Rising stars Cory "The One" Devela (9-2) and Luke Rockhold (4-1) will face off with each other in a middleweight (185 pound) battle at the Strikeforce Challengers mixed martial arts (MMA) event at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington on Friday, June 19.
"I feel like a million bucks," said the 24-year-old Devela, one of the sport's most promising young talents who hails from Bonney Lake, Washington and is a member of the Dennis "Superman" Hallman led Team Victory that has pioneered a hybrid fighting style dubbed "Cowboy Karate." "I know he's mostly a submission guy and I'm strong at that so it should be a great fight."
Devela notched his best victory to date before a home crowd when he scored a TKO over former UFC star Joe "Diesel" Riggs in the first round of their Strikeforce matchup at Tacoma, Washington's Tacoma Dome on February 28, 2008. After earning a unanimous decision over his next opponent, however, Devela suffered a setback when he was suddenly stopped by Terry Martin with an overhand punch in the third round of their Strikeforce matchup at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California on September 20, 2008. The matchup with Rockhold will be Devela's first since the loss to Martin.
"I was probably getting a little too cocky and not taking my training as hard as I needed to. I was doing well (against Martin) and I just got caught. That fight helped me get my head back in the game and train harder and realize where I want to be."
Also 24 years of age, Rockhold, a native of Santa Cruz, California and a member of Team AKA, one of the country's most fearsome fight squads, has proven to be a dangerous force on the mat, submitting each of his four victims to date within one round of battle. In his last effort, a meeting with Buck Meredith on the Strikeforce: "Shamrock vs. Diaz" preliminary card on Saturday, April 11, Rockhold forced Meredith to tap out from a rear naked choke at the 4:07 mark of the opening round.
"I didn't take too much time off after that fight. I stayed in shape and this is one of the best training camps I've had so far," said Rockhold, who holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After taking up judo as an adolescent, he went on to excel in high school wrestling competition, capturing first place in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and eventually reaching the California State Championships.
Towards the end of his high school career, though, Rockhold began to gravitate towards Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the combat art that utilizes choke holds and joint locks to finish opponents.
"I really liked Jiu-Jitsu a lot more because it wasn't just about putting a guy on his back and pinning him," explained Rockhold. "It allowed me to finish people using my whole body in every which way."