Strikeforce Challengers: Villasenor vs. Cyborg is set to take place at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington on Friday night, June 19, and will air live on Showtime.
The main event of the evening pits highly rated middleweight Joey Villasenor against Chute Boxe knockout artist Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.
Also set for the card is Jorge Gurgel in his Strikeforce debut, a fascinating middleweight match-up between Nick “The Goat” Thompson and Tim Kennedy, and a female showdown between Shayna Baszler and Sarah Kaufman with potential to steal the show.
“Smokin” Joey Villasenor vs. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
What a fantastic match-up. A knockout lovers dream. Two men, four fists filled with lead, two questionable chins; what’s not to love? One way or the other someone’s taking a canvas nap in this one and they’re taking it early.
Cyborg has long been one of my favorite fighters due to his never say die attitude and relentless aggression but it’s those exact two traits that have led him to being knocked flat on his Brazilian behind in seven of his twelve total defeats. With that being said, ten of Cyborg’s sixteen career victories have come by way of either knockout or TKO so the odds are good that someone will end up on the receiving end of a beatdown anytime Santos throws down.
When you take a look at Villasenor you see a fighter that is just more of a threat in more areas of the game. Sure, he’s got good striking and a solid submission game but the key to success for the Greg Jackson trained fighter in this fight is the simple fact that he has more paths to victory than Cyborg. The wrestling will be a big difference maker in this bout as Villasenor is undeniably the stronger wrestler of the two.
If Cyborg wins this fight he’s going to have to be at his best. He’ll have to catch the New Mexico native with a big punch and overwhelm him at any given opportunity all while being weary of the takedown.
The far more likely scenario is Villasenor taking full advantage of his strengths while taking the fearsome Brazilian to the mat and inflicting damage early on before catching him with a big series of punches on the feet for the finish.
Winner: Joey Villasenor – Knockout Round 1
Nick “The Goat” Thompson vs. Tim Kennedy
Another fantastic match-up that has fireworks written all over it.
If you’re a true avid mixed martial arts fan Nick Thompson needs no introduction. Friday evening will mark the fiftieth time “The Goat” has waged battle since jumping into the sport in 2003, during which he racked up a lackluster record of 1-3.
Six years can do wonders for a fighter when training at a top level gym such as Minnesota Martial Arts Academy and Thopmson is a prime example. A career record of 38-10-1, Thompson has been in there with the best of them, dropping bouts to the likes of Karo Parisyan and Jake Shields while putting together wins over men such as Josh Neer, Eddie Alvarez and most recently, Paul Daley.
Of course, if you’ve been a fan of the sport for say, the last three or four years, you’re familiar with Tim Kennedy as well. The active member of the Army Special Forces has been around since way back in 2001 but had taken breaks on a couple of occasions to serve his country.
As a matter of fact, many popular polls had Kennedy listed as a top ten middleweight before his temporary departure from the sport in 2003 with a record of 5-1 and an impressive victory over the more experienced Jason “Mayhem” Miller to his credit.
Kennedy came back in 2006/2007 where he put together a record of 4-1 with his sole defeat coming at the hands of “Mayhem” Miller. The bout with Thompson will mark his first return to MMA in a year and a half.
The rundown on the two looks like this, Thompson has an extensive ground arsenal and awkward but effective striking where Kennedy is a stud striker with competent skills on the mat. The wrestling is a wash. Without a doubt Kennedy will be looking to keep this fight on the feet where Thompson will be best served to take the fight to the floor. Whoever implements their gameplan wins this bout.
Winner: Tim Kennedy – TKO Round 2
Jorge Gurgel vs. Conor “Hurricane” Heun
Toughest fight to call on the card by a mile. By taking a quick glance at the match-up many would assume that the edge would go to Gurgel because of his experience and the level of competition he has faced recently before being let go by the UFC. Not so fast though.
Conor is a fast rising prospect that is much better than his 8-2 record would indicate. Both of his defeats came in the form of split decision losses to the likes of Brett Cooper and LC Davis. Davis and Cooper are both extremely talented fighters and the fact that Heun pushed the pair to split decisions tells you that he is fully capable of pushing Gurgel to his limits as well.
Known for his submissions and not his knockouts, Heun will find it extremely difficult to pull off the tapout against Gurgel, who is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt himself. Gurgel gets a small edge in the striking department but it’s hard for me to say that Heun could be knocked out when it hasn’t happened before.
This fight is going the distance, but by no means does that mean it will be boring in any way. Look for Gurgel coming out on fire in his first fight with Strikeforce only to meet an equally motivated Heun in the center of the cage. This will be the most highly paced bout on the card.
Winner: Jorge Gurgel – Unanimous Decision
Sarah Kaufman vs. Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler
The girls always have a tendency to steal the show and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this fight comes away as the fight of the night. However, I would be shocked if this one ends up going to the judges.
We’ve heard the cliche uttered a thousand times before,”The classic striker vs. grappler match-up”, well this fight defines the expression. Kaufman vs. Baszler pits one of female MMA’s most vicious knockout artists against one of its most graceful tapout queens.
Kaufman has stopped eight of her nine opponents by either TKO or knockout while Baszler has finished all nine of her victories by submission.
I’m a huge fan of Baszler as I have found her to be one of the most down to earth and easy to talk to female fighters in the business. At the same time, during my experiences with Kaufman she has been one of the friendliest fighters I have ever spoken to. Whatever, picking fights isn’t about picking favorites and it’s just incredibly difficult for me to pick against someone that hasn’t lost yet.
Winner: Sarah Kaufman – TKO Round 2
Cory “The One” Devela vs. Luke Rockhold
Devela will be looking to get back on track and implement his “Cowboy Karate” when he faces off with the up and coming Luke Rockholt who makes his home at the American Kickboxing Academy.
Experience will be the key in this fight. The match-up with Devela marks a huge jump up in competition for the still developing Rockholt.
The strength of both men lie in their submission abilities. Rockholt has finished all four of his victories by submission while Devela has finished six of his nine wins by tapout. This leads me to believe that submission will be unlikely, but not impossible. I anticipate a chess match in this fight.
Winner: Cory Devela – Unanimous Decision