At Saturday's Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy, Luke Rockhold may have retained his middleweight title, but he did very little to change my opinion of him.
Before the fight, I did not consider him a top 10 middleweight in the world.
After the fight, I know he is not top 10 material.
I certainly am not going to rip on the man and devour his performance. After all, he won, easily handling an always-game opponent in Tim Kennedy.
That said, when was Tim Kennedy ever a top 10 fighter? Rockhold should have annihilated Kennedy, and he should have done so even more impressively than he did.
Bleacher Report's rankings for the top 10 middleweights in the world provides a "who's who" of phenomenal fighters.
From Hector Lombard to Michael Bisping to the perennial champion Anderson Silva, the UFC is absolutely loaded with middleweights studs.
Luke Rockhold may be a stud according to the ladies (so I hear), but he is not a stud in the cage.
Let us peruse his resume:
His first eight fights were against fighters you probably have never heard of (and he still lost one of them via TKO). Still, everybody gets caught once in a while, so we will give him a pass on that loss early in his career.
To this end, he did what he needed to do: he won enough fights on the small-time shows to make it to the big show, and that is not a feat to take lightly; in fact, it is very impressive.
That said, we are talking about how he stacks up against the best of the best in the world, the cream of the crop at 185 lbs.
Rockhold's last three fights were against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Keith Jardine and Kennedy, in that order.
He beat Souza by a decision which some felt was controversial (I felt he won pretty clearly), Jardine via TKO and Kennedy via lazy decision.
The Souza win is quality, but the other two do not really prove anything to me other than that he continues to do what he has to do to be a good—but not top 10—fighter.
Knocking out Keith Jardine is like submitting Kimbo Slice; if you do not do it, you are doing something wrong, period.
The fashion in which he beat Kennedy was disappointing, to say the least. I wanted him to show off his extensive striking and grappling skills which I had heard so much about, but what I saw was a fighter looking to score points and simply get out of the cage with a win.
That is fine...if you are OK with maintaining a nice plateau in your career's trajectory.
Rockhold had the chance to really prove something against Tim Kennedy, and he failed to do that. If he was constantly rocking Kennedy and attempting submissions but Kennedy was simply too resilient to be finished, I would be fine with that.
That was not the case, though. Kennedy offered little resistance at all, and a hungry fighter hell-bent on winning would have stuck it to him and ended the fight. Kennedy's gameplan consisted of weak takedown attempts and haymakers, and any of the top 10 UFC fighters would have figured out a way around this bland attack.
The bottom line is this: Luke Rockhold is in the minor leagues of the UFC, if you will, and he still is not annihilating opponents. Hector Lombard is a perfect example of what he could be doing, and that difference is exactly why Lombard cracks the top 10 but Rockhold does not.
Luke Rockhold may be the best middleweight in Strikeforce, but he is mid-tier in the UFC.
He thinks he wants a part of the big time, but until he shows up bigger than he has thus far in his career, he is in for a rude awakening when he steps into the Octagon.