On the heels of Showtime’s April 4 announcement about SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers, the cable premium has officially signed Billy Evangelista (9-0) vs. “Iron” Mike Aina (11-6-1) as the series’ inaugural main event. As speculated, it will take place on May 15 at the Save Mart Center in Evangelista’s hometown of Fresno, CA.
Aina and Evangelista has previously been rumored to compete on Strikeforce’s upcoming event at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO.
Female fighter Kim “Sugar Free” Couture (1-1) is also scheduled to appear on ShoMMA, although an opponent has yet to be named.
SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers replaces ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series as the network’s platform for young, burgeoning mixed martial arts fighters. The series complements Showtime’s higher-profile Strikeforce events, the first of which is scheduled for April 11 and features Frank “The Legend” Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz in the main event.
Although Evangelista and Aina’s respective resumes reflect the “classic match-up of striker vs. grappler,” both fighters have demonstrated impressive all-around proficiency in prior matches. Evangelista is an experienced wrestler and Muay Thai kickboxer who holds wins against submission specialists like Nam Phan and Ryan Bixler.
Aina, in comparison, is a longtime disciple of B.J. Penn, yet boasts six KO’s in his 11 victories. His 2007 match against Diaz, which saw Aina get the better of several striking exchanges, had a lot of fans and experts talking about his striking aptitude.
“Billy is no slouch. I’m expecting a really tough fight because we have similar styles. We both like to stand up even though we’re both also well rounded. I’m going in with a positive mindset and I’m ready to work hard in there,” Aina noted in a release issued by Showtime.
Added attraction Kim Couture, who has looked to establish herself outside of her celebrated husband’s shadow, impressed many fans for her tenacity in her June 2008 debut match. Although Couture took a decision loss to Kim Rose, the fact that she suffered a broken jaw early in the first round and continued to go the distance forced many doubters to give the striking spouse her due. More recently, Couture beat Lina Kvokov via first round TKO at Strikeforce: Destruction in November.
SHO MMA: Strikeforce Challengers will be broadcast live at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) on Showtime. Tickets for this event go on sale Monday, April 13, at 10:00 a.m. PT. They are available at the Save Mart Center box office and select Save Mart Supermarkets, as well as at through all Ticketmaster outlets and Strikeforce.com.