The Strikeforce middleweight title was on the line last night (July 14, 2012) as champion Luke Rockhold took on challenger Tim Kennedy in the main event of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy in Portland, Oregon.
This fight had been nearly nine months in the making after a training injury delayed the initial match-up, and it looked like one of the combatants had been out of the cage for quite a while.
Tim Kennedy was getting his second shot at the title after failing to capture the gold from Ronaldo Souza in 2010, but his performance was more of the same as he would once again come up short via unanimous decision.
So how did Rockhold defend his title? And what happens next for both talented middleweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy post-fight review and analysis.
Right out of the gate, Rockhold showed he meant business, coming out aggressively with big punches and doing a great job of utilizing his tremendous height and reach advantages. Rockhold even surprised me by being much more effective than Kennedy in the clinch, landing nice short punches and knees and repeatedly taking inside position.
Kennedy's best form of offense was his ground attack as he scored a nice takedown midway through the first round and repeatedly worked for takedowns throughout the five round affair. He wasn't able to do much with them other than a nice stretch in the third round where he took Rockhold's back and threatened with chokes and punches.
While Rockhold was wild at times on the feet, he still did a great job of staying within himself and making sure to constantly keep the pressure on Kennedy standing, forcing the special forces sniper to constantly be moving backwards in the stand-up portion.
Kennedy was patient to a fault and it cost him dearly, most notably an exchange against the fence in the fourth round where Rockhold dropped him with a beautiful straight left. He recovered, but was very rarely in the fight after that point.
By the fifth and final round, Kennedy was still primarily fighting while moving backwards and Rockhold kept the pressure on him with a high pace, consistent strikes and offensive clinching attacks to end up winning an easy decision 49-46 across the boards.
For Tim Kennedy, he had major issues dealing with Rockhold's size. Rockhold fights very tall and because of this, Kennedy never seemed comfortable in the stand-up department for the entire bout.If anyone was ever getting off any significant offense on the feet, it was Rockhold with punches, knees and kicks. Also, Kennedy was just way too patient. To me, it looked like he was waiting to counter or simply waiting for something big but it never arrived. When he would sit back, Rockhold would simply wade in with a clinch or a combination that completely disrupted his rhythm. Lastly, with the bout almost certainly in Rockhold's favor during the fifth round, Kennedy showed no sense of urgency, which was very disappointing.
I'd expect to see Kennedy fight someone like the upcoming Souza vs. Brunson loser or perhaps Danillo Villefort. I even heard a rumor he might re-enlist with the special forces.
For Luke Rockhold, he fought a very intelligent championship bout. He took what Kennedy gave him, which was a lot in the stand-up department and he remained very composed when he was occasionally taken down. His submission defense was solid and he was able to get back to his feet each time a takedown transpired. His striking was fantastic and his ability to utilize length was probably the biggest factor in the bout.
Next up for Rockhold could be main card winners Lorenz Larkin or Roger Gracie. Another option is the winner of the upcoming Ronaldo Souza vs. Derek Brunson fight. Either way, his future looks very bright after that workmanlike performance.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you disappointed that Kennedy didn't pull the trigger more in the striking department. At 6'4 and very athletic, is Rockhold a nightmare match-up for just about anyone on the Strikeforce roster?