Strikeforce is back with a vengeance less than a month removed from the embarrassing post-fight brawl on CBS, and with the line-up set for Saturday night’s ”Heavy Artillery” event it shouldn’t be hard to push the sour memory even further back in the public’s collective memory due to the level of talent involved.
The card includes something for everyone from high-level strikers to elite jiujitsu practitioners; from competitive undercard pairings to main card match-ups ripe with potential for edge-of-your-seat entertainment. Those in attendance at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center, as well as tuning in on Showtime, will have a chance to see undefeated Roger Gracie do his best to keep the Brazilian family’s legacy alive against Kevin Randleman, top lightweights Lyle Beerbohm and Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro do battle, and a great stylistic clash between BJJ bad-ass Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and rounded veteran Joey Villasenor, not to mention the quartet of high-level heavyweights on display. With Andrei Arlovski looking to right his career against rising talent Antonio Silva and Alistair Overeem finally defending his Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship against rival bringer-of-the-knockout Brett Rogers fans appear to be in for a true treat.
Before I get into the “pick em” part of this article let me preclude the breakdown of bouts by saying one of the things about Mixed Martial Arts I’ve always loved is its unpredictable nature. I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction with a little insight/opinion included in the deal, but readers would be wise to avoid laying down money on my attempts to glimpse into the future. Beyond that, please don’t hesitate to share your own thoughts on any or all of the scheduled fights in the “Comments” section below, and let’s get this show on the road…
Darryl Cobb vs. Booker DeRousse
For better or worse, Strikeforce events regularly feature inexperienced or regional fighters as a means of filling cards up, and this bout is clearly a byproduct of that strategy (as are the four following it) . As such, I’ll understand if readers skip ahead to the more recognizable names set for action, but I think there’s definitely value to be found in examining fighters who aren’t necessarily known whether because one could be a future star in the sport or simply as a means of showing due respect to professional Mixed Martial Artists.
I know very little about either man other than what their records reveal. Both have four fights under their belt so experience is a push. Conditioning could be an issue in that DeRousse has never been out of the first round while Cobb has seen later frames a few times. He’s also won three straight, while Booker is coming off a submission loss, so momentum is definitely on Cobb’s side. The only thing keeping me from picking him without hesitation is the fact he’s never tapped an opponent out while DeRousse has never lost in any other manner. However, I’ll tack that up to low number of fights each has thus far in their careers, so now that I’ve hesitated a bit I’ll go ahead and still pick Cobb.
Winner – Darryl Cobb via Submission Round 3
Gregory Wilson vs. Matt Ricehouse
Apparently these two will be entering the ring with a combined total of one bout between them (in Ricehouse’s favor). For no other reason than his successful professional debut last January I’ll go with Ricehouse since he won’t have first-fight jitters to deal with, plus he’s already shown the ability to finish even if in reality it was only a single time in his lone previous in-ring appearance.
Winner – Matt Ricehouse via TKO Round 1
Thomas Aaron vs. Eric Steenberg
The outcome of this bout seems pretty obvious. Aaron is coming off back-to-back losses and is 1-2 in his career, while Steenberg is 3-0 with a trio of finishes to back his flawless record up. Basically, if it’s possible for there to be a “major upset” in a match-up where 90% of the audience hasn’t heard of either fighter involved then a win for Aaron would almost certainly be that.
Winner – Eric Steenberg via TKO Round 2
Michael Chandler vs. Sal Woods
After a little examination it appears this bout is also a candidate for a potential, yet essentially anonymous, upset depending on how things play out. Chandler is 2-0 with two TKOs, including a November 2009 win on a “Strikeforce Challengers” card. Woods (3-7), on the other hand, should also be known as the rare “twice-as-many-losses-as-wins-on-a-big-card” Mixed Martial Artist – call it Competitus Omuralia if you will. I can see why most people would go with the favorite, but I think Woods’ experience could definitely play a factor in the eventual outcome and I believe he’s got the skills to win against Chandler. He’s been in the ring with talent like Tyron Woodley and Pat Healy, and though neither were close to being successful performances on his part, it may still give him a mental edge to know he’s stared down superior competition and didn’t blink even regardless of result. All three of his wins have been finishes, and two of his losses are of the split decision variety, so he’s a tough draw no matter what his record looks like on the surface.
Winner – Sal Woods via Submission Round 3
Lee Brousseau vs. Francisco France
The pairing rolls off the tongue, does it not? Say it a few times and you’ll see what I mean. Brousseau has one of the more-entertaining nicknames in MMA (Manimal), while his opponent has one of the more-unnecessary ones (Kiko) in the sport. As they say, one shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and “Francisco France” is as perfect as a peach where given names are concerned.
Moving on to how they’re skilled rather than how they’re billed, France and Brousseau look to be evenly matched with contrasting styles so I think fans in attendance may be in for an unexpected treat on the undercard when these two lock up. France trains with American Top Team, so he comes from a great camp, and is clearly a solid jiujitsu practitioner as evident by submission wins in his first four professional fights (three of which took less than a minute to procure). However, he was knocked out at an event less than a month ago so it will be interesting to see if he’ll experience any lingering effects from the defeat. Brousseau has emerged victor in his last two bouts and has shown the ability to finish opponents with strikes twice in the past. The outcome of this fight will depend on wrestling as a means of controlling where the action takes place, and in that regard I’m going to favor France because of the quality of athletes he works with at ATT.
Winner – Francisco France via Submission Round 1
Justin DeMoney vs. Jesse Finney
This should be a competitive pairing even though, again, neither fighter is more notable in name-value than your standard Ultimate Fighter contestant. DeMoney is 13-2 and seems to prefer a ground assault based on remarkable number of submission-by-strikes he has racked up in his career. According to Sherdog’s always-useful Fight Finder, seven of his eight “submission” wins have come by way of fists/elbows rather than a choke or manipulation of a limb. The other was a slam! Seriously, check – it’s too insane to make up. The 4-0 Finney has his work cut out for him and will need to rely on his wrestling to take DeMoney down, then attempt to cash in on a more-traditional submission of his own rather than risk absorbing any of his opponent’s power. However, I refuse to pick against someone with such freakish accomplishments as DeMoney’s, not to mention the success he’s found in 4X as many fights as Finney, and so with that being said…
Winner – Justin DeMoney via TKO Round 2
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro vs. Lyle Beerbohm
*nlk%3@n235f9s…Sorry about that, but I just drooled on my keyboard in anticipation of this match and shorted the darn thing out! Now that I’m fully functional again it should go without saying I’m extremely excited about this particular bout even though I recognize there’s a significant chance it won’t make the televised broadcast. Ribeiro has only lost three times in 23 professional fights and none of his defeats are cause for head-hanging (Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and JZ Calvancante). On the flipside, Beerbohm’s record of 13-0 puts him among the top three undefeated male fighters actively competing. He’s finished twelve of the baker’s dozen he’s faced and nearly split the victories down the middle in terms of submission/TKO ratio.
Though Ribeiro’s jiujitsu is unquestionably superior to Beerbohm’s, he’s lost twice in his last three fights and only competed in MMA on two occasions since September 2007. Comparably, Beerbohm has ten bouts under his belt in the same period of time. “Shaolin” is slick enough on the mat to lock in a submission at any time, but I think Beerbohm will be able to use his size advantage to power out of most attempts while unleashing a fair amount of damage on his own. As such, I expect him to win but only by the seat of his “Fancy Pants”.
Winner – Lyle Beerbohm via Decision
Antwain Britt vs. Rafael Cavalcante
This bout provides Cavalcante an opportunity to seize a place as one of Strikeforce’s top light heavyweights and possibly earn a fight with a star like Dan Henderson, Gegard Mousasi, or even champ “King” Mo Lawal in the process. I think Britt is slightly overrated in the eyes of many, but his power is undeniable and in that regard he’ll always to be a legitimate threat to the chin and subsequent consciousness of any opponent he faces. All eight of Cavalcante’s wins are by way of TKO, which might make some people think he could fare well against Britt if choosing to stand with “The Juggernaut”, but it’s an unnecessary risk for “Feijao” to take when his jiujitsu is a finely tuned, dangerous weapon. Britt has been submitted two of the three times he’s lost and neither was to a Mixed Martial Artist with Cavalcante’s credentials. If the BFF of fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva focuses on grabbing hold of Britt’s neck or arm, or even controlling things on the ground, he shouldn’t have any problem emerging from the bout a winner.
Winner – Rafael Cavalcante via Submission Round 1
Roger Gracie vs. Kevin Randleman
There’s little question Gracie will be targeting a submission in this bout while Randleman will likely work on stuffing takedowns and landing a few power shots to end things early. “The Monster” is on the last leg of his career with a slew of recent losses and the inability to finish an opponent dating back to his memorable knockout of Mirko Filipovic in 2004. He’s coming off a staph infection meaning fitness could be an issue, so as I said before, I think Randleman will be overly aggressive in hopes of making it a short night. Gracie isn’t nearly as weathered or active as the former NCAA national champion, but his jiujitsu ability obviously can’t be denied due to his heritage, duo of submission wins in two pro MMA fights, and success in high-level grappling tournaments. If Gracie takes Randleman down I think the bout will essentially be over and, frankly, if the opposite happens I still think Gracie has the edge from his back. Minus a one-punch knockout I’m fairly confident Gracie’s “0” won’t go.
Winner – Roger Gracie via Submission Round 1
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Joey Villasenor
I like the match-up of styles involved in this particular contest, as it lends itself to a number of possible outcomes rather than a one-sided affair. Souza is widely acknowledged as a whiz on the mat, but similar to Demian Maia it’s his only real method of attack. On the other hand, Villasenor may be painted as primarily being a striker but in truth has double-digit submission wins on his record while only being tapped out once in 33 professional fights. He’s never faced a grappler as good as “Jacare” – few have until they actually do – but he can definitely hold his own when things hit the canvas. In the end I like Souza’s next-level BJJ to procure him the win, but I won’t blink more than once if Villasenor is able to pull out a victory by stuffing takedowns and planting a few nice shots on his Brazilian opponent’s jaw.
Winner – Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza via Submission Round 2
Andrei Arlovski vs. Antonio Silva
As I said in this week’s ”Grappling with Issues”, I think Arlovski is under an immense amount of pressure to win this bout and I’m not 100% positive he can rise to the occasion. Silva has the power to knock opponents out and the grappling to submit them. “The Pitbull” has both of those attributes as well, but his chin has been successfully tested six of the seven times he’s lost while Silva hasn’t been knocked out in more than three years. However, I think Arlovski’s speed, athleticism, and overall technique will be a little too much for “Bigfoot” to contend with, and I’m going to trust the former UFC heavyweight champ will actually enter the bout more disciplined than he’s acted in the past due to a few changes he’s made in his approach to training. Assuming he’s recognized the crossroads he’s come to in his career there’s no reason he should rush in and stick the button on his jaw out there for Silva to push.
Winner – Andrei Arlovski via Decision
Alistair Overeem vs. Brett Rogers
There’s no doubt in my mind this bout will feature a few incredible displays of jiujitsu and go a full five championship rounds. And, if you believe that, I also have some high-dollar, ocean-front property outside of Kabul you might be interested in purchasing.
Clearly both men are going to want to stand and exchange strikes based on their general approaches to fighting and personal dislike of one another. Both have enough power in their punches (and knees) to end things instantly, while Overeem is a submission threat but won’t be able to shoot on Rogers without taking some damage along the way. I have been a long-time proponent of “The Grim” since getting to watch a few EliteXC fights ringside with him after his promotional debut in 2007, and I respect his talent and showmanship, but I think he tends to rely on the size advantage he usually enters the ring with to bully opponents into slumber rather than using precise technique to do so. Overeem is large enough to avoid being pushed around while also being comfortable in the clinch if things go that route. I think he’s faster than Rogers and a more-complete fighter overall. I expect to see at least a few explosive leg kicks from “The Demolition Man” to weaken Rogers’ stand-up and frustrate him on the outside, then maybe some knees to the midsection when the distance closes and even a takedown attempt to limit the Minnesotan’s attack. Rogers is probably too strong to get caught in a submission as long as he avoids making any basic mistakes, but Fedor Emelianenko made it clear his chin is vulnerable to an extent and I’m certain Overeem will be working to exploit that. Then again, the Dutchman has been flattened a few times himself, so perhaps the safest route to go when picking this fight is flip a coin, then sit back and enjoy the almost-guaranteed knockout unfold.
Winner – Alistair Overeem via TKO Round 2