Rockhold stops Jardine, keeps belt

Inside Fights Scott Sawitz
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To view the “Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine” as a normal MMA card from the organization is a bit of an injustice to a normal MMA card from Strikeforce. It’s best viewed as an enhanced version of their old “Challengers” series; Saturday night’s card was nothing more than a handful of unproven prospects fighting to prove themselves against cagey veterans. And for the most part the veterans ended up winning.

The preliminary card set the tone for the evening as a bad stoppage and a handful of questionable decisions marked the occasion. Trevor Smith’s early stoppage loss to Gian Villante was the first notable event of the evening as referee Kim Winslow pulled Villante off when it seemed like Smith was still intelligently defending himself.

Nah-Shon Burrell would earn a disputed victory over James Terry to round out the undercard, which was broadcast for the first time in company history on Showtime Extreme, as opposed to being relegated to only fans who attended the show. For the most part those with experience on the card of note wound up winning with the exception of the main event.

The main card itself was interesting for all the wrong reasons. Tarec Saffiedine would pick up a debatable decision and Tyron Woodley would take a relatively boring split decision, more interesting because of one judge scoring it for Jordan Mein than anything that happened in the fight.

But the real fireworks would occur in the show’s top three fights. Mo Lawal dominated Lorenz Larkin en route to a TKO stoppage in the second, but Larkin was clearly out and Winslow didn’t step in until well after he was out. After a brief co-main event with Robbie Lawler picking up a foul-marred TKO victory over Adlan Amagov, Luke Rockhold would find himself in a similar circumstance as Lawal in his middleweight title defense main event vs. Keith Jardine.

Stopping Jardine viciously and pouring it on, MMA’s best referee Herb Dean uncharacteristically let Rockhold continue to punch Jardine well after he was out and didn’t step in ala Winslow and Larkin. Rockhold, who had a competitive fight with Jardine up until that point, can’t be faulted because of the nature of the sport, but the event was much more of a black eye for the Nevada State Athletic Commission than anything else. Some questionable judging and some poor stoppages in both the “too soon” and the “too long” categories were much more noteworthy than anything the fighters did.

And it’s a shame, really, because this was a fairly entertaining card without the controversy. Rockhold established that he has some potential ability to be a force at middleweight, Lawal continued to get back into a winning groove and Lawler got back on a winning track. But unfortunately, bad refereeing and worse judging in some cases loomed much more over the event than the fights themselves.

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