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Strikeforce Morning After: Luke Rockhold Says UFC Fighters Are Needed

Luke RockholdSaturday's Strikeforce card, headlined by a main event of Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine was a perfectly good night of fights. And yet something was missing -- something that Rockhold himself put his finger on in his post-fight interview.

What's missing from Strikeforce these days is enough talented, recognizable fighters to fill up a full fight card, and enough talented, recognizable fighters to put together a complete weight class. And so it was no surprise that when Rockhold was asked after the fight who he'd like to defend his middleweight title against next, Rockhold said he'd like to fight someone from the UFC.

"I like fighting, I like getting paid, but I love competition and striving to be the best," Rockhold said. "Right now all the best guys are in the UFC, at least the Top 10 ranked -- besides myself, maybe, in some rankings. Those are the guys I want. I want to climb to the top, I want to fight the best in the world, and I think they should bring over some top contenders. Let's see who the true No. 1 contender is, because I believe I am, and I'd love the chance to prove it."

Showtime executives probably gulped hard when they heard those words -- here's the guy who just won the main event on the first card of the new Showtime-Strikeforce partnership, and he's basically saying Strikeforce isn't good enough.



But Rockhold is largely correct: The best guys are in the UFC, and if Rockhold wants to prove that he's one of the best guys, there's really no way for him to do it until he's fighting opponents from the UFC. If Zuffa won't either move Rockhold into the UFC or move UFC fighters into Strikeforce, there's just no way for Rockhold to show where he stacks up.

Unfortunately for Rockhold, all indications are that it's simply not going to happen: The UFC is going to keep its best fighters in the Octagon, and Strikeforce will have to make do with what it has. Don't expect a Top 10 fighter from the UFC to be challenging for Rockhold's Strikeforce belt.

That's too bad for Rockhold, but that's the reality: Strikeforce is capable of putting together entertaining fight cards, but if you want to see the best you have to watch the UFC.

Strikeforce Notes
-- Starting with this card, all of Strikeforce's preliminary card fights will air on Showtime Extreme, which is a welcome development -- at least for people who get Showtime Extreme. Unfortunately, the level of talent on display in some of the undercard fights was lacking. About the only thing Alonzo Martinez showed in his unanimous decision loss to Estevan Payan is that he can take a punch, and Martinez took a whole lot of punches for 15 solid minutes. Martinez really didn't look like he belonged in a televised fight. And Ricky Legere's unanimous decision victory over Chris Spang was a ho-hum affair. I realize Strikeforce preliminary cards aren't exactly going to have Top 10 fighters, but they need to improve the matchmaking on the prelims to give the fans a reason to tune in a couple hours before the main card starts.

-- Seeing UFC President Dana White interviewed during a Strikeforce broadcast was a surprise, and another indication that the UFC's ownership of Strikeforce is not, contrary to what White says, "business as usual." White looked a little uncomfortable in the role, but the bottom line is that White -- not Scott Coker -- is the promoter the fans want to hear from, and it just makes sense that White would be the promoter to appear on television during a Strikeforce show.

Strikeforce Quotes
"She explained to me that she wants to give us a fair chance to keep continuing, and I respect that. Because if that was me, I would rather be put to sleep than her jump in and me still be awake." -- King Mo Lawal, saying he understood why referee Kim Winslow stopped his win over Lorenz Larkin when she did. It's to Lawal's credit that he was concerned enough about his opponent that he wanted the fight stopped sooner, and it's also to Lawal's credit that he acknowledged that the referee has a hard job knowing exactly when to step in.

Having said that, I thought the stoppage was a little slow -- Winslow let Larkin take a couple punches too many.

Good Call
The judges for that Payan-Martinez fight all got the scores right -- 30-27 for Payan -- which gave me some hope that we'd see a night of good judging. Unfortunately, there were some highly questionable scorecards in the three split decisions later in the night, including ...

Bad Call
The scores were all over the map on the Tarec Saffiedine-Tyler Stinson fight. Only one judge got it right, 29-28 for Saffiedine. One judge scored it 30-27 for Saffiedine, which was highly questionable given Stinson's performance in the first round, and another scored it 29-28 for Stinson, which was highly questionable given Saffiedine's performance in the second and third rounds.

Stock Up
Gian Villante is an athletic young light heavyweight with potential, and it was good to see him turn in an impressive first-round TKO win over Trevor Smith. Villante did a phenomenal job of ground and pound, grabbing Smith's leg with one hand and battering Smith in the face with his other hand.

Stock Down
Keith Jardine is a fighter I've always liked, but it's hard to see why he should keep fighting. Jardine is just 2-6-1 in his last nine fights, and he's now been brutally knocked out several times in his career. For the sake of his long-term health, Jardine needs to seriously consider hanging up the gloves.

Fight I Want to See Next
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy. Bringing in a middleweight from the UFC would be great for Rockhold, but the reality is that it's not going to happen. Kennedy is the Strikeforce middleweight who makes the most sense for Rockhold.