The vacant middleweight title was on the line tonight as ‘Jacare’ Souza and Tim Kennedy battled it out in the cage at Strikeforce Houston.

Though both men are best known for their ground skills, this was a fight that would be played out almost exclusively on the feet over five full rounds.  Jacare looked the better striker in the early rounds, more relaxed and comfortable in his stance while delivering more powerful strikes.  Kennedy appeared somewhat stiffer and was less effective with his delivery, but he was always in the fight nonetheless.

By the end of the third though Kennedy was visibly taking the most damage, with blood streaming from a cut over his left eye while he also had a mouse under it for good measure.  Despite that he started to have a little more success in the fourth, becoming more accurate as Jacare took his foot off the gas a little.

By the final round there was still all to play for and it was a tense five minutes as the two fighters matched each other punch for punch.  Towards the closing seconds of the round Kennedy swooped for a takedown and executed it with a flourish, hoping to catch the judges eyes.

Unfortunately for him it would not be enough with all three judges scoring the contest in favor of Jacare who becomes Strikeforce’s new middleweight champion.

It was a solid performance from Souza, showing that his striking is continuing to evolve, and that he has addressed the cardio issues he experienced in his last fight.   When added to the world class jiu-jitsu that he has at his disposal when required, he’s undoubtedly a worthy champion and one who may prove difficult to displace.

As for Kennedy, it was such a close fight that there was no real loser here.  If anything he may regret not pushing the action a little more, but he acquitted himself well and he’ll remain a quality contender in the division.