It was a battle of seasoned veteran versus the young gun looking to establish himself last night (January 7, 2012) in the main event of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine in Las Vegas as Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold looked to defend his title for the first time against "The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine.
Jardine was cutting down to 185 pounds for the first time with the assistance of Mike Dolce and he seemed ready and willing to go to war with the American Kickboxing Academy fighter.
The UFC veteran had shored up one of his deficiencies, his proneness to eating big left hooks, by keeping his right hand high while still maintaining his herky-jerky fighting style.
But what key mistake offset his improvements and cost him the fight? And where do both men go from here?
Jardine came out very strong, bouncing on his toes and throwing a series of his patented leg kicks while pressing the action early. It definitely caught Rockhold, who may have been expecting a more cautious opponent, off guard in the early stages.
After roughing each other up in the clinch, Rockhold finally landed his first truly significant strike, a beautiful spinning back kick which connected solidly in Jardine's midsection and he proceeded to follow it up with another just 10 seconds later.
"The Dean of Mean" was occasionally finding a home for his looping hooks and straight punches, and he did a terrific job of keeping his right hand up to defend the left hook, but his lead left was kept dangerously low. This would come back to bite him badly as the first major punch that Rockhold landed was a simple lead left hook.
Rockhold threw some head and body kicks, but his opponent responded with some heavy leg kicks, notably drawing a response from the champion, which usually means they hurt.
The beginning of the end happened with about 1:17 left in the round. Jardine came in with a big wild flurry and ate a huge right hook which temporarily dropped him and he was never able to recover properly. When they reset, Jardine's right hand was at his chin, ready to defend himself fine, bu this left arm was dangling at his side, just begging for Rockhold to come back with that right hook, so he did.
Jardine again pressed forward, eating a counter right hand which forced him to back off. Rockhold smelled blood and clipped him with a huge right again which sent him to the canvas. Being a tough veteran, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter ate some uncontested shots on his way back to his feet but was again dropped by a big right hook to the jaw. Inexplicably, Herb Dean allowed Jardine to eat about four or five extra punches for good measure on the ground before putting a stop to it.
For Keith Jardine, he did a few things right and also several things horribly wrong. Yes, he defended against the left hook, which had been his nemesis in several fights, but in doing so, he completely ignored the right hook, which is just as dangerous if not moreso. His offensive strategy wasn't bad, at least the kicking part, but it appears he can't push forward and throw combinations without leaving his jaw completely exposed and that is a serious issue which is going to need corrected considering his ability to take a big punch has gone completely down the crapper in recent years.
If Jardine is given another fight, there isn't much depth in the Strikeforce middleweight division. Perhaps fellow main card loser Adlan Amagov, although that could be too much for Amagov at this point as well. Danillo Villefort could use an experienced opponent, perhaps even Lorenz Larkin if he finally decides to drop down to middleweight. I doubt Jardine is done, but it's pretty obvious he simply cannot hang with the best in the division anymore.
For Luke Rockhold, this was as good a showing as one would expect. It took him less than a round to get a feel for Jardine's unorthodox style and figure out exactly what he needed to do to secure a finish to the fight. The left hand wasn't there, so it was all about a big right and he made it count every time he threw it. Once he had Jardine hurt, he stayed on him and didn't let the UFC veteran off the hook until the fight was over.
Despite the fact that he called out the entire UFC middleweight division, it's extremely unlikely the Strikeforce 185 pound champ going to be fighting anyone there for contractual reasons. There are honestly only two opponents that make sense at this point and time. The first is his originally scheduled foe, Tim Kennedy, who got hurt and forced Jardine to step in on short notice. The other is the former champion, Ronaldo Souza, who hasn't fought since losing the belt but gave Rockhold an extremely close fight in losing the title. If both of them fall through, however, they could throw Robbie Lawler into the mix, who bounced back with a big first round knockout last night as well.
Either way, it appears Rockhold is stuck in Strikeforce for the time being.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did this fight go exactly as you expected? Will Luke Rockhold still be Strikeforce middleweight champion by the end of 2012?