Strikeforce is back on Showtime this weekend with an event so big, Scott Coker has promised to bring in extra security. Why the extra security? I’m not really sure. Women not named Cristiane Santos or Gina Carano are finally in the spotlight, another star from DREAM has been brought to America, a fighter has actually gone through the Challengers Series and made it to the “big show”, and we get a grudge match years in the making. For the first time maybe ever, Strikeforce doesn’t need extra security from MMA fans.
Strikeforce Welterweight Title Fight: KJ Noons vs. Nick Diaz
In November 2007, KJ Noons defeated Nick Diaz at the end of the first round when the doctor stopped the fight due to cuts. With the victory, Noons captured the EliteXC lightweight title. Following Noons’ successful title defense against Yves Edwards in June 2008 in his home state of Hawaii, Diaz crashed the celebration and ended up, with his brother Nate Diaz by his side, getting into a brawl with Noons and his father A few months later Noons was stripped of the title when he decided to return to professional boxing instead of defending the belt against Diaz. Almost three years later they meet again. Different organization, different title on the line, different circumstances, same hatred.
Not much has changed in the nearly three years since their first fight. They’re essentially just better versions of what they were in November 2007. Noons is still an excellent boxer and a great counter puncher with plenty of power. Diaz still throws 100 punches per round without much power or defense and has an excellent ground game. If Diaz thinks he can stand with Noons, he’ll likely suffer the same fate that he suffered the first time around. While he may not cut as easily and he has a durable chin, he has no head movement and leaves himself open for plenty of counter strikes given all the punches he throws. Diaz’ best strategy would be to get the fight to the ground where he’s a black belt under Cesar Gracie and Noons is a white belt (although he claims to be the best white belt on the planet). The biggest difference in this fight is the size of both men. Noons is a natural lightweight moving up while Diaz is fairly big for welterweight. Diaz would be smart to fight a lot in the clinch, use his size to bully Noons around, and work him to the ground via trip takedowns. The longer this fight goes, the more it favors Diaz. He has excellent cardio as evident by the fact that he throws 100 strikes per round without gassing and he does triathlons just for fun. Noons’ has decent cardio but he’s also fought four times in eight months so there is concern that he’s over-trained for this fight.
“Don’t be scared homie.” That’s what Diaz said to Noons in Hawaii and it’s a motto he lives by. Diaz isn’t scared to stand, even if it’s the wrong move. He’s going to stand with Noons , at least until he gets dropped or hit with a hard enough punch that knocks some sense into him. After that he’ll be smart enough to get things to the ground where he’ll likely have his way with Noons, lock on a submission, force Noons to tap, but keep the submission locked on because he wouldn’t be who he is if he didn’t do something controversial.
Predition: Nick Diaz by Submission in Round Three
Strikeforce Women’s 135lb Title Fight: Marloes Coenen vs. Sarah Kaufman ©
Sarah Kaufman is the undefeated champion who is considered one of the best female fighters in all of MMA. Marloes Coenen is dropping to 135 pounds after losing to 145lb champion Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos this past January.
Before her third round powerbomb victory over Roxanne Modafferi, Kaufman was criticized for be boring. Whatever you called it, you can certainly call it effective. Kaufman has some of the best technical boxing not only among the female in MMA but also among the males as well. Coenen is a very good striker in her own right and she is the more diverse of the two but it wouldn’t be in her best interest to trade strikes with Kaufman. Coenen is better on the ground and very slick on her back but getting things to the mat will be easier said than done. Look for Coenen to do a lot of clinching, where she’ll look to use her size and possibly pull guard in order to get the fight to the ground. Kaufman just needs to keep the fight on the feet, use her excellent boxing, and pick apart Coenen.
This is the most interesting women’s fight in recent memory because the talent level between these two is almost equal. At the end of the day, I’m going with Kaufman because I feel she’s good enough to keep things on the feet, where she’ll batter Coenen with strikes for most of the fight. Coenen is very tough to finish so even if Kaufman stays aggressive, she may not be able to finish things.
Prediction: Sarah Kaufman by Decision
Lightweight Fight: Josh Thomson vs. Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante
Both of these men are considered two of the top lightweight’s in the world. Josh Thomson is a former Strikeforce lightweight champion trying to get a rubber match against Gilbert Melendez while Gesias Cavalcante is making his Strikeforce debut after making a name for himself in Japan.
This is a very interesting fight and another one of those “chess match” fights where one man will need to be a step ahead in order to win. JZ hasn’t looked overly impressive in his recent outings but he’s faced tough competition and I’ve always felt that his style is more suited for the US and in the cage. Thomson gutted through two broken ribs and defeated veteran Pat Healy. Both fighters are relatively well rounded with JZ having the more diverse striking and Thomson having the better wrestling. Thomson has a tendency to get into a brawl instead of staying discipline, which won’t do him any favors against JZ given the difference in their respective power and chins. If Thomson avoids the wild brawl, works his kicks, and mixes in takedowns, he should win this fight. JZ will need to sprawl and brawl and if he is taken down, he can’t allow himself to get controlled on the ground for a long period of time like he did against Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri. The x-factor in this fight is the cage. I’m sure JZ trains in a cage given that he trains at American Top Team but training in one and fighting in one are two different things. Thomson knows how to use the cage to his advantage while it may take JZ a couple of rounds to adjust and those couple of rounds could be the fight.
While I think JZ has a bright future in Strikeforce, this is a tough first fight. The fight will likely be fairly even on the feet but timely takedowns will swing the fight in Thomson’s favor.
Prediction: Josh Thomson by Decision
Welterweight Fight: Tyron Woodley vs. Andre Galvao
Tyron Woodley is a highly touted wrestler who has worked his way up through the Strikeforce Challengers Series to finally make it on the main card. Andre Galvao is a highly touted grappler who has already fought the likes to Jason High, John Alessio, and Jorge Patino.
Anytime you have a great grappler against a great wrestler, the way the fight plays out depends on the wrestler. If he trusts his ground and pound and submission defense, he’ll takedown his opponent and grind things out. If he doesn’t trust his submission defense, he’ll keep the fight standing. Galvao is the better technical striker but Woodley does have power in his hands. Despite that power, I expect Woodley to go for takedowns early and often in this fight. Woodley had trouble in the clinch against Nathan Coy so look for Galvao, who has trained with Team Black House and Wand Fight Team, to fight on the inside and throw a lot of knees. Being a jiu-jitsu black belt, Galvao is good off his back and will look to stay active with submission and sweep threats. If Galvao can end up on top, it’s going to be a very short night for Woodley, who has never looked comfortable off his back.
I like Galvao in this fight. He’s better on the feet and good enough on the ground to either get up or sweep Woodley. Look for Galvao to throw a lot of leg kicks to take the spring out of Woodley’s step, not be afraid to go to the ground, and submit a tired and frustrated Woodley late in the fight.
Prediction: Andre Galvao by Submission in Round 2
*James Terry to defeat David Marshall by Decision
*Josh McDonald to defeat Ron Keslar by Decision
*Luis Mendoza to defeat Jess Bouscal by TKO in Round One