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Strikeforce live blog: Luke Rockhold retains belt by knocking out Keith Jardine

King Mo’ Lawal, Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler score dominant victories

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Tarec Saffiedine hits Tyler Stinson during their match at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012. Saffiedine won by split decision.

Updated Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 | 9:17 p.m.

Strikeforce Workout

Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold's head hits the ceiling during an open workout Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2011 in advance of the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine event on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Note: Full results from the preliminary card are provided at the bottom of the page.

Keith Jardine wasn't the opponent Luke Rockhold hoped to face in the main event of Saturday's Strikeforce card at the Hard Rock.

The result, however, was exactly what Rockhold was looking for. Rockhold rocked Jardine with a right hand late in the first round and followed it up with ground-and-pound strikes to win via TKO at 4:26 of the first round.

Rockhold proved successful in his first defense of the Strikeforce middleweight belt.

"It feels amazing," Rockhold said in the cage immediately after the victory.

Rockhold lived up to his status as nearly a 6-to-1 favorite over Jardine. The rest of the favored fighters on the main card did the same.

The first major fight card of 2012 was totally devoid of any surprises. Robbie Lawler finished Adlan Amagov in the co-main event when he landed a flying knee less than two minutes into the first round.

Mohammed 'King Mo' Lawal, Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine assured that the red corner didn't lose all night. Lawal particularly crushed his opponent, Lorenz Larkin. Lawal dominated with his wrestling early before relentless ground-and-pound finished the fight in the second round.

"I’m not sure if he was ready," Lawal said of Larkin. "You could see he was tentative and a little scared. He might have jumped in too quick with a guy like me. I think the stoppage was a little late but I would have wanted the opportunity to recover if I was in that position."

Check below for full round-by-round coverage of the main card.

Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine

First Round Jardine comes in low and attacks Rockhold first with a combination of strikes. Rockhold evades most of them. Jardine kicks Rockhold's body. Rockhold answers by doing the same. Rockhold connects with a right hand as Jardine rushes in again. Jardine closes the distance by clinching up with Jardine against the cage. They're exchanging knees, but Rockhold's have more power behind them. Rockhold throws an elbow as they bounce out of the clinch. Rockhold is moving quicker. Most of Jardine's strikes look telegraphed. Rockhold hits Jardine with a spin kick and narrowly misses with a similiar spinning back fist. Rockhold is finding his range and connecting frequently, especially with his right hand. Rockhold keeps kicking from distance and moving away whenever Jardine tries to rush in on him. Rockhold drops Jardine with a right hand behind the ear. Jardine pops right back up, but takes a knee to the body. Jardine comes in and jabs Rockhold. But Rockhold answers with a left hook that sends Jardine crashing to the mat. Jardine is against the fence and eating shot after shot from Rockhold. It's stopped. Luke Rockhold scores a TKO victory over Keith Jardine at 4:26 of the round.

Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov

First Round Amagov kicks Lawler in the knee, which quickly gets his attention. Lawler swings a left from way out before taking the fight to the ground momentarily. They get back up, but Amagov puts Lawler on his back. He's looking for a choke and illegaly knees Lawler in the process. Fighters are not allowed to knee a grounded opponent. The fight is paused and Lawler curls up on the ground. Fight resumes and the two circle each other. But Lawler rushes in with a flying knee that sends Amagov to the ground. Amagov is facedown and Lawler swings away before the fight is stopped. Lawler wins via TKO at 1:48.

Mohammed Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin

Second Round Lawal hits Larkin with a right. Larkin answers with a couple jabs that do nothing to Lawal, who shoots for a single-leg takedown. It takes about 20 seconds and Larkin offers plenty of resistance, but Lawal gets him on the floor. Lawal starts pounding away on Larkin, who looks defenseless. After about 10 consecutive strikes, the referee jumps in to stop it. 'King Mo' Lawal defeats Lorenz Larkin by TKO at 1:32 of the round.

First Round They meet in the center and Lawal throws a jab to get the action started. He hooks and shoots for a single-leg takedown. He's got it. Larkin eats some elbows and ground-and-pound from his back. Larkin covers up well and rolls to his side. Lawal hovers over him, waiting for any opening to throw his hands. He's done that successfully three minutes into the round. Larkin has mounted no offense. Lawal throws short jabs. Larkin does nothing to stop them from coming in. The referee stands the fight up with a minute to go. Larkin jabs Lawal. It might be the first strike he's landed all night. Lawal starts going to the body as the clock winds down near the 30-second mark. Lawal cruises 10-9 in the first round.

Tyron Woodley vs. Jordan Mein

Third Round Mein starts tentatively. It's hard for him to throw everything he's got at Woodley because of the fear of getting taken down. And there it is. Woodley puts Mein on his back about 20 seconds into the final round. Woodley's fantastic wrestling gives him an advantage over the rest of the Strikeforce 170-pound division. That's what he's showing tonight. Woodley still isn't working on a finish, but he's maintaining position and hitting Mein's body when he can. It's a frustraing night for Mein, who exhales deeply over and over. Woodley simply won't give Mein any opening to get to his feet. The crowd has really started to boo in hopes of the referee standing them up. He obliges with 1:20 remaining and Mein rushes in. But Woodley hits his chin with a left and Mein loses his balance for a second. Mein stuffs only his second takedown attempt of the night by sprawling. They lock up against the fence and Woodley peppers Mein's body with knees. It's not the most exciting fight, but it is definitive. Woodley wins an easy 30-27 decision on this scorecard. Tyron Woodley defeats Jordan Mein via split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29).

Second Round Mein tries to leg kick Woodley, but he catches it and almost takes him down early. Mein luckily spins away. He can't win this fight if he gets taken down. Woodley connects with a right hand to Mein's temple. They lock up against the cage before Woodley tosses Mein on the ground. It looked effortless. Woodley swings ground-and-pound strikes ferociously from afar. He goes shorter with an elbow or two after some time passes. The round hits the halfway point in the same spot he's been most of the time, with Woodley suffocating Mein on top. Mein throws elbows from the bottom. They bother Woodley slightly, but not enough to make a difference. The referee is instructing Woodley to stay more busy. Woodley listens and starts letting loose more ground-and-pound. Woodley wins another round. He's up 20-18.

First Round Mein works his jab, but Woodley is quick on his feet and not letting it affect him. Mein is aggressive throwing his hands, but Woodley shoots in for a takedown a minute in. Mein doesn't go down. Woodley has Mein against the fence. The former All American wrestler is still looking for a single leg takedown. It's not there and the fight is at a standstill until the referee separates them. Mein finally lands a couple strikes he's been working all night with a right hand followed by an uppercut. Woodley gets what he wants too, though. He gets a double-leg takedown on Mein and now works from top position. Mein almost gets to his feet along the cage, but Woodley smothers him to keep Mein on the ground. Mein eats an elbow. Woodley thrusts his shoulder into Mein's jaw. Woodley works for side control, but Mein takes the opening to pop up. They exchange on their feet, but Woodley wins there too. Woodley takes the first round 10-9.

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson

Third Round Saffiedine takes long, heavy breaths. Stinson looks more fresh as the round starts, but takes a kick to the groin. He gets five minutes to recover and uses almost all of it. They're back now and engaged in a kickboxing battle, which Saffiedine is winning. Saffiedine shoots in for a takedown and Stinson can't stop it. Stinson works to get one of Saffiedine's arms from the bottom, but it's not happening. Saffiedine is ground-and-pounding away on Stinson, who has seen this fight slip away after a dominant first round. He's defending himself enough, but Saffiedine throws just enough elbows to stay busy and keep the fight on the ground. More elbows from Saffiedine, who also throws jabs to Stinson's side. Saffiedine isn't getting any closer to finishing, much to the disappointment of the crowd. Saffiedine stands up briefly to get more power behind his ground-and-pound strikes. It works as Stinson's face is now covered in blood. He's cut severely below one of his eyes. The referee stands them up with about a minute to go. Stinson feels the urgency and is coming at Saffiedine. But Saffiedine is countering enough to stay active. Stinson lands a significant right hook and Saffiedine stumbles back. Great finish for Stinson, but it's not enough to win. Saffiedine wins 29-28 on the Las Vegas Sun scorecard. Tarec Saffiedine wins a split decision (30-27, 29-28, 28-29) over Tyler Stinson.

Second Round Not much action for the first 30 seconds, but Stinson is moving forward. He's kicking at Saffiedine's lead leg frequently. He's got Saffiedine in trouble a minute into the round with a head kick. But Saffiedine has known when to retreat and survive this whole fight. He does it again. They're in the middle of the octagon now and Saffiedine seems to have re-gained his bearings. He rushes in and scores a takedown. Stinson isn't doing much work from his back. Saffiedine throws a few elbows to his opponent's face. The Belgian goes to the body too, but the fight has drastically slowed down since hitting the ground. The crowd is clamoring for the referee to stand the fight up and it might be justified. Neither man is working to improve his position. Saffiedine gets an arm loose and throws some more elbows. The round ends with Saffiedine still in Stinson's guard. Not much action in the round, but it goes to Saffiedine. The score is tied at 19 after two rounds.

First Round Saffiedine leg kicks early with Stinson moving forward. Stinson catches the Belgian with a right that sends him stumbling back a bit. Stinson lands a couple of leg kicks with Saffiedine returning the favor. They exchange, but Stinson is more active on the feet. Saffiedine goes up top for a head kick, but Stinson blocks it. Stinson jabs Saffiedine against the cage before getting kneed back. Saffiedine is having a tough time finding his rhythm. Stinson clinches and lands one knee before they break apart again. Saffiedine takes control for the next 30 seconds from distance, landing both right hands and kicks. He feeds Stinson a left hand and follows it with a head kick. Now a front kick from Saffiedine and he's got the crowd into the fight for the first time. They lock up and Saffiedine is pressuring. When they break out, Stinson pummels Saffiedine with a right hand. Saffiedine stumbles back until Stinson can take him down. Just for a moment. After a submission attempt, they're back up. Saffiedine's right eye is bloody. Stinson is playing it safe, picking his spots to strike. He wobbles Saffiedine again with a left. Stinson throws a knee now and a combination. Saffiedine barely survives the first round, and the favorite trails 10-9.

Pre-main card

Strikeforce starts anew tonight at the Joint inside the Hard Rock.

Tonight’s event ushers in the start of the new agreement, one that many never thought would happen, between the organization and Showtime. Despite the UFC ownership, Strikeforce is here to stay for at least another year.

Many of the faces who will define the promotion over the next 12 months start their year tonight. And a lot of them are fresh.

Of the 10 fighters appearing on tonight’s main card, four of them have never graced the television portion of a major Strikeforce event. It’s only the second time on Showtime for a couple other fighters.

That includes middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, tonight’s headliner. Rockhold, 27, welcomes the 36-year old Keith Jardine to the 185-pound division.

If Rockhold wins, and he’s more than a 5-to-1 favorite in local sports books, he secures his place as one of the most valuable talents in Strikeforce. A loss would be devastating to the San Jose, Calif., native’s career.

The consensus is that Jardine’s best days are behind him. He’s gone only 2-5-1 since 2009. Jardine established himself as a force in the UFC light heavyweight division — with memorable victories over Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin — when he was younger.

He goes down in weight tonight to try to re-discover some of what made him a standout.

Two of Rockhold’s contemporaries as far as fighters expected to carry Strikeforce are also on the main card — welterweight Tyron Woodley and light heavyweight Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal.

Lawal and Woodley show two bright prospects what it’s like at the top. Jordan Mein takes on Woodley, while Lorenz Larkin challenges Lawal.

Mein and Larkin have excelled early in the careers, but haven’t fought on the level they’ll need to tonight. A welterweight bout between two more up-and-comers — Tarec Saffiedine from Brussels, Belgium, and Tyler Stinson from Kansas City, Kan. — opens the televised card.

Before Rockhold defends his belt against Jardine, mixed martial arts veteran Robbie Lawler will encounter Adlan Amagov in a middleweight tilt.

Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com for round-by-round coverage of the five fights on the main card and look below for full results from the preliminary card.

Welterweight prospect Nah-shon Burrell stayed undefeated in Strikeforce. Burrell won a split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) over James Terry.

Gian Villante defeated Trevor Smith via TKO at 1:05 of the first round in their light heavyweight bout. Villante hurt Smith early, but the referee seemed to stop the fight too early and allowed a few illegal shots to the back of the head.

Ricky Legere won a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over local welterweight fighter Chris Spang. After Legere dominated for the opening two rounds, Spang had a chance to finish him with a rear naked choke with less than two minutes remaining but couldn't force him to tap out.

Estevan Payan scored a unanimous decision victory over Alonzo Martinez in a catchweight (160) bout. All three judges scored it 30-27 in favor of Payan.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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