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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Strikeforce returns with their fourth event of 2012 on Saturday night, with four fights scheduled for the main card on Showtime from the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. Two title fights cap off the action, with Luke Rockhold defending his title for the second time, against Tim Kennedy, and Nate Marquardt and Tyron Woodley squaring off to crown the first Welterweight Champion since Nick Diaz vacated the belt last year. Here's what's on tap for the night's card:
Luke Rockhold vs. Tim Kennedy (Middleweight Championship): Rockhold's very good on the ground, and he's the better striker than Kennedy. His win over "Jacare" Souza to capture the title was an excellently surprising performance, as he had never left the first round in his career, was coming off a long layoff, and went a full five rounds with the defending champion. Kennedy also went a full five rounds with Souza, but fell short in his bid to capture the title. Since that loss, Kennedy has added wins over Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler, but Rockhold's a much more difficult opponent for him. Rockhold's striking edge and ground game give him the edge here, and I think he scores often enough to pick up the win. Rockhold via decision
Nate Marquardt vs. Tyron Woodley (Welterweight Championship: Woodley's wrestling is obviously a major strength, and Marquardt's struggles with dominant wrestlers at times in the past may very well play into this fight. However, Marquardt's had a year to to prepare for his welterweight debut, and he's the much better striker with a 25-minute fight ahead of him. If he can wear Woodley down through the opening rounds, either by active ground work or takedown defense, he will take over as the fight goes on. I'm still a believer in Marquardt's abilities, and he's the better overall fighter than Woodley. Marquardt via TKO in the fourth round
Roger Gracie vs. Keith Jardine (Middleweight): Gracie makes his middleweight debut, while Jardine hopes to pick up his first Strikeforce win after a draw against Gegard Mousasi and a loss to Rockhold in January. Gracie lost his last bout against Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, prompting this drop, but he'll have a serious advantage on the ground if he can get it there. He's shown a good ability to do just that, and though it may be a little tough, I think he'll get it done. Gracie via submission in the second round.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Robbie Lawler (Middleweight): This is an interesting fight, and will likely be contested mostly on the feet. Lawler's coming off a fun flying knee finish over Adlan Amagov that snapped a two-fight losing streak, while Larkin makes his middleweight debut after getting beat up by Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in January. That fight became a "no contest" when Lawal tested positive for steroids, but it still prompted the move down. Larkin's a flashier, more dynamic striker overall, though Lawler has more power in his strikes. This should be an exciting, competitive fight, and I'll go with the up and comer to get the biggest win of his young career. Larkin via decision
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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