Photo by Esther Lin/Forza LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images.
In the wake of two events put on by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in close proximity of each other, Strikeforce was hard-pressed to get any attention for its latest fight card that took place last night (Sat., July 14, 2012) in Portland, Oregon.
The main storyline of the "Rockhold vs. Kennedy" event showcased two championship bouts, serving as the main and co-main events, respectively.
In the main event, Luke Rockhold was able to win a hard fought, five-round battle against Tim Kennedy in his second consecutive middleweight title defense. Though Rockhold was unable to get the finish, the decision was fairly one-sided, despite Kennedy's toughness, tenacity and unwillingness to ever go away.
And what an entrance it was.
After more than three rounds of back-and-forth that largely favored "The Great," Marquardt was able to clip "T-Wood" with a big right elbow on the temple, then land two uppercuts in a row to send Woodley to the canvas, unconscious.
We know what happened most recently for Saturday night's big winners, but what will happen next? Could we see a move to the UFC for either fighter? If not, who should be their next opponent(s)?
Rockhold looked good. Not great. But he looked good.
It's tough to judge his performance because he was fighting a guy, in Kennedy, who just does his best to make every fight ugly. He did a decent job of that, and even looked to have Rockhold in trouble, ever-so-briefly, at a couple of junctures in the fight.
Overall, Rockhold's reach and variety of strikes was just too much for Kennedy to overcome or figure out. Also, Rockhold's wrestling and takedown defense showed marked improvement, which is a positive sign the champion is continuing to evolve.
He wants to either fight in the UFC or fight a UFC fighter. Unfortunately, neither is likely.
As far as Rockhold fighting in the Octagon goes, you can bet your paycheck that you won't be seeing that any time soon.
Rockhold's performance against Kennedy was not impressive enough to make Dana White or anyone else at Zuffa feel they need to bring him over. The UFC's middleweight division is just about as healthy as it's ever been. Rockhold would definitely make an impact, but at this point, he's at least a couple fights away from a match up opposite Anderson Silva, who Rockhold has been calling out for some time now.
Why risk it? He's still young with a lot of potential. It makes more sense to keep him over in Strikeforce for a little while longer, while he matures and grows as a fighter.
The Strikeforce middleweight stable is thin, but there are a couple of intriguing match ups for Rockhold. Ironically, both of them fought on last night's card, alongside Rockhold.
Of the two, I'd say Larkin is probably more ready and has the better resume.
Marquardt is in an interesting position now, after winning his promotional debut with a loud and triumphant knockout win.
He wants to get back to the UFC. In his mind, he never really left. We're not talking about some kid who wants a shot, or a journeyman who wants a chance at the ever-evasive big show.
"The Great" made his bones in the UFC. Not only that, but he was very successful. He didn't get cut because he sucked. He got cut because of outside the cage indiscretions, and because he messed up one of "Uncle Dana's" events.
A year ago, White said Marquardt would never be allowed back, but he's since softened.
The difference between this case and countless others, is that you get the impression White really likes Marquardt and has forgiven him for his past mistakes.
Marquardt is 33 years old. He's not "over the hill," but in the fight game, 33 is getting up there. Keeping him in Strikeforce for too long is a career death sentence.
I'd be surprised if they don't have Marquardt defend his newly minted belt at least once, but after that, if he's successful, it's time to come home.
So who should get the next (and possibly last) crack at Marquardt's belt?
I don't get excited about most of the options, but the fighter I'd like to see would be Jordan Mein.
Though "Young Gun" did lose a very close split decision to Woodley, earlier in the year, Mein has one seven of his last eight fights, and just looks better every time he gets into the cage.
His striking could present a tough challenge for Marquardt.
For me, I'd want to either see Mein or Jason High, who has won seven fights in a row, including a win over Mein in 2010 while the two fought in the Rumble in the Cage promotion.
I don't see either fighter beating Marquardt, honestly, but it's a good test to see if Marquardt is really back and if 170-pounds is, in fact, the right weight class for him.
It certainly appears to be.
After that, should he emerge as the winner, I see no reason to keep him in purgatory any longer. Bring him back to the Octagon and let him finish his career where he belongs.
Think you can do better than me? Prove it. In the comment section, hit me with your best ideas and possible match ups!