Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy B/R MMA Staff Predictions
Have you had enough MMA action in that last week? Neither have we! Saturday night, a pair of world-title fights will take place under the Strikeforce banner, along with some other key matchups in the UFC's sister organization.
In the night's main event, two criminally underrated middleweights Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy will battle for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. Rockhold will look to defend his championship for the second time, while Kennedy is hoping to do better in his second bid for glory.
The co-main event of the evening features a welterweight-championship bout between undefeated standout Tyron Woodley and former UFC contender Nate Marquardt. This will be Marquardt's first fight at 170 pounds, although the lack of star power in Strikeforce suggests that he is the most worthy challenger for the vacant championship.
Also on the card is a matchup between Robbie Lawler and Lorenz Larkin. By pitting two heavy-handed strikers against each other, Showtime viewers are sure to see a big knockout.
Keith Jardine returns to action in search for his first win in a major organization since a 2008 split decision against Brandon Vera. He takes on newly middleweight Roger Gracie.
This time around, we highlight the predictions of B/R Featured Columnists Dwight Wakabayashi, Mark Pare, John Heinis and Andrew Saunders.
Here are the B/R Staff Predictions for Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy.
Keith Jardine vs. Roger Gracie
Keith Jardine is still seeking that elusive first win after signing a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce in 2011.
Roger Gracie is also on a down swing, after losing his first professional fight in his last bout against Muhammed Lawal.
It is a classic striker vs. grappler match up, one that will definitely appease the fans, considering how both guys need a win at this stage. Sure, Gracie only lost one fight but once you get on a losing streak, and considering how bad he lost in that fight with Lawal, it’ll be hard to come back from.
Jardine is also coming off a first-round loss in his title fight with Luke Rockhold. Jardine needs this win; he went on a losing streak and got cut from the UFC and has won two of five since.
Prediction: Jardine def. Gracie via 1st round KO
Roger Gracie is trying to climb up in his career, and Keith Jardine is trying to hang on to his.
I see that being the difference as Roger is a bit too fresh and hungry for Keith to handle as Jardine has not fared well against top-level competition for a few years now.
Is Gracie top-level competition? This is a good chance for him to prove that he is by staying all over the veteran, and I don’t think Gracie will be denied.
Gracie via unanimous decision
Remember when "The Dean of Mean" was a dark horse light heavyweight title contender in the UFC?
Yeah, neither does anyone else.
Keith Jardine was cut by the UFC after losing four in a row between March 2009 and June 2010, and somehow after going 2-1 on the independent scene, he got a contract with Strikeforce.
After a draw against Gegard Mousasi last April, Jardine was gifted a title shot against middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in January. That went pretty much how you'd imagine it would—with Jardine being knocked out in brutal fashion.
He faces another stiff challenge in the form of submission specialist Roger Gracie. The second-degree BJJ black belt easily disposed of the over-the-hill Kevin Randleman and Trevor Prangley under the Strikeforce banner, before getting destroyed on the feet by Muhammed Lawal back in September.
However, Renzo Gracie's cousin is in luck here, as Jardine is also way past his prime, looking particularly slow, sucked out and unathletic against Rockhold. Gracie will get this fight to the ground and submit Jardine with little resistance, end of story.
Roger Gracie via first round submission (rear-naked choke)
Do people really expect Keith Jardine to win a fight for a major organization in 2012? Nothing against the Dean of Mean, but at 36 years old, the unorthodox striker doesn't seem to have what it takes to hang with high level fighters.
Bring in Roger Gracie, one of the best grapplers in the world, and we will see how Jardine holds up this time around.
If Jardine can keep the fight standing, he has a chance at pulling off the victory. I expect Gracie to outwork his opponent throughout this contest.
Roger Gracie by unanimous decision
Robbie Lawler vs. Lorenz Larkin
Robbie Lawler gained a ton of momentum after his flying-kick KO victory over Adlan Amagov in January and is back on the road that he hopes leads to another Strikeforce Middleweight title fight.
Lorenz Larkin had an undefeated record blemished and then overturned, thanks to Muhammad Lawal testing positive for anabolic steroids, but let's not talk about that.
Larkin has still been on fire. Before his fight with King Mo, he won five of his last seven by way of knockout.
Lawler loves using the fists as well, so we could be in for a good old-fashioned fist fight and the first one to drop loses.
Larkin kept his undefeated record, but the actual KO probably scared him into how it can all end in an instant. Larkin can’t be hesitant or he’ll end up flat on his back.
Look for Lawler to take this one on the feet.
Lawler def. Larkin via 1st round KO
Larkin dodged a bullet on his record when his loss to King Mo Lawal was overturned and he remains an undefeated 12-0 in his career.
Lawler is coming off a sweet TKO of Adlan Amagov in his last one. I don’t see Lawler coming out on the good end if these two decide to stand and trade, which is exactly what Lawler loves to do.
Larkin via TKO 2nd round
In a classic veteran vs. young up-and-comer, Strikeforce has pitted one striker against another in what should be an entertaining middleweight scrap.
"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler put together a vintage performance against Adlan Amagov in January, dropping the Russian with a brilliant flying knee and finishing the fight with some ground-and-pound.
Still, Lawler is just 3-4 under the Strikeforce banner, losing to every big name he's faced: Jake Shields, Ronaldo Souza, Renato Sobral, Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy. He faces a tough test in the undefeated Larkin.
After a 12-0 start to his career (with eight finishes), Larkin was soundly beaten up by Muhammed Lawal in January. However, the result was overturned to a no-contest when "King Mo" tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone.
While Larkin is not the most polished product out there, Lawler's best days are well behind him and that will be made apparent here.
Lorenz Larkin via Round 2 TKO
Undefeated (sort of) Lorenz Larkin didn't fare well in his last fight with King Mo in January. Fortunately for him, Robbie Lawler is someone who he doesn't have to worry about going to the ground with.
Lawler is looking to pick up some momentum after picking up an excellent knockout on the same January card. As someone who always prefers to stand and bang, this is the kind of fight that Lawler is looking for.
Larkin has a long way to come, and I don't think that he is quite ready for the experience of Lawler.
Robbie Lawler via KO in Round 2
Tyron Woodley vs. Nate Marquardt
This is what Tyron Woodley has been waiting for, a shot at the belt. He will have to go through a man fresh off the UFC roster in Nate Marquardt.
Woodley has been unbelievable, a perfect 10-0 record. Sure, the last three have been by decision, but he’s getting the win and that is what counts. He utilizes his great wrestling technique and has been on a tear since signing with Strikeforce.
Marquardt is coming off a win over Dan Miller at UFC 128. Of course, the whole testosterone situation that came up and forced Marquardt out of the UFC has kept him out of the cage for over a year.
Ring rust is a myth to most fighters so don’t look for Marquardt to make any excuses. Marquardt is the veteran of the two and has a few good knockouts to his credit, including over Rousimar Palhares in September 2010 and Demian Maia in August 2009 (21-second knockout).
Marquardt is a great wrestler as well, but he will want to keep this one on the feet and not let Woodley anywhere comfortable. Woodley is crafty and will probably get Marquardt down once or twice, but for Marquardt, he probably feels he has more to prove after getting bumped from the UFC so he will be on his game, especially since there is a title involved.
We could be in for a long fight that goes the distance if both try and use the ground game, where they are both strong.
Marquardt def. Woodley via unanimous decision
The always-improving Woodley gets a shot at the vacant welterweight title, but I think he may be a bit out of his league in this one.
Marquardt is itching to make a statement and a quick return to the UFC and holding a Strikeforce belt would be a good way to get there. I see Marquardt using his better all-around striking game and veteran savvy to take a decision.
Marquardt via unanimous decision
Has anyone on the Strikeforce roster had a harder fall from grace than Nate Marquardt?
I think not. The former three-time King of Pancrase middleweight champion was released from the UFC last June, failing a drug test for the UFC on Versus 4 event hours before he was supposed to weigh-in for a bout against then-surging contender Rick Story.
This was also supposed to be The Great's welterweight debut. He later revealed to Ariel Helwani that he had been using testosterone replacement therapy since August of 2010.
That's relevant because Nate announced that he is no longer using TRT leading up to this fight, which is really strange. I heard TRT was a lifelong treatment, didn't you?
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot to mention that Marquardt signed with BAMMA for a few months—only to ask for a release after they kept pushing his debut back. In short, Marquardt last time in the cage was a decision win over Dan Miller in March 2011.
In my mind, this gives dominant wrestler Tyron Woodley an edge going into this fight. Marquardt has never been great under pressure (see his fights with Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami) and Woodley knows how to apply non-stop pressure, even if it can be Jon Fitch-esque at times.
Woodley is a perfect 10-0 in MMA, though fans and judge's both mad an argument that he should have lost his fight against Jordan Mein in January as he took lay and pray to a new level. "T-Wood" was content to secure his takedowns and just smother Mein, not even considering ground-and-pound, guard passing and submission attempts. While he won by split decision, he needs a more complete performance than that against a guy like Marquardt.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say we will see vintage Woodley here and this will be a lot like Marquardt vs. Sonnen.
Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision
Tyron Woodley has been an impressive wet blanket in his last few fights. Apparently that was when he purchased the Jon Fitch how-to guide for putting a crowd to sleep. Nonetheless, wins are wins.
Nate Marquardt is going to be huge for welterweight, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in his new weight class. Although he has excellent takedown defense historically, his battle with Chael Sonnen showed that an elite wrestler can put him on his back repeatedly.
It's going to be difficult for Marquardt to dole out the kind of attack he wants to if he is stuck on his back.
Tyron Woodley by unanimous decision.
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy
The Strikeforce Middleweight title will be an uphill battle for champion Luke Rockhold, facing U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tim Kennedy, who has been waiting for this fight for a while, after injury forced him out of their scheduled fight in January.
The only time Kennedy has been TKO’d was due to a cut in his first MMA bout. Otherwise, two unanimous decision losses later and you have a guy who knows how to finish fights.
He has been quite the fan of choke submissions as he has five wins to his credit for it. He’s also knocked out five guys, but hasn’t since 2007.
Rockhold loves the ground game and choke holds as much as Kennedy does. Rockhold has four rear-naked chokes to his credit and is riding an eight-fight winning streak. His win over Keith Jardine was decisive and shows that Rockhold will be up to the task against Kennedy.
Look for a lot of wrestling in this one.
Rockhold def. Kennedy via 2nd round submission to retain the title
Luke Rockhold is on a very nice run right now and stands as the champion in this one. He is coming off a nice TKO over Keith Jardine for his first title defense.
Tim Kennedy is looking to gain that title that has alluded him in his career to date. Kennedy must get this one to the ground quickly and try to keep it there as his only chance for victory. I don’t see him being able to keep Rockhold’s power game down.
Rockhold via split decision
Luke Rockhold shocked the MMA world when he came off a roughly 19-month layoff to defeat Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in September 2011. Rockhold looked every bit the dominant champion you'd hope him to be when he defended his title against Keith Jardine in January, but that's not saying much these days.
The champion will face a much stiffer challenge this time around in former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tim Kennedy. Kennedy has won sixth of his past seven, with his sole loss coincidentally coming to Souza back at Strikeforce: Houston in August 2010.
Kennedy brings a well-rounded grappling game and an aggressive, though at times wreckless, striking game to the table and could probably hang with some of the top-10 fighters in the UFC. Rockhold is no different though, showing an impressive striking game, despite coming from a Jiu-Jitsu background (he's a brown belt under Dave Camarillo). In nine career wins, he has eight finishes to his credit.
Kennedy will bring constant pressure with his highly touted wrestling game, but if he gets the fight to the ground, I'm not confident he can keep it there. Even if he does, Rockhold is very capable off his back, to the point where he will be able to scramble back to his feet in the worst case scenario. Rockhold will also probably have a lot of success keeping Kennedy at bay with all the unorthodox kicks he has in his toolbox.
Kennedy will make it a fight, but he will again come up just short in his bid for the Strikeforce middleweight title.
Luke Rockhold via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47 x 2)
Tim Kennedy has the aggression and grappling to make Rockhold's second title defense a nightmare. How will his AKA opponent keep this fight on the feet? Because that question will ultimately determine the outcome of the fight.
Rockhold's impressive striking is enough to infuriate any opponent. If he can keep this fight standing, he should be able to outpoint Kennedy, and maybe even land a big enough shot to finish.
Unfortunately for Rockhold, I don't see it happening.
Tim Kennedy via submission (rear-naked choke) in the fourth round.