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Rockhold rolls past outgunned Jardine

1/8/2012

Winning the Strikeforce middleweight title is difficult, but defending it for the first time can prove to be a more daunting task.

Luke Rockhold put his 185-pound belt on the line Saturday night in Las Vegas against former UFC light heavyweight Keith Jardine.

It was Jardine's first appearance at middleweight, making him the naturally larger fighter against Rockhold.

But the champion showed no concern for Jardine's size advantage. Rockhold went toe to toe with the UFC veteran and eventually landed a hard right hand behind the ear that sent Jardine to the canvas in the first round.

Once he had Jardine on his heels, Rockhold increased his assault. He landed several more left and right punches that forced referee Herb Dean to wave the fight off at the 4:26 mark.

Immediately after retaining his belt, Rockhold upped the ante for his next title defense -- looking beyond any opponent Strikeforce might have to offer, asking instead for a current UFC contender.

"Right now all the best guys are in the UFC," said Rockhold, who improved to 9-1. "Those are the guys I want to fight.

"They should bring some of those contenders over. I want to prove I'm the best."

Jardine slips to 17-10-2.

Lawler turns tables on Amagov

Middleweight slugger Robbie Lawler has struggled recently to find success inside the cage. But he found the winning touch against Adlan Amagov.

Lawler landed a flying knee in the first round that floored Amagov. He then jumped on his fallen foe and began connecting with punches, forcing the fight to be stopped at the 1:48 mark.

Interestingly, Lawler was hit with an illegal knee that resulted in Amagov having a point deducted.

"[The illegal knee] bothered me a little bit, but not too much. It was just a grazer," Lawler said. "I'm happy to win. I'm going back to the drawing board and look to knock people out."

With the victory, Lawler (19-8, 1 no contest) ends a two-fight skid. Lawler entered the fight having dropped three of his previous four bouts.

Amagov falls to 9-2-1.

Lawal pounds out Larkin in second

Lorenz Larkin had never tasted defeat inside the cage, and that served to boost his confidence. But Larkin also had never faced a fighter the caliber of former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal, and it showed.

Lawal had no difficulty taking Larkin to the ground, where he landed many hard punches. In the second, that strategy paid off as Lawal pounded Larkin on the ground en route to a TKO win.

The fight was stopped at the 1:32 mark. But Lawal (9-1) believed it should have been stopped sooner.

Lawal, however, praised to Larkin's effort after the fight.

"He surprised me a little with his control," Lawal said. "I have to do a better job of landing these shots."

Larkin falls to 12-1.

Woodley eyes title shot after beating Mein

Tyron Woodley took a big step toward landing a Strikeforce welterweight title shot with a split decision over Jordan Mein.

It wasn't a very exciting fight, as Woodley was able to take Mein to the ground and keep him there in each round.

Two judges scored the fight for Woodley 29-28 and 30-27. The third judge had it for Mein 29-28. ESPN.com had Woodley winning 30-27.

After improving to 10-0, Woodley turned his attention to a Strikeforce 170-pound title shot.

"[Mein's] a long kid," Woodley said. "He stretches you out, but I was able to put him away.

"I should be fighting for the title next, whoever it is."

Mein's win streak ends at six. He is now 23-8.

Saffiedine survives hard-hitting Stinson

Tyler Stinson was looking for a quick knockout when he stepped in the cage, but those expectations were dashed by Tarec Saffiedine.

Not only did Saffiedine survive being rocked twice in the opening round -- first by an elbow and later a straight left hand -- but he rebounded in the second and third rounds to claim a split decision victory.

Two judges scored the fight 30-27 and 29-28 for Saffiedine. The third judge favored Stinson 29-28. ESPN.com gave the edge to Saffiedine 29-28.

After hanging on in the first round, Saffiedine was able to take Stinson (23-8) down in the second and third rounds to control most of the action.

"It wasn't my best performance tonight, but I got the job done," Saffiedine said after improving to 12-3. "That's what's important."

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live." Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.