Less than a month since their last venture, Strikeforce kicks off the New Year with another event on Showtime. Saturday night’s main event features upstart Luke Rockhold making the first defense of his Strikeforce middleweight crown against seasoned UFC veteran Keith Jardine.
Other televised bouts include former Strikeforce light heavyweight title holder Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal going up against dangerous striker Lorenz Larkin and slugger Robbie Lawler battling Adlan Amagov.
Here’s a preview of the show’s main card, which takes place at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada and airs on Showtime starting at 10 PM ET.
The fight: Rockhold puts his title on the line for the first time since pulling off a major upset over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in September, grinding out a five-round unanimous decision win. He faces Jardine, who steps in as an injury replacement for Army veteran Tim Kennedy. Jardine drew even with Gegard Mousasi in his only Strikeforce appearance, a light heavyweight bout last April.
What to look for: A potential stand-up war. Rockhold won the Strikeforce title with an impressive display on the feet against Souza, but his wrestling remains his greatest asset. He would be smart to take the fight to the ground against Jardine, an average grappler whose awkward foot movement and penchant for punishment can give anyone problems on a given night.
The fight: Lawal continues his climb back up the Strikeforce light heavyweight ladder for a second chance at his former title against Larkin, a talented striker who has won all twelve of his professional bouts to start his career, including three inside Strikeforce.
What to look for: This is a battle of who can impose their will. It’s very simple. “King Mo” will look to get this fight to the ground early and often, while Larkin’s only chance to win is to keep things on the feet. It will be tough against a wrestler of Lawal’s caliber, but Rafael Feijao showed that patience, a better gas tank and heavy strikes can prove to be a foil to a better grappler.
The fight: Lawler is currently riding a two-fight losing streak and has dropped three of his last four. He will look to get back on track against Amagov, a Russian striker that has transplanted to the AMA Fight Club in New Jersey to fight in North America.
What to look: An entertaining slugfest. We all know what Lawler brings to the table: heavy, heavy hands, heart and a never-say-die attitude. However, he may have his hands full against Amagov, who is undefeated in his last ten bouts since falling in his pro debut and has finished six of his opponents by KO or TKO. Still, it’s tough to ever count out Lawler.
The fight: Two of the welterweight division’s brightest prospects meet as Woodley, undefeated as a pro and winner of six straight under the Strikeforce banner, including a decision win over Paul Daley, clashes with Mein, whose current run includes impressive victories over Strikeforce vets Joe Riggs, Marius Zaromskis and Evangelista Santos.
What to look for: This one could end up as the night’s most entertaining bout from start to finish. Both fighters are going to be competing at an extremely high level due to the victor being a shoe-in to fight for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title. Will Mein be able to stay on his feet and unleash his striking prowess against a two-time All-American wrestler in Woodley?
The fight: Saffiedine looks to capitalize on momentum earned via a one-sided decision win over Scott Smith in his last fight against Stinson, a Bellator veteran who scored an impressive 15-second KO of Eduardo Pampalona in his Strikeforce debut over the summer.
What to look for: Both fighters are very well rounded and have shown, at least in their Strikeforce fights, that they are adept on the feet. Saffiedine and Stinson are well-versed in submissions as well. Stinson’s wrestling may give him more of a chance of controlling the fight if it hits the mat, but Saffiedine’s bottom game is nothing to underestimate.
Next entry: Tate to Defend Against Rousey on March 3