With Strikeforce having vanished completely from British television screens yours truly has had to go the download route in order to watch and review their latest show, with “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine making his middleweight debut and challenging Luke Rockhold for the title in the main event.
We begin with, for the first time, the preliminary fights, starting with Alonzo Martinez taking on Estevan Payan in a catchweight encounter, made at 160 pounds.
Payan put in a dominating performance here, controlling the contest for the entire three rounds with some excellent striking. His jab was lethal, and at times there seemed to be little that Martinez could do to stop the onslaught.
The man with the chess board hairstyle went for a couple of take down attempts which Payan easily escaped from, and from there Payan re-established control, going back to the striking game that had served him so well.
No surprise with the judge’s decision as they gave each and every round to Payan.
Action from the welterweight division followed as Chris Spang faced Ricky Legere.
Another enjoyable three round affair saw Legere putting in a good performance on the ground as he scored with a number of take downs, with the Swede seemingly unable to stop this course of action.
Early on Spang managed to tie Legere up easily, but it wasn’t long before Legere took control, and even though the referee stood them up a few times Legere would quickly take the fight back down.
Spang’s best moments came with a couple of head kicks and towards the end of the round when he took Legere’s back and went for a rear naked choke. Legere managed to escape, finishing the fight in the mount going for the ground and pound.
So with the fight going the distance the judges came into action as Legere took the unanimous decision.
It was up to light heavyweight for the next fight as Trevor Smith went up against Gian Villante.
The first fight of the show not to go the distance saw Villante stuff Smith’s take down. They soon engaged in a clinch against the cage before a right to the body and a left to the head staggered his man.
Villante then caught Smith’s leg when he went for a kick, sending him down with a series of rights sending him down to the mat. Villante followed him down with a series of hammer fists before the referee stepped in to give Villante the TKO win.
Then it was back down to welterweight as James Terry took on Nah-Shon Burrell.
This was your classic striker versus grappler battle. For the first two rounds Terry put on a great display of ground fighting, scoring with some great take downs and controlling the action, except for the moment when Burrell escaped by simply sitting up and scooting his backside along the mat.
Burrell upped his game in the third with some nice striking. Terry was on the back foot for most of the round, hardly throwing a punch as Burrell tried to make up for his lack of performance on the ground, looking for the big knockout punch.
So once again the judges came into the equation, and just when everyone thought Terry would take the win the judges were split as they gave Burrell the fight.
The main show began in the welterweight division as Tarec Saffiedine faced Tyler Stinson.
This was a great way to begin the main show. Saffiedine began well early on with his striking, but after Stinson connected with a left elbow that busted open and rocked his man he took control, putting Saffiedine on the back foot and controlling the striking himself.
From the second round onwards Saffiedine re-established control, scoring with some impressive take downs and going to work with the ground and pound and bloodying his face. But as the third round neared it’s end Stinson came back with some nice striking of his own.
So once again the judges came into play, with Saffiedine took the split decision.
More welterweight action followed as Tyron Woodley took on Jordan Mein.
An intriguing three round affair saw Woodley put on a good display of ground fighting. His take downs may not have been flashy but once he got there he did a good job of controlling Mein, whose main offence was a series of elbows to the top of Woodley’s head.
This was pretty much how the entire fight played out, but we did get a strange occurrence in the third round. When Mein was going to a kimura for some reason the referee decided to stand the fighters up. That move certainly left this writer scratching his head a little.
So with no finish it meant more work for the judges as they gave Woodley the split decision, although whoever scored the fight in favour of Mein was obviously watching another fight.
Light heavyweight action in the form of King Mo Lawal against Lorenz Larkin followed.
The King put in a dominating performance, dominating the fight as soon as he took it to the ground. Larkin looked like a fish out of water as he tried to control the veteran, and he would have controlled the rest of the first round on the ground had we not had one of those unexpected and unneeded referee stand ups.
The end came in the second. After Lawal took the fight the fight down again he went to work with the ground and pound, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in when Larkin went limp, giving the King the highly impressive knockout win.
The penultimate fight saw Robbie Lawler facing Adlan Amagov in the middleweight division.
This one didn’t last long, but it was certainly action packed.
After Lawler came forward early on with the combinations Amagov scored with a take down. But when he connected with a knee to the head while Lawler was still grounded he earned himself a point deduction.
Lawler was given time to recover, and when the fight restarted it wasn’t long before Lawler connected with a flying knee that sent Amagov crashing. Lawler followed him down for a brief period of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Lawler the TKO win.
The main event saw Keith Jardine challenging Luke Rockhold for the Middleweight title.
On a show that was promoted as a veterans against up and comers affair the up and comers finally came to the fore with this fight.
Jardine began well with some nice strikes and kicks, but Rockhold showed that he was more than up to the task against his more illustrious opponents.
Both fighters had their moments, but as the first round entered it’s final minute Rockhold staggered Jardine with a three punch combination. A right to the jaw then dropped Jardine with his back against the cage.
Rockhold then went to work with a flurry of blows, and even though Jardine looked out of it it took a while before the referee stepped in to give Rockhold the highly impressive TKO win.
In conclusion - The new year certainly began well for Zuffa’s second tier promotion.
From the opening preliminary fight right up to the main event this Strikeforce show certainly delivered big time.
One of the big highlights for me was that we finally got to see the preliminary fights, and the standard these fighters showed would have easily fitted in well on the main card.
As for the main card the performances of King Mo Lawal and Robbie Lawler were top notch, but my fight of the night honours would have to go to the main event fight between Luke Rockhold and Keith Jardine, although it leaves me wondering what’s left in the career of the Dean of Mean.
One other thing I’d like to comment on is the “feel” of the show. Without the flashy entrance ramps it had more of a UFC feel about it. Whether this was because of the venue or it was Zuffa’s decision I don’t know, but it added to the overall atmosphere for me. Those old entranceways had too much of a pro wrestling feel for me, and if they’re going to scrap them altogether why not go all the way and have Jimmy Lennon Junior make his announcements after the fighters have entered the cage?
The final conclusion? A thumbs up from me for Strikeforce’s first show of the year.