was affected most by tonight’s outcome was former Strikeforce middleweight No. 1 contender Tim Kennedy.
Despite being originally set to fight Rockhold at this event, he was forced to turn down the fight due to an injury he sustained while helping Brian Stann prepare for his most recent bout against Chael Sonnen in the UFC.
Kennedy’s unselfishness may be great for the sport, but it is not great for what it has done to his chances at competing for the title.
Immediately after the bout, Rockhold was asked if he would like to fight Kennedy next, but he opted to use the time to essentially say that there isn’t good enough competition for him in Strikeforce and that Zuffa needs to bring over someone from the UFC.
I’m sure Kennedy will have something to say and this fight might still happen, but if Rockhold is able to convince fans that a “super fight” makes more sense, Kennedy could be left in the dust.
Normally, I am very slow to challenge what a referee did, but tonight is an exception. The job Herb Dean did in the main event was absolutely horrendous.
Not only did Dean let Luke Rockhold hit Keith Jardine well after he was clearly out, he let it happen again... And again... And again.
After watching on replay, I counted 16 punches that were essentially completely undefended that landed after Jardine went tumbling down to the mat in what would eventually be the final seconds of the fight.
This kind of thing is extremely dangerous. Being knocked out is not healthy, but being knocked out and then hit repeatedly thereafter is way worse.
It is Herb Dean’s job to step in and save a fighter when he or she cannot defend themselves, and he did not do so in this bout.
Dean is typically one of the better referees in MMA, but he did not live up to that hype.
There were quite a few losers from Saturday night’s fight card, but the biggest loser from Rockhold vs. Jardine has to be Strikeforce itself. This event just shows how much of ghost town the promotion really is at this point.
Certainly things can still turn around, but the talent level just was not there on Saturday night. As much as Dana White wants to claim that it’s going to be the same thing as the UFC, it’s just not. Almost all of the top talent is gone, the production value remains lower-end and the fans just were not into the fights at all.
Not only that, but middleweight champion Luke Rockhold basically said what lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez has been saying for quite some time now: there simply is no competition for the champions in the promotion.
Granted, Tim Kennedy is worthy of a title shot in most people’s minds, but after him, what is there for Luke Rockhold to do? Who else can he fight? And it’s not like he’s been the champion for years and years like Anderson Silva. Tonight was Rockhold’s first title defense!... And it came against a guy who just doesn’t have “it” anymore.
There is still a chance for Strikeforce to turn around, but with four vacant championships (presuming Cyborg Santos is cut in the coming days due to her failed drug test), there is just a wasteland in the majority of the Strikeforce divisions right now.
Unless there is a real pullover of talent from the UFC to Strikeforce, it’s going to be extremely difficult for this promotion to continue, given the lackluster talent roster it currently possesses.