(photo courtesy Esther Lin/Strikeforce)
American Kickboxing Academy fighter Luke Rockhold is on the fast track to stardom in the Strikeforce middleweight division. In a sport where the term prospect is tossed around quite loosely, Rockhold is the true definition of a blue-chip fighter.
The California native has been building his record up on smaller venues while steadily increasing his level of competition in the process. Throughout five trips to the Strikeforce cage, Rockhold is unbeaten with five consecutive submission victories.
His most recent win came against “The Ultimate Fighter 7″ would-be finalist Jesse Taylor at Strikeforce: Challengers IV. Taylor is known for his overwhelming wrestling base but he was unable to control the superior grappler in Rockhold and eventually fell to a rear naked choke in the first round.
Rockhold will square off against yet another powerful wrestler from the TUF 7 cast when he meets Paul Bradley at Strikeforce: Challengers VI on February 26. Bradley will enter the cage with a higher wrestling pedigree than any of Rockhold’s previous opponents, but there should be no question that the AKA middleweight will prove to have more tools in his arsenal.
Assuming Rockhold gets past Bradley, how long will it be before we see the submission ace competing on larger events? The Strikeforce Challengers series has been instrumental in developing future stars for the California-based organization, but it seems too soon to bump the 185-pound prospect into a high-profile matchup, especially with guys like Tim Kennedy and Tyron Woodley still fighting on the Challengers series.
Strikeforce would not want to rush a promising young competitor into a fire-fight against an elite contender too early anyway. It would be wise to keep Rockhold on the Challengers series for a while longer so he can continue building his name while competing against tough competition such as the aforementioned prospects Kennedy and Woodley.
When the time is right Rockhold will fight on premier events against the upper echelon of his division. Under the tutelage of Dave Camarillo, Javier Mendez and Bob Cook, Rockhold will continue to evolve into a world class warrior and will prove to be more than a handful for the top ranked competitors in his weight class.
For now, he must first get through Bradley to continue his climb within the Strikeforce middleweight division.
Strikeforce Challengers can be seen this Saturday at 11pm ET/PT on Showtime.