Rockhold retains Strikeforce middlweight title; Marquardt wins welterweight belt
By Matt Erickson, MMAjunkie.com
Maybe now Luke Rockhold will get the respect he's been looking for.
The Strikeforce middleweight champion on Saturday defended his title for the second time with a unanimous decision win over Tim Kennedy at Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Ore.
Rockhold (10-1 MMA, 9-0 SF) had several moments in the fight where he was close to putting Kennedy (14-4 MMA, 5-2 SF) away, but had to settle for the nod from the judges, who all three scored the five-round title fight 49-46, giving Rockhold four rounds to Kennedy's one.
"Five-round wars -- those suck. But hard work pays off," said Rockhold, who has bemoaned a perceived lack of respect for Strikeforce champs compared to their counterparts in the UFC. "I controlled the pace, I think. I stalked him most of the time and made him back up. I defended all the takedowns, for the most part, and got a couple of my own."
Kennedy, a U.S. Army Bronze Star winner, proved a far more game opponent for Rockhold than his first title defense, an easy win over Keith Jardine in January. Kennedy even found himself in several dominant positions in the fight - though he couldn't hold them long, and Rockhold used a size advantage to get back to his feet and stay busy.
"I think I could've let some combinations go," Rockhold said. "I loaded up a lot and I tried to head hunt, but he's got some funky strikes. He's unorthodox and hard to read sometimes when you don't know if he's going to shoot (for a takedown). (Wrestling) was one of the main focuses in this camp.
"What he lacks in technique, he makes up for in heart and desire. He just keeps coming and I couldn't get stale for a second."
In the co-main event, Strikeforce finally crowned a welterweight champion for the first time in more than two years. The promotion's 170-pound title had been vacant since Jake Shields left in July 2010 to eventually sign with the UFC.
Nate Marquardt (32-10-2 MMA, 1-0 SF) put the belt around his waist after stopping Tyron Woodley (10-1 MMA, 8-1 SF) with a brutal five-strike knockout 1:39 into the fourth round.
"This feels great - it's truly a dream come true," Marquardt said. "He was throwing a lot of hard shots, but I was just weathering the storm because I thought I could get him to wear himself out. Experience was definitely the difference in this fight."
Marquardt, a former middleweight title challenger in the UFC, was fighting for the first time in 16 months. In June 2011, he was publicly fired from the UFC after failing to get medical clearance for a main event - the day before the fight. Marquardt later admitted to being on doctor-prescribed testosterone treatment, causing a spike in his levels.
But his signing earlier this year with Strikeforce paid quick dividends for both Marquardt and the promotion.
Marquardt and Woodley battled back and forth into the fourth round, trading momentum with highlight-reel strikes. But after getting Woodley backed into the cage, Marquardt unleashed with three straight elbows, followed by a left hand and a right uppercut that put Woodley on the canvas.
Earlier on the Showtime-broadcast main card, Roger Gracie dominated Jardine, bloodying up the former UFC light heavyweight with big elbows on the ground - though the grandson of jiu-jitsu legend Carlson Gracie couldn't get the finish. And Lorenz Larkin, fighting at middleweight for the first time after dropping from light heavyweight, outboxed feared striker Robbie Lawler to win a unanimous decision.
Strikeforce and Showtime on Saturday also announced a Sept. 29 card in Sacramento, which is expected to be headlined by heavyweight tournament winner Daniel Cormier, though his opponent was not named.
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