Luke Rockhold learned a valuable lesson about patience the last two years.
After he defeated Paul Bradley in early 2010 for his sixth consecutive victory in Strikeforce, he had surgery to repair a grade-two AC separation in his left shoulder. Then, he reinjured it and needed a second surgery.
"I wasn't as smart as I should be in my rehab process the first time," said Rockhold, who worked a variety of jobs before he became established in mixed martial arts. "The second time, it really woke me up. ... It scared me into doing everything right. I rehabbed right, and I trained. The whole time, I tried to work on my weaknesses and worked on my injuries."
When he returned, Rockhold was offered a title fight against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza last September.
"I was pumped, and I was taking the fight right away," said Rockhold, 27, a native of Santa Cruz, Calif. "It just put a big smile on my face. ... Being out so long, I think all the other guys kind of beat themselves out. I was one of the only guys left standing that was in position."
Rockhold defeated Souza via a unanimous decision to capture the Strikeforce middleweight championship. Saturday night, Rockhold (8-1) will make his first defense of the title against Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Keith Jardine in the main event of Strikeforce's card at The Joint at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The card can be seen live (Showtime, 10 p.m. Eastern) during the network's free preview weekend. Jardine, 36, from Butte, Mont., who is making his middleweight debut, lost seven of nine fights from 2007-2010, but rebounded with a strong 2011. He won his first two fights before a draw against Gegard Mousasi to raise his record to 17-9-2. "Keith's a fighter," said Rockhold. "He's going to come after me. I'm going to come right at him. I'm going to try to take his head off. ... I feel like I have an advantage in this fight." The other fights on the televised card include middleweights Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov, light heavyweights Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin, and welterweights Tyron Woodley vs. Canada's Jordan Mein and Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson.
The main event isn't the only fight with title implications. Lawal, the former light heavyweight champion, will face undefeated Lorenz Larkin (12-0) in a title eliminator. The winner will fight for the vacant title against Mousasi, who defeated Ovince St. Preux in December. Like Rockhold, Lawal (8-1) missed significant time while recovering from an injury -- his was a knee injury. He returned to defeat Roger Gracie in September. "It was difficult, but it wasn't that difficult," he said. "It was just a waiting game. I wasn't trying to rush anything." The preliminaries, which air live (Showtime Extreme, 8 p.m. Eastern) include: welterweights Nah-Shon Burrell vs. James Terry; light heavyweights Trevor Smith vs. Gian Villante; and lightweights Ricky Legere vs. Chris Spang. X...X...X
Alistair Overeem scored a first-round TKO against Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 last week to earn a title shot against UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
After the fight, Lesnar -- who had surgery to remover 12 inches of his colon because of diverticulitis in May 2010 -- announced his retirement. Lesnar, 34, defeated Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight title in November 2008. He successfully defended the title against Frank Mir and Shane Carwin before he lost to Cain Velasquez in October 2010. Lesnar retired with a 5-3 record.