Rockhold has stranglehold on title

Nate Marquardt (QMI Agency File Photo)

Nate Marquardt (QMI Agency File Photo)

NEIL SPRINGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:00 AM ET

Luke Rockhold picked up his second middleweight title defence, winning a unanimous decision over Tim Kennedy in the main event of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy in Portland, Ore. Saturday.

The story of the fight was Rockhold stalking Kennedy in the striking exchanges, while defending against the majority of the former special forces sniper's takedown attempts.

The first two rounds saw Rockhold push forward landing punches and kicks, while Kennedy attempted to the get the fight to the mat. Kennedy found more success with his takedowns in the third, but was unable to do much from Rockhold's back. Rockhold dropped Kennedy in the fourth with a right-hook, but couldn't seal the deal. He continued to move forward in the fifth, while delivering strikes and preventing against takedowns.

“Everything I've gone through in life, it isn't easy and it shows in those five round wars,” Rockhold said. “I controlled the pace and stalked him most of the time and made him back up.

"I defended most of the takedowns and got some of my own.”

This marks Kennedy's second failed attempt at the Strikeforce 185-pound title. He lost a unanimous decision to Ronaldo (Jacare) Souza two years ago.

Nate Marquardt scored a huge knockout victory over Tyron Woodley to win the vacant Strikeforce welterweight championship in the co-main event.

Woodley dropped Marquardt early, but the former UFC middleweight title challenger returned the favour to steal the round. Marquardt continued to chip away in the second, landing a hard spinning back-kick and securing a takedown. Woodley bounced back in the third, hurting Marquardt and unloading with ground-and-pound, but the momentum was fleeting. In the fourth, Marquardt unloaded a brutal series of elbows and uppercuts to put away the former NCAA Division I wrestler.

“I tell you what, T-Wood is one tough dude,” Marquardt said. “He was a lot more game when I started catching him than I thought he would. He's a tough dude.”

Marquardt said he knew Woodley was done after the uppercuts and opted not to deliver ground strikes.

“He was out,” Marquardt said. “There was no need for more.

“T-Wood, keep your head up. When you have a family and kids like yo do, you're always a champion.”

Marquardt's previous outing saw him win a unanimous decision over Dan Miller at UFC 128 on March 19, 2011. He was set to face Rick Story at welterweight three months later, but was refused medical clearance on the day of the weigh-ins due to elevated testosterone levels from testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). UFC president Dana White immediately cut Marquardt from his contract.

The Strikeforce welterweight title was vacated when Nick Diaz jumped ship to the UFC last year.

Roger Gracie won a unanimous decision over Keith Jardine in his middleweight debut.

Gracie dominated Jardine throughout the first two rounds, taking the TUF 2 cast member to the ground and opening him up with a vicious elbow. Gracie then attempted to secure a submission, but couldn't lock one up due to the blood. Up two frames on the judges' scorecards, Gracie coasted through the third.

“I'm very happy,” Gracie said. “I was able to do my game plan, but at one point he was too slippery.

“The third round I got quite tired and used my reach to keep him away. I was very happy at this weight, but I think the reason I got tired is I left the weight cut to the last minute.”

Jardine is now 2-7-1 in his last 10 fights.

Lorenz Larkin also made a successful middleweight debut, out-striking Robbie Lawler en route to an exciting unanimous decision.

Lawler hurt Larkin early with a left-hook to the temple, but the Kung Fu practitioner recovered and took the fight to the UFC veteran. In the second round, Larkin busted open Lawler's head with a nasty high kick and continued to stay busy with combos to snag all three rounds.

“Robbie hit me with a punch that made me do the stinky leg, but I worked through it,” Larkin said. “I stood up with Strikeforce's deadliest striker and went all three rounds.”

Following the bout, Larkin pleaded with UFC president Dana White to establish night bonuses for Strikeforce competitors.

Pat Healy won a debatable unanimous decision over Mizuto Hirota in the final preliminary bout. Healy is now riding a five-fight win streak and may have earned the right to challenge Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

Ryan Couture snagged a hard-fought split decision over Joe Duarte.

Jorge Masvidal won a close split decision over Justin Wilcox.

Jordan Mein got back in the win column, defeating Tyler Stinson via unanimous decision.

The Lethbridge, Alta. welterweight lost a tough split decision to Woodley in his last outing. He has now won eight of his last 10 bouts.

The opening bout saw Jason High submit Nate Moore with a guillotine choke in only 26 seconds.

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STRIKEFORCE PRELIM RESULTS

Luke Rockhold def. Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)

Nate Marquardt def. Tyron Woodley via fourth-round knockout (elbows and punches)

Roger Gracie def. Keith Jardine via unanimous decision (29-27, 30-27, 30-26)

Lorenz Larkin def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Pat Healy def. Mizuto Hirota via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Ryan Couture def. Joe Duarte via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Jorge Masvidal def. Justin Wilcox via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

Jordan Mein def. Tyler Stinson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Jason High def. Nate Moore via first-round submission (guillotine choke)

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Joseph Benavidez will meet Demetrious Johnson to crown the first-ever UFC flyweight champion at UFC 152 in Toronto Sept. 22...Also at UFC 152, Michael Bisping will take on Brian Stann...Donald Cerrone has signed on to fight Melvin Guillard at UFC 150 in Denver Aug. 11...All UFC 148 drug tests came back clean. UFC 148 saw Anderson Silva earned a second-round TKO over Chael Sonnen in the main event.


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