Strikeforce: 'Rockhold vs Kennedy' predictions, preview and analysis

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It's a good week to be a middleweight.

Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Kennedy," which comes on the heels of UFC 148 and UFC on FUEL TV 4, will feature the third straight mixed martial arts (MMA) event to be headlined by a pair of 185-pounders, as champion Luke Rockhold puts his title on the line against challenger Tim Kennedy.

Also vying for gold on the Showtime network is Nate Marquardt, who makes his return to the ZUFFA rank and file this Saturday night (July 14, 2012) at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon, in an attempt to splinter Tyron Woodley's chances of claiming the promotion's vacant welterweight strap.

As with any major combat sports event, your old pal Nostradumbass will give you a look at the televised main card, complete with long-winded predictions and shortsighted analysis.

See for yourself.

185 lbs.: Luke Rockhold (9-1) vs. Tim Kennedy (14-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Luke Rockhold takes a lot of heat on this site, mostly from me, and mostly because of his big mouth. He repeatedly calls out Anderson Silva and even bags on Brock Lesnar and Greg Jackson. I get that he's the champ and he wants to fight in the UFC, but seriously Rocky, beat someone like Vitor Belfort before you start calling out "The Spider."

That being said, I won't deny he's a talented fighter.

Rockhold trains with some of the best fighters in the world at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose and has repeatedly shown inside the cage, where it counts the most, he's not afraid to "go for it" and make it a fight. But I just can't get overly excited about his place in the bigger picture when his most celebrated win to date is a close decision over Ronaldo Souza.

I still think he beats Tim Kennedy.

Bizarre videos notwithstanding, I like what I see from the Army Ranger, who's fought tougher guys and has nearly twice the experience, but his biggest offensive weapon has been his wrestling, which sets up his above-average submission game.

Not going to cut it tomorrow night.

Rockhold trains with Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez and has already shown the ability to defend the shoot. On the feet, he's the better, or at least the more technical striker and I think Kennedy wastes too much time each round looking for the takedown while the champion quietly accumulates points on the feet.

They're pretty evenly matched and both have full tanks of gas, so it should be a fairly spirited affair and a close call for the judges, but when all is said and done, I believe the title stays right where it is.

Final prediction: Rockhold def. Kennedy via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Nate Marquardt (31-10-2) vs. Tyron Woodley (10-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: Former UFC Middleweight Nate Marquardt hasn't fought in well over a year, having last competed against Dan Miller at UFC 128 back in March 2011. He's also never fought at welterweight, because the one time he tried, he screwed up his TRT paperwork and got kicked out of the company.

How can I pick him?

I can't. I don't like to pick guys coming off long layoffs as it is, but when it's a layoff combined with a drop in weight, there are too many unknowns to make a convincing argument in Marquardt's favor, especially against a talented wrestler like Tyron Woodley.

"T-Wood" is the veteran when it comes to this division.

I know "The Great" says he can make 170 pounds with ease, and maybe he can, but what kind of fighter will he be? Part of his success as a middleweight was his size and strength, and let's not pretend the TRT wasn't a factor, which he's no longer on, because it was.

We need a finish.

Woodley finished his first five opponents, but has only secured a stoppage once in his following five. He wants to be seen as a major player in a division where talented wrestlers are a dime a dozen. Finishing Marquardt would certainly be a good start.

Not sure it happens.

With all the problems Marquardt has coming into this bout, he's only been knocked out once in 41 professional fights and that was by UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Woodley has jits, but it's not good enough to finish "The Great" one, unless cardio becomes an issue, which it may in his 170-pound debut.

Meh.

Final prediction: Woodley def. Marquardt via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Lorenz Larkin (12-0) vs. Robbie Lawler (19-8)

Nostradumbass predicts: Thanks to Muhammed Lawal's ignorance of nutritional supplements, Lorenz Larkin is still undefeated, despite being beaten like a rug by "King Mo" (with an assist from referee Kim Winslow). Still, the beatdown was enough to make him reconsider his career as a light heavyweight and starting tomorrow night, he'll be leaner and meaner.

Same shit, different weight class.

My problem with this match-up is Larkin's skill set. He's a talented fighter with a bright future, but he's going up against one of the division's most grizzled and battle-tested veterans in Robbie Lawler, who also happens to be a great striker with knockout power.

The key to beating the "Ruthless" one is by submission.

That being said, Larkin has never won a fight by submission. Ever. I have to assume that as a mixed martial artist he's not completely ignorant of the ground game, but if you're 12-0 without tapping anyone, that tells me you love to strike, which is all well and good.

Just not against Lawler.

If "The Monsoon" had a couple of big time names on his resume that left me with any indication he was on Lawler's level of stand-up, I'd say we were in for "Fight of the Night." Instead, it will probably just be "Knockout of the Night."

Final prediction: Lawler def. Larkin via technical knockout

185 lbs.: Roger Gracie (4-1) vs. Keith Jardine (17-10-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: How do you keep Keith Jardine on a fight card and sleep at night? You match him up against a submission specialist, like Strikeforce did with Roger Gracie.

He's still losing.

To his credit, "The Dean of Mean" has never been submitted in 27 professional fights, and that might mean something against the run-of-the-mill light heavyweight.

Doesn't mean much against Gracie.

We're talking about a guy who's submitted Alexandre Ribeiro, Marcelo Garcia, Robert Drysdale, Fabricio Werdum and "Jacare" Souza, I think he can tap the former Ultimate Fighter if he really wanted to. The question is, can he stay away from the striking attack?

Jardine still has one.

Just because his chin has expired doesn't mean he no longer hits hard. And his leg kicks can break your spirit as well as your femur. And now we know Gracie can be put to sleep, like he was against Muhammed Lawal in Sept. 2011.

So basically, this one all boils down to gameplan.

If Jardine can stay off the ground he has a very realistic chance of winning this fight. I'm just not sure he can do enough damage, earlier enough, to stymie the Gracie mugging. Sooner or later the Brazilian gets it to the floor and from there, it's academic.

Final prediction: Gracie def. Jardine via submission

That's a wrap, folks.

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., July 14, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Showtime Extreme.

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tonight's event.

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