The young 185-pounder stayed aggressive throughout the majority of the matchup and had one judge scoring the bout in his favor for every round.
An aggressive pace was the them of this fight’s early moments. Souza pressed Rockhold with strikes and took the fight to the ground. The middleweight champ controlled his opponent on the ground and landed some punches as Rockhold attempted to stand. “Jacare” secured another takedown and stayed in control of the action to the ground. After returning to the feet, Rockhold turned up the speed and landed an impressive kick, then continued to press the champ until the end of the opening round.
Rockhold utilized a lot of kicks in the second round. They were affective until Souza landed a punch that dropped the challenger, which led the way to more strikes being landed as Rockhold retreated. Midway through the round, the two began to clinch against the cage where they would lobby for position. After separating, Souza landed a few more strikes and the round ended with Rockhold throwing a head kick for good measure.
The third round had both fighters trading strikes, conservatively. At about 1:15 in, Rockhold hit the champ with a low blow and the the fight was halted. After Souza recovered, Souza took a single leg and tripped Rockhold down to the mat where he worked for position and strikes. The two returned to a standing fight and Rockhold landed more combinations than he did earlier in the bout. The challenger continued to land more shots and edged the champ in the third frame.
Round four showed both fighters staying heavy with offense on the feet. “Jacare” was able to get a shot through and Rockhold’s nose began to bleed. A clinch had the fight go the ground, briefly, but they return to a standing fight where they mixed in strikes, but fatigue definitely started to set in on both sides. The round ended with the two in a clinch against the fence.
The final round had Rockhold staying aggressive and punching first. “Jacare” worked in some kicks and even attempted a flying front kick, but it didn’t find its mark. After getting in a clinch, Souza executed a pretty trip takedown and controlled his opponent on the ground. It didn’t stay there long, though, and Rockhold returned to the feet. The challenger impressed towards the end of the fight, staying aggressive and pressing the champ until the final bell rang.
The judges scored it unanimously for Rockhold with scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47.
“I got rocked a couple times,” Rockhold said after winning the Strikeforce middleweight strap. “[But] I train at one of the best academies in the world, the best guys. I have the best people in my corner.”
Rockhold wins the first title of his young career and improves his record to 8-1. Souza, in defeat, loses his first Strikeforce fight and third of his career.