Country-western music is often associated with a person being dealt a rough hand in life, and no city in America is as closely related to the genre than Nashville due to its history and live music scene. Perhaps it’s fitting Strikeforce chose the Tennessee capital for their latest offering, as the event’s participants look to deliver a different variety of “hard knocks” to fans in attendance than those typically sung about at the Grand Ole Opry, and appropriately enough some will feel the heartbreak of losing their beloved – substitute increased opportunity, win bonuses, and title belts for country’s cliché of women, dogs, and pickup trucks if you will.
“Strikeforce – Nashville”, which takes place at Bridgestone Arena, will be aired live on Saturday, April 17th, on CBS at 9:00 PM Eastern as part of the network’s “Saturday Night Fights” series. It is highlighted by a trio of championship clashes including a headlining bout between Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields and newly signed veteran Dan Henderson. Additionally,Gegard Mousasi will defend his light heavyweight title against former All-American wrestler Mo Lawal on the live broadcast, while 155-pound champ Gilbert Melendez will look to retain his strap against DREAM superstar Shinya Aoki as well. The always-entertaining Jason “Mayhem” Miller is also set for action at the event and it is expected some, if not all, of his fight against Tim Stout will be shown.
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. As those who follow the sport have all learned along the way, Georges St. Pierre can get knocked out by a jiujitsu specialist as easily as Kimbo Slice and Houston Alexander can slug to a decision. There is no perfect rhyme or reason to predicting a match’s outcome and I wouldn’t ask for MMA to be any other way. 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…
Cody Floyd vs. Thomas Campbell
As far as I can tell, both men are making their professional debuts at the event so it’s difficult to accurately gauge their abilities without more information. However, Campbell apparently has four times as many amateur fights as Floyd so I’ll go with what little I know and opt for experience to make the difference.
Winner – Thomas Campbell via Decision
Dustin Ortiz vs. Justin Pennington
I believe the show will mark Pennington’s pro debut while Ortiz is less than two months removed from his own transition between amateur to paid athlete. As such, experience again wins out because I simply don’t know enough about either man to include any other factor into the decision making process.
Winner – Dustin Ortiz via Submission Round 1
Dustin West vs. Andy Uhrich
Finally we’re getting to a few fighters who aren’t overwhelmingly damp behind the ears! Granted, they may have less than ten fights between them, but at least their combined records don’t make Kimbo Slice look like a seasoned MMA veteran. Uhrich is undefeated, but I like West’s striking and power to ultimately win out and score the eventual finish.
Winner – Dustin West via TKO Round 2
Zach Underwood vs. Hunter Worsham
In a perfect world this bout would make the televised broadcast, as I think the pairing has potential for putting together an entertaining scrap based on success each young fighter has found so far, and Worsham in particular has a great story Strikeforce can help sell him to audiences with. Not only is he an Army Ranger stationed in Tennessee but “The Future” also has a pedigree in MMA thanks to his father Cal. Based on Underwood’s recent pair of decisions I’m assuming he may be a grappler, while I think Worsham is probably a little more polished based on his upbringing and record. His military training should also assist in maintaining focus and could be a difference maker depending on how action unfolds.
Winner – Hunter Worsham via Decision
Josh Shockman vs. Cale Yarbrough
Yarbrough, known to most as one of the members of Forrest Griffin’s team on the seventh season of the Ultimate Fighter, has won six consecutive fights since losing via TKO to Tim Credeur at Fight Night 14 a little less than two years ago. Shockman hasn’t been quite as successful or active in his career, losing two of his last three contests with Saturday night marking his first bout in more than a year. Anything other than Yarbrough walking away victorious should be considered an upset. In the end I think his kickboxing and overall preparation will prevail.
Winner – Cale Yarbrough via TKO Round 1
Chris Hawk vs. Ovince St. Preaux
St. Preaux and Hawk are both coming off finish-based defeats and have the opportunity to even their win/loss columns, while neither has been on a card as big as the Strikeforce one, so rest assured each man should leave it all out there when things fire up in the cage. St. Preaux, a former Tennessee Volunteers’ football player, will undoubtedly be the crowd favorite and may be able to use their energy to his advantage. Neither is particularly known as a striker so I think most of the bout will be fought on the mat. I’m expecting a decision based on their comparable abilities but I won’t be too shocked if a submission shows up at some point in the action.
Winner – Ovince St. Preaux via Decision
Jason Miller vs. Tim Stout
I’m not sure what the odds are on Stout beating Miller but I’d wager they’re about as good as Anderson Silva’s current chances of spending Christmas Eve at Dana White’s house in Las Vegas. “Mayhem” has thirteen more wins than Stout in his career with an equal number of losses, though it should be pointed out Miller’s record is peppered with a number of notable adversaries while his opponent’s biggest fights to date have involved names like Brandon Melendez, Pat Healy, and Luigi Fioravanti. This bout was put together in order to showcase Miller’s skills on a national platform while using his above average star-power to increase ticket sales and ratings. It should in no way be a competitive affair. Stout is no slouch but Miller is on a different level than him.
Winner – Jason Miller via Submission Round 1
Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki
It goes without needing much detail to say Aoki’s chances for success against Melendez mirror his ability to bring the action down to the ground long enough to work his jiujitsu magic without absorbing a lot of damage in the process. However, Melendez is a fast, strong lightweight with solid striking, and I think it will be difficult for Shinya to execute his game-plan without having his chin tested a few times. Three of the Japanese fighter’s four professional losses have been knockouts and “El Nino” is no stranger to blowing through opponents and rendering them unconscious. I also think Aoki could possibly be affected by the travel necessary for his debut on American soil and his lack of familiarity with competing inside a cage can’t help either. All in all the involved factors seem to be a recipe for defeat.
Winner – Gilbert Melendez via TKO Round 2
Gegard Mousasi vs. Mo Lawal
I actually found this to be the most difficult outcome to pick between all three of the title fights slated for the event. It seems like Mousasi should be a lock given his fifteen-bout win streak and well-rounded arsenal of skills, but Lawal’s strength, athleticism, and raw talent make it difficult to pick against him with any conviction. His grappling is good enough to control position and a few nicely placed shots from the top could easily spell doom for Mousasi’s title reign. The Strikeforce champ also hasn’t faced a wrestler as talented as “King Mo” at any point in his career. It makes for an intriguing match-up and one I suspect could steal the show. I’m taking Mousasi to win because I think his speed/striking will somewhat neutralize Lawal’s takedown attempts, and even on his back his jiujitsu is of enough quality to successfully defend attacks or even latch onto a limb.
Winner – Gegard Mousasi via Decision
Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields
I appreciate that Shields is testing himself at 185 pounds, and he is without a doubt a solid #2 to Georges St. Pierre in MMA’s welterweight rankings, but as far as Henderson goes I think Strikeforce’s vegetarian champ is biting off a little more than he can chew. “Hendo” is a helluva measuring stick for any fighter to put himself up against, especially one who appears to be more naturally suited for a smaller weight class. The former PRIDE champion, who concurrently held the company’s equivalent to both light heavyweight and middleweight titles prior to it folding, has never been knocked out in a thirty-two fights and has only tapped out once in the past five years (to Anderson Silva). His size, strength, and wrestling acumen eliminate the base Shields uses to set opponents up for submissions or control them en route to decisions. Henderson also has a distinct advantage in the striking department and a history of putting opponents to sleep as well. Frankly, I don’t see a lot of ways for Shields to win, and if he somehow does he deserves consideration as being one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in MMA.
Winner – Dan Henderson via TKO Round 3