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Luke Rockhold Set To Defend Strikeforce Middleweight Belt Against Keith Jardine In January

Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold will fight UFC veteran Keith Jardine in early 2012 for his first title defense.

Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is scheduled to defend his title against former UFC contender Keith Jardine in early 2012, according to reports from MMA Fighting. Promotion officials have yet to formerly announce the event, but are reportedly targeting January 7th at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Tim Kennedy was Rockhold's rumored opponent for much of the past few months, but was ultimately unavailable due to an undisclosed injury.

Rockhold (8-1) won his title in unique fashion, reemerging from a year-and-a-half injury hiatus to defeat Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza via five-round unanimous decision at Strikeforce Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov. The 27-year-old's stunning victory capped a seven-fight win streak stretching back to his 2008 Strikeforce debut.

Jardine (17-9-2), meanwhile, earns the title shot despite fighting to a controversial majority draw against Gegard Mousasi in his Strikeforce debut. Mousasi was penalized one-point midway through the contest for an illegal upkick. Prior to that, "The Dean of Mean" picked up two consecutive wins in regional promotions against Francisco France and Aron Lofton.