Strikeforce 41: Rockhold vs. Kennedy 7/14/12 Portland, OR Rose Garden
Robbie Lawler vs. Lorenz Larkin 3R. Lawler pretty much beat himself here. He was effective when he actually walked Larkin down and threw, but just refused to see this was the only situation where he was winning, and in kept repeating the losing pattern of burning himself out in the clinch game looking to muscle a takedown that wasn't coming. Lawler got off to a great start stunning Larkin with a right hook and following with a few more punches, but the fight turned when Larkin tied him up and took him down. It was as if Lawler was so shocked by getting taken down he didn't know how to proceed with the fight. He kept going for his own brute force takedowns, pinning Larkin against the cage, but allowing Larkin to control his head and beat him up with knees and elbows while Lawler just held on taking the punishment. Larkin looked like he belonged at middleweight. He was in better shape, moved more fluidly, was way more active and far more unpredictable. He was the quicker fighter, and when Lawler stood in the center of the ring with him toe to toe, it was Larkin's jab that got off first every time, and it was opening up his more dynamic striking attack of kicks and elbows in addition to the power punches. Larkin was content to repeat this pattern or just get backed into the cage where Lawler smothered his own power and was a stationary target for Larkin's short striking game of elbows and clinch knees. It was all Larkin's fight after the first few minutes. Larkin was attacking from all angles, while Lawler was just laying back or holding on. Even when Larkin misfired it still worked, for instance trying a high kick but winding up cutting Lawler's head with his kneebows and clinch knee when Robbie didn't quite duck it. Lawler came out in round 3 looking like he realized he needed a knockout and meant business, but was soon back to the ineffective clinch game and the unwillingness to let his hands go, and thus soon back to losing. Larkin outstruck Lawler 62 to a mere 30. I don't know if Larkin is truly the better fighter, but his head was on straight and he surely wanted it more. He was mostly responsible for making it entertaining, though Lawler had his moments before he outthought himself. Larkin won a unanimous 30-27 decision. Good match.
Keith Jardine vs. Roger Gracie 3R. Keith Jardine still hasn't been submitted, but there weren't many other positives coming out of this match. Jardine would overreach on his overly wide punches and Gracie would tie him right up, take him down, and comprehensively dominate him on the mat. Gracie had few submission attempts, but he did such a good job of advance to mount and slicing and dice Jardine's face with elbows that Jardine would slip out of the submission because he was so bloody. Jardine's feet, shins, and knees were actually covered in blood in round 2 for lying in the pool of his own blood! Gracie had such positional dominance in the second with full and rear mount that he got a 10-8 round from 2 judges even though he really did nothing to even threaten to end the fight. Jardine finally fought smarter in the 3rd, being more patient and focusing on landing what he could, a shot or two, then moving so Gracie couldn't tie him up. Jardine landed a big uppercut on a tired Gracie, who was drained from cutting 18 pounds in a day to make middleweight for the first time, but it was way too little to late. Jardine was just too tired, and pretty much just laid back, content to throw a single shot so he wouldn't get taken down. Gracie didn't do much in round 3 after working hard for the finish in rounds 1 & 2, but since Jardine refused to counter his jabs he was able to be active enough without being in any real danger on his feet that two of the three judges gave him the third round despite Roger pretty much just shutting it down. Jardine only landed 15 punches in the entire fight, and just 5 power punches, so it was well past of the point of whatever didn't happen in round 3 making any difference. Average match.
Strikeforce Welterweight Championship Decision Match: Tyron Woodley vs. Nate Marquardt R4 1:39. You weren't sure what to expect from Marquart in a new promotion at a lower weight class, coming off a 16 month layoff after the hormone replacement controversy. Marquart fought like a champion though, using his head, his experience and guile, and his conditioning to dominate the younger more athletic fighter. Marquardt totally dominated positioning, walking Woodley down and using fakes, feints, and diverse attacks to keep Woodley on the defensive, denying him the ability to use his movement and darting attacks. Marquart also dominated the clinch game, positioning himself better and working elbows while tiring Woodley out. After Woodley's worst match of the year candidate against Jordan Mein at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine 1/7/12, the prospect of Woodley taking on a wrestler who also isn't known for a plethora of great matches wouldn't have led you to believe this would be the most exciting match on the card, but these two went after it and both landed some huge shots that had the opposition reeling. Woodley had a big start, knocking Marquardt across the cage with a big right hand counter, but allowed Marquardt to recover going for the takedown. Woodley couldn't dominate Marquardt with his wrestling as he did in his previous matches, and that was a key factor as it kept him from sustaining his confidence. Marquardt came back with a flash knockdown from a short right, tried to finish with a guillotine, and won the clinch battle to take the first round. Round 2 saw Marquardt establish his standing dominance by working the low kick, mixing in some other strikes such as a nice spinning heel kick. A 3 punch flurry set up the takedown in the last minute. Woodley came out energized in the 3rd, stunning Marquardt with 2 big punches and flurrying on him on the ground until Marquardt tried an armbar and triangle then settled into guard. Marquardt stabilized and spent most of the round walking Woodley down, but seemed to be recovering as he wasn't pulling the trigger the way he was in the previous round. Woodley won the third, but Marquardt continued to tire him out, and that paid off as Woodley became sloppier and less confident. Marquardt KO'd Woodley with 3 big elbows against the cage early in the 4th, but the fight wasn't stopped until Woodley finally fell after 2 huge uppercuts. Good match.
Strikeforce Middleweight Championship Match: Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy 5R. Rockhold had too much reach and movement for Kennedy. He stalked Kennedy the whole fight, and kept Kennedy off balance. Kennedy was pretty accurate, but had nothing to get Rockhold off balance and tended to run rather than throw. Kennedy was aggressive when Rockhold was close to him, but that was about it. His only chance was the takedown, and Rockhold's wrestling is much improved. Kennedy never threw more than a single strike, so his only chance was to counter into a takedown. Kennedy did have a couple takedowns, but never turned them into any offense. It was all a rather routine win for Rockhold, backing Kennedy into the cage with punches then throwing high kicks, all with Kennedy out of range unless Kennedy could time Rockhold stepping in and land a counter. Rockhold knocked Kennedy down with a right hook 3 minutes into the 4th, but didn't come close to finishing, mainly because he too wasn't all that active. Rockhold looked tough to beat, but not great. Kennedy didn't bring anything good out of Rockhold because he mainly ran and never seemed to even consider what plan B was. It was more or less 5 rounds of the same thing, with Kennedy really lacking the intensity and urgency you'd expect from a challenger. Rockhold won a unanimous 49-46 decision. Average match.