Luke Rockhold will look to start his 2012 campaign the way he ended his 2011 campaign, as the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. Rockhold will make his first defense of the championship as he takes on former UFC Light Heavyweight Keith Jardine on January 7th.
While Jardine, who will be making his middlweight debut, wasn’t the first option for Rockhold’s defense, he ends up with the task of defeating a proven veteran looking to make another run at a new division. While Rockhold won’t look past the Dean of Mean, he’s also not thrilled about the fight when he talked to Fight Famous TV.
“I wanna fight the best guys in the world. I wanna fight top five opponents,” said Rockhold. “I don’t always want these random fights like Keith Jardine, I want people who have earned their spot.”
While there might be some merit to Rockhold’s comments, as Jardine has never fought in the division, with a small selection of opponents, it’ll be a fight he’ll have to take.
Rockhold is coming off the biggest victory of his career, defeating Ronald “Jacare” Souza via decision in September on the under card of the Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov card. It was the first win for Rockhold in over a year and a half due to injuries. During the time, Rockhold missed fights with Matt Lindland and Tim Kennedy, but the ring rust didn’t seem to affect the American Kickboxing Academy stand-out, joining other notable former champions that have come out of the camp.
During his seven fight win streak, Rockhold has defeated Jesse Taylor, Paul Bradley, and Corey Devela, among others. Since his Strikeforce debut in 2008, Rockhold has finished all but one fight, his fight with Souza, earning five submission victories and one victory by the way of TKO.
Rockhold has shown impressive takedown defense and impressive power in his fights. With a good mix in his arsenal, Rockhold can prove to be a tough match-up for everyone in the Strikeforce middleweight division. With good turn around for his first title defense, Rockhold could start 2012 with his first title defense, and possibly bigger things in his future.