NEW YORKMelvin “No Mercy’’ Manhoef (24-8-1) of Amsterdam, Holland, will replace an injured Luke Rockhold and face American Military hero Tim Kennedy (12-3) of Fort Bragg, N.C.,  in a featured fight at middleweight (185 pounds) on a STRIKEFORCE World Championship Doubleheader on Saturday, March 5, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).

The promising Rockhold withdrew after suffering an injury to his left leg during training.

“Man, this is beyond really disappointing,’’ said Rockhold, a winner of six in a row. “I’d been feeling great and working hard and was really pumped for the fight with Kennedy.

“I know injuries are part of the game, but I want to fight. That’s what I do. It’s pretty swollen now, but once my leg is 100 percent I’m coming back with a vengeance.’’

Manhoef, who’s one of MMA’s most devastating and offensive-minded stand-up fighters, is making his second start for STRIKEFORCE on SHOWTIME. In his debut on Jan. 30, 2010, Manhoef had mostly manhandled hard-hitting, former two-time world champion Robbie Lawler before getting caught and losing in the first round.

The exciting, crowd-pleasing Manhoef does not know the meaning of a full night’s work. The Destructive Dutchman has registered KO or TKO victories in all but one of his 24 victories.

Manhoef, a winner in seven of his last 11, has participated in more than 60 professional fights between MMA and kickboxing, but is seeking his first MMA victory in the United States.

“I come to fight and give my very best,’’ the 5-foot-8, 34-year-old Manhoef said. “I am very, very hungry. I need to win this fight. I am looking forward to fighting Tim Kennedy.’’

Born in Suriname, Manhoef relocated to Rotterdam with his family when he was three years old.  He was introduced to the sport of Muay Thai by a brother at the age of 18.

The popular Kennedy is an American military hero who’s toured the Middle East multiple times, and earned the Army’s Bronze Medal Star medal for valor under fire.

This will be the 5-foot-11, 31-year old’s fifth start for STRIKEFORCE and his first since losing a close, hard-fought decision to “Jacare” Souza in a fight for the then-vacant STRIKEFORCE middleweight title on Aug. 21, 2010, on SHOWTIME.

The disputed defeat ended a four-fight winning streak for Kennedy, who has split two fights against Jason “Mayhem’’ Miller.

In the March 5 main event, Dan Henderson (26-8), of Temecula, Calif., will challenge defending belt-holder Rafael “Feijao’’ Cavalcante (10-2) of Brazil for the STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) Championship. In a second world title fight, Marloes “Rumina’’ Coenen (18-4) of the Netherlands will risk her lightweight title for a first time against No. 1 135-pound contender, Miesha “Takedown’’ Tate (11-2), of Tacoma, Wash.

Undefeated Billy Evangelista (11-0) of Fresno, Calif., will take on Jorge Masvidal (20-6) of Miami, Fla., at lightweight (155 pounds) in a previously announced televised  bout.

The event, STRIKEFORCE’s first in the state of Ohio, will take place in conjunction with The Arnold Sports Festival, the nation’s largest health and fitness exposition founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Tickets are on sale at the Nationwide Arena ticket office, online at Ticketmaster.com and Strikeforce.com and Ticketmaster by phone at (800) 745-3000.

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