Lawler-Larkin, Gracie-Jardine also booked for summer card
The two highly regarded middleweights will meet on July 14 on a Strikeforce card in Portland, Ore., when Rockhold defends his 185-pound title. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker on Thursday announced the card during a media call promoting next week's Strikeforce heavyweight tournament finals in San Jose, Calif.
Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy will take place at the Rose Garden in Portland. It will be the promotion's second event at the arena. Strikeforce previously held a Challengers series show in Portland in May 2010, which drew nearly 6,000 fans for a main event between Oregon native Matt Lindland and Kevin Casey. The main card will air live on Showtime; the prelims will air live on Showtime Extreme.
Rockhold (9-1, 8-0 Strikeforce) is unbeaten since signing with Strikeforce in 2008, including seven stoppages. His win over Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza last September to take the middleweight title was the first decision of his career – and first time he had been out of the first round. He won by unanimous decision in the five-round bout, including a 50-45 score. It was Rockhold's first fight in more than 18 months.
In his first title defense in January, he drew an odd assignment in Keith Jardine, who had just one Strikeforce fight under his belt – a draw against Gegard Mousasi – and was dropping to middleweight for the first time. As a heavy favorite, he dispatched of Jardine with a first-round TKO.
Kennedy (14-3, 5-1 Strikeforce) will fight for the first time in nearly a year. His last appearance was a unanimous decision win over Robbie Lawler last July. That victory gave him a two-fight winning streak after losing a fight for the vacant middleweight belt to Souza, who then lost it to Rockhold. Last March, Kennedy submitted Melvin Manhoef in the first round to get back in the win column after his loss to Souza.
Kennedy had been expected to challenge Rockhold for the title earlier this year, but an injury kept him sidelined and Jardine was given the title shot in his place.
In addition to the middleweight title fight in the main event, two other middleweight bouts have been booked for the card in Portland. Lawler will look to put together a streak and get back into middleweight title contention when he takes on Lorenz Larkin, who will drop from light heavyweight to middleweight for the first time. Lawler is coming off a January win over Adlan Amagov that snapped a two-fight skid against Kennedy and Souza. Larkin lost to Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in January, but that setback was overturned to a no contest when Lawal tested positive for steroids.
And Jardine will fight Roger Gracie, who will try to rebound from the first loss of his MMA career. Jardine lost five of his last six UFC fights, including four straight, and was cut from the promotion. He then dropped a fifth straight in a Shark Fights bout against Trevor Prangley before getting back on track with two wins and signing with Strikeforce. Gracie started his career 4-0 before losing to Lawal in September by first-round knockout. His first four wins, including two in Strikeforce, were submissions – the last three by rear naked choke.