Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold spent much of the week dismissing the validity of opponent Keith Jardine as a title contender.
He spent less than a full round dismantling Jardine in the cage Saturday night.
Making his first title defense, Rockhold knocked out the former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender 4:26 into the first round of the main event on the Strikeforce card at the Hard Rock Hotel.
Rockhold acknowledged Jardine as a tough opponent, but didn’t feel he had earned the right to challenge for a belt in his first-ever appearance at middleweight.
"He’s tough and he came to fight," Rockhold said. "Too bad for him I love fighting and I feel like once the cage door shuts, it’s my world."
Rockhold was far quicker on the exchanges and landed 37 of 50 total strikes, including 32 power shots, according to CompuStrike.
The fight-ending sequence was initiated by a huge right hook that stunned Jardine and backed him against the cage. Rockhold followed with 15 unanswered shots before Jardine rolled to his side and the fight was stopped.
"I felt like he was going to come forward and try to land that overhand right," Rockhold said. "I knew I was too quick, had a little too much footwork and I could sit back and land my counter right hand."
After dispatching a UFC castoff, Rockhold said he’s ready for stiffer tests. Instead of answering a post-fight question in the cage about fighting top Strikeforce contender Tim Kennedy next, Rockhold called out the top contenders in the UFC and said he thinks it is time some of them come over to Strikeforce to challenge him and determine who are the true top middleweights.
That type of crossover would also move Robbie Lawler down the list of potential contenders in the division.
The former middleweight champion snapped a two-fight losing streak with a first-round knockout of Adlan Amagov.
Moments after taking an illegal knee by Amagov that caused a brief delay and a one-point deduction, Lawler launched a flying knee that appeared to graze Amagov on the top of the head and sent him to the mat face first. Lawler immediately followed with left hands that prompted the stoppage.
Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, the former light heavyweight champion, handed rising prospect Lorenz Larkin his first defeat with a second-round knockout.
Lawal, a decorated amateur wrestler, took down the flashy striker in the first round, but couldn’t do much damage.
He was much more successful after an early takedown in the second, taking ahold of Larkin’s head with his left hand against the cage and landing rights until the fight was stopped.
It was the second win in a row for Lawal since losing his belt, a title he wants another shot at now that it is vacant.
"I think that’s the next stop for me," he said. "The next person will take a beating like this, too."
Two welterweights earned victories that might position them to fight for the vacant title, though neither performance seemed worthy of such an opportunity.
Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine, who fought each other exactly a year ago, each were booed loudly after grinding out split-decision victories.
Woodley, who defeated Saffiedine last year, took down Jordan Mein in each of the three rounds and essentially laid on top of him each time.
Mein was surprisingly awarded two of the rounds on one scorecard, but Woodley remained unbeaten.
"He’s a long kid," said Woodley, a former All-America wrestler at Missouri. "People want to see ground-and-pound when you get on top like that, but he did a really good job of stretching me out and keeping me away from that."
Saffiedine’s performance wasn’t any more popular. He was outstruck by Tyler Stinson in the opening round and decided to try to get the fight to the ground after that.
He took the second round on all three cards and did enough to win the decision, but not the fans, in the final round.
"It wasn’t my best performance, but I got the job done," he said over the boos.
Stinson fared well on his feet and opened a nasty gash over Saffiedine’s eye, though he couldn’t finish the fight when he had chances early nor when the fight was stood up in the final minute.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.