Defeats “Jacare” by unanimous decision in back-and-forth affair
Luke Rockhold said he was going to show the critics that his time on the sidelines and lack of big name competition wouldn’t prevent him from claiming the middleweight title. Saturday night in Cincinnati, the 26-year-old did just that, earning a unanimous decision victory over Ronaldo Souza to become the new ruler of Strikeforce’s 185 pound division.
This was an exceptionally close fight, as the two 48-47 scores in Rockhold’s favor suggest; the 50-45 verdict from the first judge is somewhat questionable.
Rockhold did an excellent job defending takedowns and scrambling back to his feet quickly whenever the champion was able to drag him to the canvas. While “Jacare” looked to land single, measured power shots on the feet, Rockhold mixed things up well, throwing combinations throughout the 25 minute encounter, and blending punches and kicks.
After almost 19 months on the sidelines, Rockhold’s conditioning held up extremely well. Though both men tired as the fight wore on, this was the first time Rockhold had been out of the first round, and he continued to press the action with each successive frame.
The win validates Rockhold’s selection as the next challenger for Souza. When the American Kickboxing Academy product was first announced for this bout, many questioned whether he had done enough to merit a title shot, both in terms of his extended hiatus from the cage and the level of competition he had faced.
By getting the better of Souza on this night, Rockhold has silenced his critics.