During the lead up to his first title defense, Luke Rockhold oozed confidence all week. He had good reason. He was facing what turned out to be an overmatched fighter in Keith Jardine.
Rockhold took care of business easily, waiting out the wild style of Jardine to land a huge right and followed it up with 17 more unanswered shots to force the referee to stop the fight at 4:26 of the first round.
The champ was happy to win, but had little interest in calling out Strikeforce's No. 1 contender Tim Kennedy. Minutes after the victory, Showtime's Mauro Ranallo asked about Rockhold defending his title against the Strikeforce roster.
"I like fighting and I like getting paid," Rockhold said then hesitated. "Right now, all the best guys in the world at middleweight are in the UFC. Those are the guys I want. I want to fight the best in the world. I think they should bring over some top contenders. I believe I am one of top guys and I want to take on the best."
That's probably not what Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker wants to hear. Strikeforce, with the backing of its new owner Zuffa, recently re-signed with Showtime. The last thing it wants is to be viewed as a minor league with all of its champions looking to jump to the UFC.
Jardine (17-10-2) getting a title fight and then performing the way he did tonight doesn't help the cause. Jardine, 36, is now 3-7-1 since 2008.
Rockhold (9-1) has every reason to be confident about his chances against UFC middleweights. He trains at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Ca., one of the best gyms in the world. AKA houses a load of UFC fighters, including Cain Velasquez, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Mike Swick and Gray Maynard.
Rockhold diagnosed Jardine's style pretty easily.
"It played out like I thought it would. I thought I could time him with that right hook coming forward. I thought he was a little slow with that overhand right," Rockhold said. "I started connecting and I started getting confident."
That right hook is exactly what he landed to begin the finishing scenario.