Nothing seems to rattle Luke Rockhold, not even five hard rounds with Tim Kennedy.

Rockhold (10-1, 9-0 Strikeforce) stalked and struck his way to victory, as he retained the Strikeforce middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over Kennedy in the Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Kennedy” headliner on Saturday at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. All three cageside judges sided with Rockhold by identical 49-46 scores.

“The five-round wars suck, but hard work pays off,” Rockhold said. “I controlled the pace, I think. I stalked him most of the time and made him keep backing up. I defended all his takedowns, for the most part, and got a couple of my own.”

Controlling the center of the cage, the longer and taller champion backed up Kennedy throughout the grueling 25-minute bout. The challenger seemed reluctant to unleash more than one punch at a time, and it cost him. Rockhold countered effectively with straight lefts and right hooks, more than held his own in the clinch and turned away a majority of Kennedy’s takedown bids.

Rockhold connected on the most significant strike of the match in the fourth round, when he planted Kennedy with a right hand, followed him to the canvas and mounted him briefly. Kennedy (14-4, 5-2 Strikeforce) freed himself from the American Kickboxing Academy ace’s clutches but did nothing to push the champion outside of his comfort zone. Rockhold cruised from there.

“I feel good, but I think I could have let some combinations go,” he said. “I loaded up a lot and tried to head hunt. He’s got some funky strikes. They’re unorthodox, and it’s hard to read sometimes when you know he’s going to shoot.

“Kennedy is a great wrestler; he’s so tenacious,” Rockhold added. “What he lacks in technique, he makes up for in his heart and desire. He just keeps coming. I knew I couldn’t get stale for a second.”

Marquardt Buries Woodley, Becomes Welterweight Champion

Former King of Pancrase and Ultimate Fighting Championship title contender Nate Marquardt dispatched the previously unbeaten Tyron Woodley with a series of savage fourth-round strikes against the cage to capture the vacant Strikeforce welterweight championship in the co-main event. Woodley met his end 1:39 into round four.

Marquardt (32-10-2, 1-0 Strikeforce) was the superior fighter from the start, as he blasted the two-time NCAA All-American wrestler with right hands throughout the bout. Woodley dropped the 33-year-old Grudge Training Center fighter with an overhand right of his own in the third round, trailed him to the mat and let loose with some ground-and-pound. Marquardt kept his composure, with experience and toughness digging him out of danger. By the end of the frame, Woodley was a spent force.

That set the stage for the finish. Marquardt pinned Woodley on the cage, uncorked three violent standing elbows and sealed it with a left hook and vicious right uppercut. Woodley (10-1, 8-1 Strikeforce) collapsed, a beaten man for the first time.

“He was out,” said Marquardt, who had not competed in more than a year. “There’s no need for more.”

Gracie Dominates Jardine in Middleweight Debut

Roger Gracie File Photo

Gracie dominated on the floor.

Ten-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Roger Gracie ran a grappling clinic on Keith Jardine in his middleweight debut, as he captured a unanimous decision from the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts staple. All three judges scored it for Gracie (5-1, 2-1 Strikeforce) by 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26 counts.

Gracie controlled the first two rounds. In the first, he struck for a pair of takedowns, mounted Jardine and opened a pair of cuts near his adversary’s left eye with a series of elbow strikes. The scene repeated itself in round two, but Gracie also transitioned to Jardine’s back, trapped him in a body triangle and threatened him with chokes. Blood was everywhere -- even on the soles of their feet -- but “The Dean of Mean” denied the decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s advances and pushed the fight deeper.

Jardine (17-11-2, 0-2-1 Strikeforce) landed his most significant blow of the bout in the third round, when he wobbled Gracie with a stout right uppercut. However, he failed to follow it up with anything meaningful and let the rapidly fatiguing Gracie off the hook. The leg and body kicks for which Jardine has become known were virtually non-existent during the 15-minute encounter.

“I’m very happy. I was able to do my game plan,” Gracie said. “At one point, it got too slippery. His blood: it soaked me all over, and I couldn’t stay on top of him. I think the striking is what kept me stable on top. The third round, I got quite tired, but I was able to use my long reach and keep him away.”

Larkin Outduels UFC Veteran Lawler

Lorenz Larkin posted the most significant victory of his career, as he took a unanimous decision from former EliteXC champion Robbie Lawler in a middleweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for the unbeaten Larkin (13-0, 4-0 Strikeforce).

Lawler (19-9, 3-5 Strikeforce) landed a short right hand to the temple and had the Californian reeling in the first round, but his follow-up barrage did not net him the desired finish. Larkin recovered, bounced back later in the period and did some exquisite work in close quarters with knees, punches and elbows.

For much of the rest of the bout, Lawler’s big guns remained holstered. Larkin stepped up his attack with some more multi-faceted striking, as he cut his opponent on the top of the head with a grazing kick in the second round. Blood streamed down Lawler’s face. Nothing changed down the stretch, and Larkin put an exclamation point on the win with three vicious standing elbows late in round three.

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