by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
For Luke Rockhold, 2010 looks to be the year that he breaks through into the elite ranks of Strikeforce’s 185-pound division.
Five wins in a row for the promotion has him on the verge of stardom, granted he gets past his opponent on Friday at the Challengers Series event in San Jose, Calif.
“Going into this year I feel like my whole game is coming together,” Rockhold told MMAWeekly.com. “I feel I’m on the right track. This is a big fight for me to get to that next level. I’m focused and ready for this guy.”
Expectations have always been high for Rockhold, but now more so than ever he’s hearing from followers that it is his time to step up.
“I’ve heard that quite a bit,” he stated. “Everyone’s asking me if this is my last Challengers fight and if I’m ready for the big names and stuff like that.”
People’s expectations aside, Rockhold has never been one to sway his course for outside influences.
“I’m just trying to deal with it,” he said. “I just go to the gym and keep doing what I’m doing and focusing on each individual fight.
“Every fight I’ve had has had a first round finish, so I haven’t had that much experience in the cage, but I feel my whole game is growing huge and I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Having never been out of the first round in a fight may seem like a detriment to some who feel Rockhold may be better off experiencing a real war of a fight, but he digresses.
“I hate when guys say they’re going in and expecting a war, that’s the worst thing you can have,” exclaimed Rockhold. “I train like crazy – and if it’s going to be a war, I’ll be ready for it – but I train to finish and finish is what I expect to do.
“I study my opponents a lot and I train to beat each one at their game or find their holes and end the fight. More experience is always good, but I’m definitely not looking to have a war.”
Experience won’t be lacking for Rockhold’s opponent, Paul Bradley, who has twice as many fights.
“His takedowns are explosive, he has power, but I just think he’s a little soft on the feet,” stated Rockhold. “I’m going to keep the pace fast, and if it hits the ground I’m going to keep moving and create scrambles and maybe put him on his back.
“For the most part I’d like to keep the fight on my feet. I feel my stand-up is a lot better than his, and I feel I have a lot more ways to beat this guy than he has to beat me.”
With a contract that is soon to expire, it would be understandable if Rockhold is making grand plans for 2010, but according to him, that’s not his nature.
“I don’t really set yearly goals or anything like that, but I’d like to step up eventually here and have a serious well-rounded opponent,” he said. “I’m definitely not trying to force the issue; because there’s definitely a lot of tough guys in the Strikeforce division like (Dan) Henderson and Jacare (Souza), and I need more experience to face those very elite guys.
“I think there’s a lot of guys I can tango with and I’m looking forward to it. I’m just going to build myself as best I can and I’m sure it will happen.”
On the verge of stardom, Rockhold doesn’t intend on changing his ways any time soon, in or out of the cage.
“I’ve got to thank my sponsors: Dethrone, Full Tilt Poker, Santa Cruz Skate & Surf Shop, Oak Grove Technologies, SCORE Clinic and EA Sports,” he closed out.
“I’m looking forward a high-paced fight. I don’t think it will go the distance. I train to finish the fight, and that’s what I’m going to do.”