It's been a middleweight kind of week. Seven days ago, we watched Anderson Silva finally put Chael Sonnen in his rearview mirror. On Wednesday, blue-chip prospect Chris Weidman announced himself as a credible title threat. And on Saturday night, it was Luke Rockhold's turn to take the spotlight.
The Strikeforce middleweight champion didn't disappoint. He shut down Tim Kennedy's vaunted grappling game and out-struck the challenger en route to a decision win.
The judges scored it 49-46, 49-46, 49-46 for Rockhold.
As always, Kennedy was game. The former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier tried to impose his physical strength in taking the fight to the mat, but Rockhold resisted most of his attempts.
During the five-round main event, Rockhold out-struck him in the standup portion of the bout, using his reach to land his favorite punch, the right hook.
According to stats provided by Showtime, Rockhold only held a slight advantage in total strikes landed, with 60-57. However, 42 of Kennedy's landed strikes were kicks, which often don't factor as highly in the eyes of judges, particularly leg kicks, which are considered more like jabs.
Rockhold more than doubled up Kennedy on power strikes, 34-16.
"I could've let a couple combinations go," Rockhold said afterward in critiquing his own performance. "He does some funky stuff. It' s hard to let things go when you know he's going to shoot."
One of his keys to victory was defending the takedown. Kennedy was successful on only two of eight tries, robbing him of his most likely route to victory.
"It was one of the main focuses of my camp," he said. "He's a great wrestler, so tenacious. What he lacks in technique, he makes up for in lack and desire. I knew I couldn't get stale."
Rockhold had his best moments in the fourth, when he floored Kennedy with a right hook and followed on the mat with ground strikes, but the durable Kennedy showed his impressive recuperative abilities by getting to his feet just moments later.
Rockhold is now 10-1, while Kennedy falls to 14-4.