Falling Action: Best and Worst of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine

Luke RockholdHope you enjoyed your free preview weekend of Showtime in all its MMA-tastic glory. Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine went down more or less exactly as expected on Saturday night, with every favorite notching a victory and every underdog taking a beating that was almost perfectly in line with how long their odds of success were.

With the event over and the Showtime preview curtain drawn closed, it's time once again to sort through the action in search of the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between.

Biggest Winner: Luke Rockhold
He took a tough situation and made it look easy. Granted, a win over Keith Jardine doesn't mean what it did five years ago, but you can't complain about a first-round knockout. Rockhold was calm when he needed to be and ruthlessly aggressive when he saw his opening. He looked like a champion, in other words. His appeal for the UFC to send him some challengers was also a pretty savvy move. Zuffa won't bring him over to the big show? Then let the big show come to him. Framing it that way lets the fans know that he wants bigger challenges just as badly as they want to see him challenged, but without alienating his employers in the process. For now, Strikeforce could match him against either Tim Kennedy or Robbie Lawler without eliciting too many groans, but if Rockhold keeps winning that talent pool is going to become a puddle very quickly.

Biggest Loser: Adlan Amagov
It looks bad enough when you wind up and hit a guy with a very illegal knee early in the first round. It looks even worse when that same guy comes right back at you with a very legal knee that floors you en route to a quick finish. Amagov seemed to be doing well against Lawler in the opening seconds, but that flagrant foul halted his momentum and only made Lawler mad. Then Amagov found out for himself what it's like to be on the business end of a Lawler blitz. Strikeforce seemed hot on the young Russian coming into this bout, and that enthusiasm was not entirely unfounded. But this loss shows that he's still in need of a little more seasoning -- and maybe a primer on the unified rules -- before he's ready for the big fights.

Most Predictable: Keith Jardine
Again, you can't blame Jardine for stepping up and taking his shot when Strikeforce offered -- what's he supposed to say, 'Thanks, but I don't deserve it'? -- but the rest of us saw this coming. Jardine's toughness has never been a question, but his skills have eroded with age. So has his chin. As nice a guy as Jardine is, we've got to be honest and admit that he'd done nothing to justify a title shot. Yes, he's had a full, interesting career. And sure, anything can happen in a fight. At least, theoretically. At the same time, just because a given outcome is not impossible that does not make it likely. 'Anything can happen' is what you tell yourself when you're about to do something that you know is a bad idea. It's a way of reassuring yourself that while failure may be likely, it's not guaranteed. That's fine for some pursuits, like buying a lottery ticket. But maybe it's not the right way to go about booking title fights.

Most Impressive in Defeat: Tyler Stinson
When the fight stayed standing, he had Tarec Saffiedine looking worried and confused. It was just when it hit the mat that Stinson seemed woefully out of his element. If he had better takedown defense or even just more of a sense of urgency about getting off his back, maybe this one would have gone a different way. Instead, he came off looking like a decent prospect with some obvious holes in his game. That's not the worst thing that can happen. Saffiedine is a good fighter who's struggled less with bigger names, so Stinson can take some minor solace in that. He can also get back in the gym and improve his wrestling, and then maybe the next time he gets a shot like this he'll earn more than just a moral victory.

Least Impressive in Victory: Tyron Woodley
If you've been waiting for Woodley to develop into something more than just a wrestler with perfunctory ground-and-pound, your wait continues. He had little trouble taking Jordan Mein down and keeping him there, but once on top he seemed to put it in cruise control. Woodley's ground attack appears designed solely to avoid stand-ups and submissions. Anything else -- say, I don't know, damaging his opponent in search of a finish -- is a bonus. There were very few bonuses to be had against Mein, and so Woodley contented himself with staying on top and out of harm's way. That's smart, in a way, and it resulted in a decision victory. But as far as career advancement goes, it's maybe not the best strategy. Woodley is 10-0 in his three years as a pro, which means he ought to be able to do a little more than just wrestle at this point. This fight was a great opportunity for him to show off a more well-rounded game, or at least a little more aggression once he had the fight where he wanted it. He took the cautious approach instead, and fans surely took note.

Most Passionately Compassionate: Mo Lawal
After knocking out Lorenz Larkin with a torrent of rapid-fire right hands, Lawal's biggest concern seemed to be the lack of concern displayed by referee Kim Winslow. He seemed disgusted with how long she allowed the beating to continue and could even be heard on the broadcast chiding her for it as they stood awaiting the official announcement. Winslow claimed she wanted to give Larkin the chance to show he was still in it, but this was after he'd already been knocked out of it and then briefly back in again. Apparently Lawal doesn't like being forced to hurt his fellow man more than is absolutely necessary, which is strange, considering his stated goal of ending "Feijao" Cavalcante's career in a rematch. Let's hope Winslow isn't the ref for that one.

Strangest Sight: Mauro Ranallo interviewing Dana White
A year ago it would have been difficult to imagine a Strikeforce broadcast punctuated by a cageside interview with the UFC president. And now there he is, standing alongside the voice of MMA on Showtime, doing an interview that is noticeably less enthusiastic than the screaming pre-fight pitches he's used to doing with Joe Rogan. In fairness, this time White didn't have a pay-per-view to sell, but neither did he look terribly happy about his camera time. I guess some things you do because you want to, and other things you do because you have to. For White, all things Strikeforce seem to fall into the latter category.

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