Luke Rockhold vs Keith Jardine Targeted For January 7thStrikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold is expected to make the first defence of his new title against UFC veteran “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine on January 7, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. first reported the bout on Thursday. Jardine replaces an injured Tim Kennedy.

Rockhold captured the championship in a razor-thin five-round battle with former champion Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza in September and has won seven straight fights. Jardine is unbeaten in his past three fights after enduring a disastrous 2009-2010 campaign that included five consecutive losses.

Rockhold (8-1-0) is one of the fastest rising stars from the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. He maintained an active schedule after making his Strikeforce debut in 2008 and finished six opponents in a row inside the Strikeforce cage. After an impressive TKO victory over Paul Bradley early last year, Rockhold was forced to the sidelines due to injuries and did not return until his title fight with Souza. Ring rust did not appear to play a factor, as Rockhold’s striking was sharp and he avoided Souza’s submission attempts on the ground en route to the title-winning decision.

Jardine (17-9-2) appeared to be one win away from a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship after stopping Forrest Griffin in 2006, but suffered a shocking upset loss to Houston Alexander in his next fight. He bounced back with a big win over former champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell, but later fell into a four-fight losing streak that ended his tenure in the UFC. Jardine then clashed with fellow veteran Trevor Prangley at Shark Fights 13 last September, but dropped a Split Decision. He has since won two of three fights, with the lone blemish coming in a contentious Majority Draw with Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi in April.

With few middleweight contenders remaining in Strikeforce, Jardine will make his second appearance at 185 for the promotion and receives a title shot after Tim Kennedy was forced to decline due to injury. Rockhold and Jardine are expected to face off at an as-yet-unannounced event on January 7, 2012 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.



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