Last Saturday, Strikeforce had their first event of the year headlined by a Middleweight Title match between newly-crowned champion Luke Rockhold and “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine, who was making his debut at Middleweight. The match ended up lasting longer than most expected, going 4:26 into the first round when Rockhold won by TKO due to punches.
After the match, Rockhold was asked about who he wanted to fight next, original opponent Tim Kennedy or a rematch with Ronaldo Souza. Rockhold immediately dismissed both ideas saying that he should be fighting the best of the best and that the UFC should send someone to Strikeforce to prove how good he is.
Now while that is all fine and well in a sense of promoting yourself in fighting better quality opponents to showcase your talents, Rockhold has to be careful of getting what he wishes for.
In the past few years, fighters have made a name for themselves off of a big win or two, talked themselves up as the next big thing and ultimately got outclassed by the opponents that they felt they could handle. Some of those fighters include Chris Leben before his fights with both Brian Stann and Anderson Silva, where he ended up knocked out in both fights, Dan Hardy who got dominated by Georges St. Pierre which led to his current four fight losing streak, and Jardine, who talked himself up as the next big thing only to get knocked out in 48 seconds by Houston Alexander.
Granted, Rockhold has a lot more skill and better technique than those fighters, but he needs to pace himself. Yes, he had a dominant title defense, but his challenger wasn't expected to win by anyone's estimates. Jardine only found himself in title contention because original participant Tim Kennedy got injured in training. Ronaldo Souza is in the same boat as well, and Robby Lawler was currently on a losing streak (including a recent loss to Kennedy).
Before getting the title shot, Jardine was 3-6-1 in his previous ten fights with five of those losses coming in one long streak. He was lucky to get the draw against Gegard Moussasi as Moussasi would have won if not for his illegal upkick. With that, Jardine was not the best fighter to take on the champion, but a win is a win, and Rockhold should feel good about defending his title.
For Rockhold to dismiss the rest of the competition in the Strikeforce Middleweight division is jumping the gun a bit. While he may definitely be in the top 10 Middleweights in the world, he still has a bit that he can prove in Strikeforce. Before he gets too ahead of himself, Rockhold should really face off against high-caliber Strikeforce fighters like Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo Souza again before taking a step up with the higher-ranking UFC Middleweights.