Not many people gave Luke Rockhold much of a chance against the heavily favored BJJ wizard Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in this evening’s Strikeforce event, but he proved himself to be more than a match for him as he seized a unanimous decision victory.
The champion looked fired up from the opening bell and before long was looking for his first takedown, but Rockhold stuffed it. On his way back up Jacare clipped him though, sending him staggering across the cage.
The Brazilian chased after him and threw a flying knee that missed before going for another takedown. This time he was successful and slowly begins to work towards getting to a better position. Rockhold doesn’t make it easy for him although he eats a few punches before doing well to get back to his feet.
Towards the end of the round Rockhold starts to get his own game going and lands some good kicks including an eye-catching switch kick to finish strongly.
Round two is fought entirely on the feet and it’s fairly even with both fighters having their moments. A straight right early dazes Rockhold though to his credit he recovers quickly, while the challenger is doing a good job of finishing each round strongly and does so here with the kicks once again being his favored weapon.
The third round is also closely contested with Jacare throwing the heavier leather, but Rockhold looking the more technical striker and putting together some slick combinations of punches and kicks.
Jacare briefly manages to take Rockhold down with a nice sweep, but the action is quickly back standing again and towards the end of the round it’s Rockhold who’s coming on stronger as Jacare shows signs of tiring.
Onto the fourth round and the pace was beginning to slow as both fighters began to feel the effects of a grueling fight. Failed takedown attempts and periods of clinch work only enhanced that and by the end of the round both fighters hands were hanging low by their waists.
There’s little to choose between them going into the final round, and the next five minutes doesn’t help seperate them. The stand-up exchanges are fairly even though Jacare is relying too much on just one punch while Rockhold is still able to piece the occasional combination together.
A successful leg sweep takedown from Jacare doesn’t bear fruit with Rockhold continuing to show excellent defensive wrestling to find a way back to his feet.
And so we go to the judges scorecards and all three call it in favor of Rockhold who wins by unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47 x2) and becomes the new Strikeforce middleweight champion.
I wouldn’t argue with that overall though I felt it could go either way and I certainly don’t agree with one judge giving Rockhold a clean sweep.
Rockhold produced more sustained periods of pressure in the stand-up department and had the better gas tank, but Souza landed the more damaging blows and, though only briefly, did manage a few key takedowns during the 25 minutes.