“Strikeforce – Los Angeles” is as unique a card as you’re likely to find in recent history, at least where mainstream MMA promotions are concerned. The event is slated to feature six bouts instead of the standard 10-12 and is in conjunction with the E3 conference where EA Sports MMA, and Strikeforce therein, are being featured. Fans can tune in to watch the action starting tonight at 11:00 ET on Showtime.
Beyond the non-combat particulars, it’s also a show that’s been dealt some blows during the build including a number of scheduled fights falling apart due to a number of reasons. However, while company head Scott Coker may not have the fortune of turning injuries off or resetting the console, as might be the case in a video game, he and his crew have still done a nice job putting together a few sure-to-be entertaining match-ups. Robbie Lawler and Renato “Babalu” Sobral will duke it out in the main event at a catchweight of 195 pounds with the winner earning a title-shot in his respective division. On top of that, armed-forces veteran Tim Kennedy will be taking on MMA veteran Trevor Prangley, hard-hitting Brazilian Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos steps into the cage against high-kicking sensation Marius Zaromskis, and former EliteXC champ KJ Noons will take on the always-tough Conor Heun.
Before I get into the actual “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…
Marcus Kowal vs. Hugo Sandoval
I’ve never heard of either fighter but apparently Kowal is 2-0 with a pair of finishing performances (one submission, one TKO) while Sandoval is 1-2 with his lone victory being a split decision. Based on stats alone it seems fairly obvious Kowal should have this in the bag.
Winner – Marcus Kowal via Submission Round 2
RJ Clifford vs. Jeremy Umphries
Again, I’m not familiar with either fighter, but their records indicate Clifford is a striker and Umphries is a grappler. Clifford owes two of his three professional wins to TKOs, Umphries three-of-four by way of submission. One thing standing out to me in the equation is Clifford’s inactivity as of late. More specifically, he hasn’t competed in nearly two years. While Umphries didn’t set any records for in-ring appearances over the last year he’s at fought four times in the same span of time. I think conditioning could play a role as a result, so I expect Umphries to work takedowns and jiujitsu to either break Clifford down en route to a decision win or tap him out at some point along the way.
Winner – Jeremy Umphries via Decision
KJ Noons vs. Conor Heun
This is an important fight for Noons in that he’s an obvious favorite and a 2-0 record since returning to MMA three months ago could open some “main event” doors for him next go-round. I’m positive Strikeforce is anxious to promote him based on look, style, and the fact he has a win over welterweight champ Nick Diaz. Heun is historically tough to finish, as all three of his career losses have been decisions (two of them split). I don’t think Noons will be able to knock him out but I do believe the one-time champion will land enough strikes to score points and keep Heun, the superior grappler, at bay long enough to pick up the win.
Winner – KJ Noons via Decision
Tim Kennedy vs. Trevor Prangley
People thinking this should be a cake-walk for Kennedy are sorely mistaken. Prangley is 5-0-1 in his last six fights and 11-1-1 in his last thirteen. He’s a tough draw for any middleweight and has decent striking, above-average wrestling/submission skills, and a good deal of experience in the ring against game opposition. Kennedy has always been one of my favorites based on humility, class, and the service he’s done for this country. I’m excited to see how far he’ll go now that he’s able to finally train MMA full time instead of splitting time between the gym and his job as an Army Ranger. He’s got knockout power, under-appreciated grappling ability, and the heart/will to overcome any situation. He’s lost twice in thirteen fights – by cut and by decision to Jason “Mayhem” Miller. The guy won a Bronze Star for valor in combat, so it’s not like he’s going to sweat a difficult position or mentally break if he ends up on the wrong side of a knockdown. He will legitimately go until his body won’t allow him to and that’s a quality I’m rare to assign without a hint of doubt attached. I think this will be a very competitive match-up with Kennedy getting the better of Prangley at most points and thereby earning a decision win.
Winner Tim Kennedy via Decision
Marius Zaromskis vs. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
I doubt I’m alone in thinking Zaromskis and Santos will keep things standing for 99% of the fight with the other 1% being the moment one of them ends up seeing stars with his back on the canvas. However, I don’t believe they’ll rush out of their corners swinging because both are experienced competitors who likely understand what’s at stake. Zaromskis is coming off a first-round TKO loss to Nick Diaz while Santos has dropped four of his last six bouts. Both need a win and the bulk of their collective defeats have involved them being knocked out. Rather than beginning the bout in a rock-em, sock-em style I expect a feeling out process involving jabs, leg kicks, and circling. Hell, “Cyborg” might even attempt a takedown for shoots and giggles. Eventually they’ll engage, but not before feeling comfortable with the notion of entering the danger zone by doing so. Beyond that it’s a toss up. First one to land a solid strike wins.
Winner – Marius Zaromskis via TKO Round 2
Robbie Lawler vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral
Lawler and Sobral are stylistic opposites of each other, though Sobral is certainly more of a striker than Lawler is a jiujitsu specialist. Still, “Babalu” struggles against adversaries who are superior on their feet and excels against those who rely on mat-based techniques. Comparably, Lawler succeeds against knocking blocks off of opponents who want to bang and tends to stumble against high-level grapplers. If Sobral doesn’t focus purely on using BJJ and his size, even though he actually weighed in lighter than Lawler, he’s in for the longest short night in history. Unfortunately for him he’ll have to get close to “Ruthless” Robbie in order to drag him to the floor and with Lawler’s power he’s likely to eat a lot of shots in the process. I’m positive Lawler’s training partners, like Matt Hughes, will have him well prepared to sprawl when necessary or throw knees to fend off takedown attempts. I think it could frustrate “Babalu” early and inspire him to test his stand-up. If so it will be a costly mistake.
Winner – Robbie Lawler via TKO Round 1