It’s never too easy to play matchmaker for Strikeforce, and the story hasn’t changed behind last night’s event at that Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. The landscape of Strikeforce just isn’t what it once was. Nowhere is that more obvious than the prominently featured middleweight division.
Luke Rockhold: Bringing an end to a week where we saw the greatest middleweight in the history of MMA in Anderson Silva pick up a win over his career rival Chael Sonnen, and Chris Weidman throw down a virtuoso performance against top ranked middleweight Mark Munoz, Luke Rockhold also cemented his place atop the middleweight division in a strong performance against Tim Kennedy. While Rockhold never put the coffin nails in in his opponent and the fight was by all means competitive, the fact remains that no one has ever beaten the Army sniper so soundly, giving up only one round to the stalwart middleweight.
The question remains, what is there to do with Luke Rockhold now? We’re talking about a man who reigns over what was at one point Strikeforce’s marquee division, yet the promotion is a shell of it’s former self. While Lorenz Larken and Roger Gracie put in work tonight and both looked impressive, is either man really ready to challenge the champion?
Realistically, there are two strong possibilities for the AKA product. The first is the man he wrested the title from last year in “Jacare” Souza. Jacare was extremely competitive with Rockhold, arguably taking the two opening rounds over the champion. The Brazilian jiu jitsu legend also owns a victory over Kennedy. The second option is Nate Marquardt. While “The Great” was crowned Strikeforce Welterweight Champion, he has a long tenured career at middleweight, leaving the division while still considered a top competitor. Perhaps a superfight between the two champions would be the best way to go for the promotion.
Probably facing: “Jacare” Souza or Nate Marquardt
Tim Kennedy: The ever-stout middleweight challenger came up short once again in his title bid tonight. The Jackson’s product is still one of the top 3 middleweights in the promotion, but after losing to both “Jacare” and Rockhold in title bouts, he is likely out of the title picture for a bit. The North Carolina native is now likely relegated to a gatekeeper position. Match-ups with Lorenz Larkin or Roger Gracie seem prime for the middleweight, and will give us a realistic view of where the new string of challengers stand.
Ideally: Lorenz Larkin or Roger Gracie
Nate Marquardt: As previously mentioned, the newly crowned Strikeforce Welterweight Champion can compete at the highest levels of both the 170 and 185 lb divisions. While a superfight with Rockhold seems like the best option for the middleweight champion, there are other options for “The Great”.
Although the former King of Pancrase knocked off what was undoubtedly the best welterweight Strikeforce had to offer, it was still a thrilling affair. Looking at the division, a forthcoming match-up between a pair of rolling fighters in Tarec Saffiedine and Roger Bowling may just render the next challenger for the former middleweight.
Another possibility is Kazuo Misaki, who also recently made the trek to welterweight and bounced Paul Daley from the promotion. The Japanese mainstay has a history with Marquardt that dates back to their Pancrase days in 2002. While Marquardt is likely the big fish in a small pond, there are serviceable challenges out there for the Grudge product.
Possibilities: Winner of Tarec Saffiedine vs Roger Bowling or Kazuo Misaki
Tyron Woodley: The days of Woodley running roughshod on the Strikeforce welterweight division came to a halt last night at the hands (and elbows) of Nate Marquardt. Even in his loss, Woodley proved himself to be competitive, badly hurting Marquardt on two occasions.
Looking down the card, one finds a welterweight currently on a seven-fight tear, who for some strange reason was unable to have his 26-second submission of Nate Moore televised on either portion of the card, Jason High. It’s due time the “Kansas City Bandit” get his chance to make a run and have it be visible. Matching High with the ATT product to see where he stacks up with the top fighters of the Strikeforce 170 lb division is a natural step to take.
Next up: Jason High