On Jan. 7, 2012, Luke Rockhold proved to be the biggest winner at Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" by defending his belt with a quick and decisive victory over UFC veteran Keith Jardine in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The event featured a preliminary card that aired on Showtime (Showtime Extreme, to be exact) for the first time. According to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans can expect to see more of the same in the coming year.
On the main card, we saw a couple of very close (and not terribly enthralling) fights that ended via split decision. There were also several fights marred by controversy when the respective referees in charge failed to step in and stop the fight before too much damage was doled out.
It was an interesting night for the "other MMA promotion" under the Zuffa banner. Like any card, it had its highs and lows.
Let's peruse the list of big winners and lowly losers from Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine:"
Luke Rockhold -- After beating Ronaldo Souza at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sept. 10, 2011, the MMA world sat up and took notice of Rockhold, possibly for the first time. Tonight, he beat up "The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine in a quick, first-round TKO victory -- and he made it look easy. I'm not trying to sell you on the idea that Jardine is still a top contender. He isn't, but that's not Rockhold's fault. All the guy can do is fight who they put in front of him. I, for one, am excited to see what happens next in his career and to see who he fights next.
Robbie Lawler -- If you're an old school MMA fan, you gotta love seeing Lawler come out on top; especially in the way that it went down. After being hit with a blatantly illegal knee, Lawler shook it off, got back up and quickly ended his opponent, Adlan Amagov, after flooring him with a big flying knee. Coming in to the fight, Amagov was being hyped in a big way. A lot of people thought Lawler was being fed to the wolves. Don't write his retirement speech for him just yet.
Muhammed Lawal -- "King Mo" did what he had to do to take care of business against an adversary in Lorenz Larkin who has the power to put a man to sleep with one well-placed strike. Lawal took him down, controlled him and finally pounded him out after referee Kim Winslow finally called a stop to the onslaught in the second round. He fought a smart fight and didn't deviate from the gameplan. If all goes according to plan, he should find himself fighting for the Strikeforce light heavyweight belt again very soon.
Frank Shamrock -- Because I had to listen to him. Because he's had braces for 17 years. Because every time one of the other "esteemed" Strikeforce announcers asks him a question, you can plan on an awkward pause that's long enough for you to fire off a few emails, followed by an answer that makes you wonder if he was even listening. Truth is: he probably wasn't.
Mauro Ranallo -- Again, I had to listen to him. I guess that makes me (and everyone else who tuned in) the real loser(s) in the situation. Look, if Mauro is your guy -- good for you. I just can't get into his style. It's all over the top. There are no dynamics. He says things just to be controversial. He argues with Pat Miletich, who has forgotten more about fighting than Mauro may ever learn. It's 2012. He's like the awkward guy at the party that no one invited. Why is he still here?
Lorenz Larkin -- I like "Monsoon." I like him a lot. But it's time for him to make a decision. Do you want to be a "pretty good" light heavyweight who beats lesser opponents and makes a paycheck, but never really makes a run at a title? Or do you want to be the best mixed martial artist you can be and show that you belong at the top. If the answer is the latter, then Larkin needs to drop down to middleweight. I know that it's the "sexy" answer these days, but the truth is that Larkin carries unnecessary "baggage" as a 205-pounder. He also just doesn't have the strength to compete with the top light heavyweights. "King Mo" won't be the last man to throw him around and overpower him if he stays at this weight class. Disagree. That's fine. But you're wrong.
Keith Jardine -- It was fun while it lasted, big guy. We loved your crazy beard and your "Soda Popinski" style persona. You beat Chuck Liddell when that was an accomplishment that still meant something. I'm not mad at you. But it's over. I've never been a professional fighter, so I can't possibly know what it's like to try and quell that fire and call it a day. I admit that. But if it's a matter of contending for a title, that ship has sailed far off into the distance.
The Referees -- Being an official in any sport is difficult. I wouldn't want to do it. That said, there were a few super late stoppages on this card. It just can't happen. When a fighter takes four or five unnecessary punches, it just tarnishes the whole sport. It's a fine line. I get that. But these kind of errors are a big deal and need to be closely evaluated.
Alright, Maniacs. Your turn. Who would you list as the big winners and lowly losers from Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine?"