Strikeforce returns this Saturday for the first time since June. They will be live in their home base of San Jose, CA and this time they will be bringing you the biggest female MMA match up in history. Gina Carano, the "Face of women's MMA", will take on the most destructive force in women's MMA Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos for the women's championship at 145 lbs.
This fight has been on people's minds ever since they were first brought to the mainstream by EliteXC back in October of 2008. It is very fortunate that the main event of this card has remained in tact because little else of the card originally planned remains.
There was supposed to be a fight between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight title but Overeem pulled out due to a hand injury and now Werdum has been pushed to the preliminary card. Josh Thomson once again has been forced out of a defense of his lightweight title due to injury so now challenger Gilbert Melendez takes on Mitsuhiro Ishida for Melendez's interim title.
To top it all off Nick Diaz was supposed to fight Joe Riggs for the inaugural welterweight title but Riggs had to pull out due to an adverse reaction to a drug he had taken. Jay Hieron stepped in for Riggs once Affliction collapsed but then Diaz was not given a license to fight after missing a pre fight drug test. So now Jesse Taylor of Ultimate Fighter infamy has stepped in for Diaz but this bout is no longer for a title.
Obviously a string of bad luck has ravished this card but fortunately there are still some great fights this Saturday so let's break down the important fights on the card:
Gina Carano v. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos
Carano is 7-0, making her Strikeforce debut, with four wins by stoppage. She is a muay thai fighter. Santos is 7-1, 1-0 in Strikeforce, with five wins by KO. She is a muay thai striker with jiu jitsu skills.
This has been a mega fight in the making for months and it's about time these two finally met to settle once and for all who the best female MMA fighter in the world is. Carano has the looks and the fame but Santos is a beast who is hungry for the title.
Both women are strong muay thai strikers. Carano is probably the more technical striker while Santos has the power edge but that's not to say Carano doesn't have power and Santos is wild. Santos has the better ground game and also is the more aggressive fighter, though Carano loves to stand and trade.
I think Santos will look to overpower Carano with clinches and takedowns, wearing her down before going in for the kill on the feet. Carano is a great fighter but I don't see her beating a similarly talented fighter who is much more aggressive and violent than her. I'm picking Santos to give Carano her first loss by TKO in the third round, making her the inaugural Strikeforce women's champion.
Renato Sobral v. Gegard Mousasi
Sobral is 35-8, 1-0 in Strikeforce, with 20 wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with strong wrestling and some muay thai skills. Mousasi is 28-2-1, making his Strikeforce debut, with 22 wins by stoppage. He is a kickboxer with grappling ability.
This fight for the light heavyweight championship worked out well for everyone. This fight was supposed to take place on the scrapped Affliction Trilogy card but got moved over once that organization fell apart. Now Mousasi makes his debut at 205, for a title, against a well respected veteran. Not a bad way to make your debut at a new weight class.
This should be a great fight between two seasoned veterans and it should also be a classic grappler v. striker match up. If Mousasi can keep the fight standing he can win. But if he gets taken down he's going to have a tough time with Sobral's size and skill advantage. Mousasi can survive on the ground but I can't see him winning the fight from there.
I like Sobral to put a damper on Mousasi's debut. Sobral has fought the best in the world at different weight classes for years and he should feel no pressure here. I think there's a lot of pressure on Mousasi fighting for a title, in front of an American audience for the first time, at a new weight class. I'm picking Sobral to win a tough fight against a game opponent by submission in the fourth round to keep his light heavyweight title.
Gilbert Melendez v. Mitsuhiro Ishida
Melendez is 15-2, 5-1 in Strikeforce, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with good hands. Ishida is 18-5-1, 1-0 in Strikeforce, with five wins by stoppage. He is a grappler.
Ishida is a very tough opponent with great grappling who can control his opponents and wear them down. Unfortunately he is running into a wrecking ball of a wrestler in Melendez and I think Melendez controls where the fight takes place and will impose his will on Ishida. Melendez should keep the fight standing where he has a distinct advantage. I'm picking Melendez to win by TKO in the first round to retain the interim lightweight title and the right to finally face Thomson again for the real thing.
Jay Hieron v. Jesse Taylor
Hieron is 17-4, making his Strikeforce debut, with nine wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with solid hands and jiu jitsu. Taylor is 13-3, also making his Strikeforce debut, with nine wins by stoppage. He is also a wrestler with solid hands and some jiu jitsu.
This is a very good match up but it might be one where the fighters are so similar they cancel each other out. The difference lies within Hieron's technique v. Taylor's power. If Hieron can stay on his feet and use his technique to win the fight he'll be in much better shape then getting into any clinches or grappling matches that Taylor can use his power to his advantage.
Hieron has hopefully finally found a home for the long term in Strikeforce and this is a big re-entry into the U.S. mainstream for Taylor since his embarrassing loss to C.B. Dolloway over a year ago after getting kicked off the Ultimate Fighter. I think that's a lot of pressure for Taylor who might get over aggressive and leave one too many holes for Hieron to pick apart. I'm picking Hieron to win by decision.
Mike Kyle v. Fabricio Werdum
Kyle is 12-6-1, 1-1-1 in Strikeforce, with 10 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Werdum is 11-4-1, making his Strikeforce debut, with nine wins by stoppage. He is a well rounded fighter with strong muay thai and jiu-jitsu.
While it looks fairly even on paper the level of competition Werdum had to go through to get his 11 wins was much tougher than what Kyle had to go through to get his 12. So while their records look similar Werdum is definitely the more accomplished and experienced fighter. Also, I like his versatility on the ground to be a difference maker. I'm picking Werdum to win by submission in the first round.