Retaining his Strikeforce middleweight title was Luke Rockhold's top priority Saturday night in Portland, Ore. But doing so impressively against Tim Kennedy was a close second.
Rockhold retained his title with a unanimous decision, but his campaign to fight UFC-caliber competition is likely to continue falling on deaf ears.
All three judges had Rockhold winning four of five rounds, 49-46. ESPN.com also scored it 49-46.
Before the bout, Rockhold (10-1) made it known that he wanted the chance to face UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and hoped a dominating performance against Kennedy would increase his odds of making that wish a reality.
But Kennedy made Rockhold fight for every point in each round. Rockhold acknowledged after the fight that Kennedy was a difficult challenger.
"The hard work pays off," Rockhold said. "I controlled the pace. I defended all takedowns and got some of my own. He's got some funky strikes."
While Rockhold didn't overwhelm Kennedy, he left no doubt who was the better fighter inside the cage.
At no time in the five-round outing did Rockhold appear in danger. He landed several straight left hands and kicks to the body that kept Kennedy (14-4) on his heels.
Rockhold pressured Kennedy in all five rounds, but also received a stern warning from referee John McCarthy in the third for holding the fence. McCarthy was so irritated with Rockhold that he threatened to take away a point if the champion committed the infraction again.
Rockhold, who successfully defended his 185-pound title for the second time, didn't hold the fence after that, and apologized to McCarthy before the official scorecards were revealed.
Marquardt mauls Woodley, claims 170-pound title
Several elbows to the chin stunned Woodley but it was a right uppercut that would send him to that canvas and force referee Dave Hagen to jump in at 1:39 of the fourth.
Marquardt, who was making his Strikeforce debut after more than a year of inactivity, had kind words for Woodley after the bout.
"T-wood is one tough dude," Marquardt said. "He was more game than I thought he would be.
"It's a dream come true. When I go home to my family and kids I'm a champion every day."
The former UFC middleweight contender stalked Woodley from the opening round and delivered hard right hands that repeatedly found their mark.
Woodley, an athletic wrestler, could not utilize his speed or takedowns. Too often Woodley stood stationary in front of Marquardt, opening himself up to clean strikes. That strategy would lead to Woodley's downfall.
Marquardt (32-10-2) got him against the cage and delivered several hard elbows. A right elbow stunned Woodley, allowing Marquardt to follow with a left hand. Marquardt finished the fight with a right uppercut.
Woodley suffered the first setback of his professional career. He is 10-1.
Gracie fails to submit Jardine, settles for decision
Gracie, who has competed at heavyweight and light heavyweight, used his superior height and reach to easily take Jardine to the ground.
The judges scored the 29-27, 30-27 and 30-26. ESPN.com scored the 29-27 for Gracie.
Once he had Jardine on his back, Gracie delivered hard punches and elbows. It was a left elbow in the first round that opened a nasty cut near Jardine's left eye.
The flowing blood made it difficult for Gracie to secure submission holds in the second round. Jardine survived the submission attempts and kept the fight standing in Round 3.
Gracie began to breath heavy in the third and slowed his attack.
"I was able to stick to my game," said Gracie, who improved to 5-1. "But it got too slippery with his blood flowing all over the place.
"I got a bit tired but I was able to use my long reach to keep him away."
Jardine, a former UFC light heavyweight, has yet to win a fight in Strikeforce. He is 0-2-1 with the promotion and 17-11-2 overall.
Larkin outperforms Lawler in middleweight debut
It appears that Lorenz Larkin has found a home at middleweight.
The former light heavyweight contender made his 185-pound debut against hard-striking Robbie Lawler and showed that he will be a threat to challenge for the title one day soon.
Larkin controlled the standout action for all three rounds to earn a unanimous decision.
All three of the judges scored the fight 30-27. ESPN.com also scored it 30-27 for Larkin, who improved to 13-0 with one no contest.
Aside from being stunned early in the first round, Larkin gave Lawler very few opportunities to land hard punches by being more aggressive and mixing up his attack.
"It was hard," Larkin said of cutting to middleweight. "I'm tired of messing with those guys at 205.
"Robbie hit me with a punch and made me do the stinky legs. I went against one of Strikeforce's hardest strikers."
Lawler falls to 19-9 with one no contest.