Luke Rockhold Stops Keith Jardine in First, Retains Strikeforce Title

Luke Rockhold finishes Keith Jardine (photo courtesy of Strikeforce)

Middleweight champ gets first-round TKO

Luke Rockhold wasn’t sure Keith Jardine was the type of challenge he should have for his first Strikeforce middleweight title defense.

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Rockhold tore through the UFC veteran to defend his title with a relatively easy first-round TKO victory. And then he set his sights, officially, on his counterparts in the UFC’s middleweight division.

Rockhold (9-1, 8-0 Strikeforce) won for the eighth straight time, all in Strikeforce, and dismantled Jardine (17-10-2, 0-1-1 Strikeforce) in the main event at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A right hand dropped Jardine along the fence, and Rockhold pounced – landing several big direct shots before Jardine tried to stand up. But he was barely to his feet when Rockhold dropped him again, and from there it took only a few more shots to get the fight stopped.

“It means a lot, fighting a guy like Keith Jardine,” Rockhold said after the fight. “He’s a proven opponent. He’s tough, and he came to fight. Too bad for him I love fighting. When the cage door shuts, I feel like it’s my world. Once you get past all the press and the buildup, you get in the cage and it feels amazing.”

Many had questioned Jardine as Rockhold’s first title test. An expected defense against Tim Kennedy couldn’t happen because an injury still has Kennedy on the shelf. Jardine had just one Strikeforce fight – a draw versus Gegard Mousasi last April that was only a draw because of a point deduction against Mousasi.

But when asked about Kennedy for his next opponent, Rockhold said it’s the 185-pounders in the UFC he is most interested in.

“I like fighting. I like getting paid. But I love competition and striving to be the best,” Rockhold said. “Right now, all the best guys are in the UFC – at least the top 10 ranked, besides myself, maybe. Those are the guys I want. I want to climb to the top. I want to fight the best in the world. I think they should bring over some top contenders, and let’s see who the true No. 1 contender is – because I believe that I am, and I’d love a chance to prove it.”

Since Strikeforce was purchased by Zuffa, it has been Strikeforce fighters going over to the UFC – and not the other way around. With no current champions in the heavyweight, light heavyweight and welterweight divisions thanks to those titleholders (Alistair Overeem, Dan Henderson and Nick Diaz) migrating to the UFC, it’s not likely Rockhold or Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez will be moving to the UFC anytime soon, though.

In the card’s co-main event, Robbie Lawler snapped a two-fight losing skid and got a TKO win against Adlan Amagov, snapping the Russian’s 10-fight unbeaten streak. Lawler (19-8, 1 NC, 3-4 Strikeforce)) was taken down early by Amagov (9-2-1, 2-1 Strikeforce). But the Russian threw an illegal knee with Lawler clearly on the ground. After he got time to recover, and Amagov had a point taken away, Lawler wasted no time. A flying knee grazed Amagov, taking him down, and Lawler adjusted quickly to land some big shots on the ground to get the first-round stoppage.

“(The illegal knee) bothered me a little, but not too much,” Lawler said. “It was just make sure all the cobwebs were out by the time I got out. I didn’t want him to look cute with spinning kicks, so I was going to get right in his face and look to bomb on him. I’m happy to win, but I’m going back to the drawing board to improve on all my skills and look to knock people out in 2012.”

Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal had no problem dismantling previously unbeaten Lorenz Larkin. Lawal (9-1, 4-1 Strikeforce) used his superior wrestling to take Larkin (12-1, 3-1 Strikef0rce) down in the first round and started a pattern of ground-and-pound there that continued in the second, when he was able to land some vicious bombs from on top to get the stoppage.

Also on the main card, which was televised live on Showtime, Tyron Woodley won a split decision against Jordan Mein, and Tarec Saffiedine took a split decision from Tyler Stinson.