Coming off an event that highlighted the heavyweight division, Strikeforce goes to the opposite end of the spectrum with a card that highlights the lightweight division. So if size isn’t everything to you and you prefer a little more technique, you probably won’t have trouble finding a date if you’re a female, and you’ll probably enjoy the action on Friday night. While this card may not have the star power of last weeks event and it may not feature as many quick finishes, I can guarantee you that you will see more shots of Kelli Hutcherson at this event than you did the last time Strikeforce was on television.
Lightweight Fight: Pat Healy vs. Lyle Beerbohm
Looking to finally get into the spotlight, Lyle Beerbohm takes on tough veteran Pat Healy in the main event of the evening.
Healy is a well-rounded veteran who has really struggled to find consistency in MMA. He has wins over guys like Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, and Dan Hardy and most of his losses have been against solid fighters but there have been a lot of them. He’s a decent striker who pumps a stiff jab and usually throws three punches at a time. He really likes to use a left hook to the body followed by a right hook. Healy’s biggest strength though is his power. He’s a big lightweight who used to fight at welterweight and he uses his strength to his advantage. He’s a good wrestler and very strong in the clinch. One thing he does though is when he shoots for a takedown, he leaves his neck exposed, which could be trouble against Beerbohm, who has a very good guillotine. He’s active in the clinch with his strikes, using a lot of dirty boxing, short body punches, and knees to the body. One thing I don’t like about his clinch game though is that he seems too caught up in going for slams when he’s in close, which tires him out quicker. He doesn’t have bad cardio but when you’re as big as he is, his cardio just isn’t on the level as the smaller lightweights. He has good control on the ground although he can be flustered by an active guard. His submission defense isn’t bad and he fended of a ton of submission attempts by Josh Thomson in his last fight but he doesn’t take advantage of getting out of those submission by damaging his opponent or passing to better positions. On the ground, Healy loves his chokes. He usually finishes his opponents by grinding them out on the ground, forcing them to give up their back, and locking up a rear naked choke. He also has a solid guillotine so when Beerbohm scrambles to his feet, he’ll need to protect his neck on the way up. Expect Healy to make this grinding fight. He’s going to want to use his size, push Beerbohm against the cage, wear him out, get him on the ground, and continue to rough him up there. Beerbohm has never been beaten, much less finished and he seems more submission prone than anything so if Healy is going to win this fight it’ll be by some type of choke or he’ll just grind him to a decision.
Beerbohm is a fighter who has been flying under the under for his entire career but now he gets his chance to shine. He’s best known for his ‘fancy pants’ but underneath his shorts is a lot of talent. That’s what she said. He’s not a great striker but his defense is really good and he moves around well. He usually only throws two strikes at a time, he likes to throw a lot of kicks, and almost every time he switches to southpaw, he throws a head kick. On top of his southpaw stance head kick, he almost always immediately follows that up with a takedown attempt. He doesn’t really set up his takedown attempts though and he’s not a great wrestler where he can get away with not setting things up. He has good clinch control but he’s going to have a tough time with Healy in the clinch given Healy’s strength and wrestling prowess. Beerbohm might be willing to pull guard in this fight given his jiu-jitsu skills and Healy’s flustered submission defense. Granted Healy is very good on top but Beerbohm has good hips and is solid in scrambles so he could easily use a submission attempt to create a scramble and get a dominant position. Beerbohm needs to be on top during this fight if it goes to the ground because even if he’s more active on the bottom with his submissions, rarely does a fighter win when they spend the majority of the fight on their back. I think Beerbohm will want to stand for the most part though. He’s a quicker and more diverse striker than Healy and should get the better of things standing. However, he all the kicks he throws could get him in trouble as they make it easier for Healy to get takedowns. If Healy shoots, expect Beerbohm to immediately try and grab a guillotine. Healy does leave his neck out and considering that Beerbohm trains with Cody McKenzie, I guarantee you that he knows a thing or two about guillotine chokes. I question the mental mindset of Beerbohm a bit coming into this fight. He’s been very adamant about getting big fights in Strikeforce and while he is in the main event, he’s in the main ever of a Challengers Series show against a guy coming off a loss. If he’s taking Healy lightly or look past him in any way, he could easily lose this fight. Beerbohm has never shown one punch power but if he can get on top and rough up Healy, he could force a stoppage, if he’s going to finish Healy with a submission I think it’ll be a guillotine, or he could win a decision by being more active in all areas.
Everyone seems to be leaning towards Beerbohm in this fight and while I am as well, I believe this is a great style fight for Healy and I’m not as sold on Beerbohm as everyone else seems to be. If Healy can use his wrestling and grind Beerbohm out, he could easily walk away with the win. I expect Beerbohm to use his speed and an active guard to win though. Whether it be in a scramble or on a poor takedown attempt, Beerbohm will catch Healy in a guillotine choke and in the fight.
Prediction: Lyle Beerbohm to defeat Pat Healy by Submission in Round Two
Lightweight Fight: Lee Higgins vs. Ryan Couture
Trying to perform up to his own expectations, Ryan Couture faces the undefeated Lee Higgins.
Higgins doesn’t have the name recognition of Couture but that just means he doesn’t have to live up to high expectations. His striking is very basic but I don’t expect him to want to spend much time on the feet in this fight. Higgins’ strength is his wrestling. He’s a big strong guy and he uses that to his advantage. He likes to get on top of guys and pound them out. One thing I like about Higgins from the limited footage I’ve seen is that he’s willing to take risks and go for it. Hopefully now that he’s under the Strikeforce lights, that mentality doesn’t change. If Higgins fights like he has nothing to lose, which he doesn’t, then he could easily win. I’m assuming Higgins will want to put Couture on his back so he can rough him up but Couture has a very active guard so Higgins has to be weary of the submission attempts. Higgins’ best chance might be to just put Couture against the cage and rough him up in the clinch. Training at Xtreme Couture and being the son of Randy Couture, I know Ryan has trained plenty in the clinch but he doesn’t have the experience that his dad has. Even if he doesn’t want to grind out Couture in the clinch, if he gets him down, he needs to stay tight and active. He can’t give Couture the space to work his guard and use his quick hips. If Higgins uses his size, he could easily wear out and frustrate Couture en route to a decision, maybe overwhelm him with strikes, or submit him with a rear naked choke if Couture is getting dominated and gives up his back.
Couture is hoping to turn Friday into Naturday against Higgins. Couture is known for his jiu-jitsu but he’s a solid striker. He doesn’t appear to have knockout power but he’s light on his feet, uses his reach, and pumps a nice jab. He doesn’t have the wrestling pedigree of his father but he’s not a terrible wrestler. He doesn’t really need his wrestling like his father though because he’s very comfortable off his back. He has quick hips and transitions from submission to submission very beautifully. I believe Couture wants to keep this fight on the feet but he’ll be comfortable if the fight goes to the ground. Should he end up in the clinch with Higgins leaning against him against the cage, he’ll need to turn out and break away quickly. If that’s not working for him, don’t be shocked if Couture tries to pull guard to get the fight on the ground. I know he doesn’t want Higgins on top of him but he has a better chance of pulling off a victory with his back against the ground than he does with his back against the cage. Some people will probably think that the pressure will get to Couture given his last name but if you read my outstanding article on him, you’ll know that he doesn’t put the pressure on himself to live up to his dad’s name. Even if he did, the guy’s last name is Couture and I’d like to believe that he inherited his dad’s calmness under pressure. Couture has never shown a willingness to try and finish a fight with strikes, although he says he wants to, so if he’s going to win this fight it’s likely going to be a submission or by decision via dominating position on the ground.
This is a tough fight to call because of the lack of footage and experience of both men but given how Strikeforce match making works, this would seem like a designed win for Couture. Of course it’s up to Couture to actually go out there and perform but unlike other fighters who Strikeforce tries to protect early in their careers, I don’t think Couture will falter. This will be a tougher fight for him than most think though and people are really underestimating the size of Higgins but I think Couture’s technical ability will overcome Higgins’ size and he’ll pick up the victory.
Prediction: Ryan Couture to defeat Lee Higgins by Submission in Round One
Welterweight Fight: Ryan Larson vs. Erik Apple
Erik Apple attempts to break out of a 1-2 slump against local product Ryan Larson in a welterweight showdown.
I haven’t seen much footage on Larson but based on his record, he seems to be a decent grappler but also lacks some submission defense. His striking isn’t as bad as one may think if they’re just looking at his record though. He’s light on his feet and while he doesn’t throw many punches, he throws some good kicks to help keep the distance. He sort of reminds me of a very poor man’s Jake Shields in that you can tell he’s not a great striker but he does a lot of little things right and he’s good at keeping a distance and doing damage with kicks. His wrestling is his biggest weakness. He’s easily controlled in the clinch and he doesn’t have much in the way of takedown defense. He’s not terrible off his back but he’s not great either. Against Derrick Krantz, Krantz easily passed to better positions and just absolutely dominated him on the ground. Larson’s strength is on top where he can work his ground and pound and top submission game. Apple is a strong guy though and couple that with Larson’s lack of wrestling, I suspect that Larson won’t have an easy time getting Apple down. There’s probably a decent amount of pressure on Larson as well considering that this will be his first fight under the Strikeforce banner and it’s in his home state. If he lets that pressure get to him, he’s in for a short night. Larson needs to work his kicks on the feet, get Apple uncomfortable striking, force a clinch, and then use a guillotine threat or a trip to get the fight for the ground. If he can put Apple on his back, he could easily finish him with a choke or control him en route to a decision.
Apple is a relatively well-rounded fighter who seems to have the tools to be a major player in the welterweight division but he’s just not active enough. This will be his first fight since 2009 and he’s only fought three times since 2007. He’s a solid striker who hits really hard and throws a lot of body kicks. He does drop his hands when throwing body kicks though and leaves himself open for counter right hands. It seems that he doesn’t like to get hit though. If things aren’t going his way on the feet and he eats a punch that he doesn’t like, he’ll immediately go for a takedown or try and force a clinch. He’s strong in the clinch and likes the over-under position but he’s not very crafty. He seems to lack balance in the clinch, which could allow Larson to get a trip takedown. Apple is good on the ground and like most fighters, prefers to be on top. He likes the half guard position to damage his opponents and looks to set up a straight armbar or kimura from the position. He’s decent off his back and likes to work the butterfly guard in order to pull off sweeps. Due to his lack of cage time, his conditioning suffers. The longer this fight goes the more I’d favor Larson because Apple pushes a strong pace and I’m not sure he’ll be able to maintain that pace for 15 minutes. I expect Apple to come out swinging. He’ll look for his heavy right hand and throw plenty of body kicks. If that’s working for him then he’ll stick with it but if he takes a strike he doesn’t like, he’ll look to get Larson down and work from there. Apple has the power to put Larson down and out or he could finish with a submission on top. It’s possible he wins a decision if he takes the first two rounds or fights at a slower pace than usual but his best chance it to put Larson away.
This seems like Apple’s fight to lose. He’s the more well-rounded and stronger fighter. If Apple wanted to I think he could put Larson on his back early and work his way towards a submission but I think it’s more likely that he catches Larson with his right hand and pounds him out on the ground.
Prediction: Erik Apple to defeat Ryan Larson by TKO in Round One
Lightweight Fight: Bryan Travers vs. Carlo Prater
Bryan Travers battles well traveled veteran Carlo Prater, who is 1-4 in his last five fights.
The last time Travers was in the Strikeforce cage, he gave Pat Healy all he could handle before coming up short in the decision. He defeated Rocky Johnson, not the former wrestler, since then and now he’s back. Travers is a relatively well-rounded fighter and he’s very big for the weight class. He’s known for his wresting but his striking has improved a lot over the years. He throws quick leg kicks, a good one-two combo, and he likes to end most of his combos with kicks. His bread and better is his wrestling though. He’s strong in the clinch and while he will grind guys out along the cage, he likes to clinch and then break while throwing a right elbow. Where Travers really excels though is on the ground and on top. He’s not the most active guy in the world with his striking but he hits pretty hard when he decides to rain down punches. Prater has good wrist and posture control from his back so Travers might have trouble doing damage from the top but at the very least he’ll be able to control Prater for the majority of the fight. Travers no doubt wants this fight on the ground with him on top. He could probably survive standing because he seems to have a good chin, he hits pretty hard, and he’s not a bad striker but his best chance to win is by using his size and strength and wearing on Prater in the clinch and on the ground. Travers can win this fight by overwhelming Prater with strikes, finishing him with a rear naked choke, or controlling his way to a decision.
Once upon a time, Prater was thought to be one of the next big stars in MMA. Then in 2008 against Carlos Condit in a battle of who could take the next step, Condit won and Prater never seemed to recover. Prater is a solid fighter but I’m not so sure he ever recovered mentally from that Condit loss. He’s look very tentative on his feet as of late, his takedown defense isn’t great, and he seems afraid to pull the trigger off his back. He’s a good grappler but instead of using an offensive guard, he’s content on locking up a body triangle from him back and using wrist control instead of attacking. He’s good at creating scrambles and getting up to his feet but once he’s on his feet, again, he looks tentative and doesn’t commit to his strikes like he should. If Prater is going to win this fight he needs to get over any kind of mental problems he’s having and attempt to regain the form his once had. He needs to attack both on the feet and off his back. He’s not going to out-wrestle Travers and he won’t be able to muscle Travers around so he needs to use his speed on the feet and get in and out with strikes. He definitely can’t be content with just lying on his back because Travers is known for grinding guys out and if Prater isn’t going to make him work, Travers won’t work. If Prater stays active in the fight then he could catch Travers in a submission or win the striking battle, avoid damage on the ground, and pick up a decision.
As much as I’d like to see Prater return to form, I just can’t trust him at this point in his career. Travers on the other hand is hungry and ready to prove that he can be a player in the lightweight division. I think Travers does what he does best and that’s grind out Prater in the clinch and on the ground on his way to a decision.
Prediction: Bryan Travers to defeat Carlo Prater by Decision
Lightweight Fight: David Douglas vs. Nick Gonzalez
David Douglas tries to make Nick Gonzalez his Jane in a lightweight fight to open the show.
Douglas’ nickname is ‘Tarzan’ and with good reason. He’s a guy who starts fast and fights wild. He doesn’t throw many straight punches, he loads up on his right hand, and he loves his uppercut. Due to his wild style, he gasses out pretty quickly but his pace also wears out his opponents quickly. He’s good at fighting through exhaustion though, which is an uncommon trait in less experienced fighters. He’s a decent wrestler, thanks in large part to his size, but his top control isn’t great and he can easily be swept over or pushed off. He trains at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu but on top he prefers to just overwhelm fighters with punches. In fact, all of his wins are by TKO and both of his losses are by submission. He’s doesn’t have much of a ground game off his back and is easily dominated by more experience grapplers but he is good at scrambling to his feet when he’s on his back. I’m sure Douglas will fight like he always fights and that’s come out quick, throw wild strikes, and just stay in Gonzalez’ face. If he’s able to do that, he could overwhelm Gonzalez with strikes en route to a stoppage or wear him out enough to pick up a decision.
Gonzalez is a MMA veteran who has fought top fighters like Josh Thomson and Yves Edwards but hasn’t found that consistency he’s been looking for. Gonzalez is a decent striker who usually throws three strikes at a time but has a tendency to stay in the pocket a little too long. He strength is his power and his wrestling. He’s strong in the clinch and a solid wrestler. He likes to be on top, raining down punches and just grinding his opponents out. He has very good control on top but he seems content to just lay in guard in order to do damage. He’s very weak off his back. He doesn’t have a good guard, gets passed way too easily, and just seems to give up his back so he can get choked out. Gonzalez will likely have to weather an early storm and then allow his experience to take over. Expect him to use a lot of leg kicks, throw straight punches, and put Douglas on his back. If he can get Douglas down, he’ll be able to control him, finish him with strikes, work for a submission, or grind his way to a decision.
The winner of this fight will be determined by who can get on top and stay there. I think that person will be Gonzalez because he’s the better wrestler and stronger in the clinch. Gonzalez might be able to finish the fight but he’ll most likely be content on controlling his way to a decision.
Prediction: Nick Gonzalez to defeat David Douglas by Decision
This isn’t the strongest card ever but it’s a big show for Strikeforce. They’re coming off their highest rated event ever and even though this is only a Challengers Series event, they need this to be an exciting card in order to keep the momentum going and hopefully it will translate into one of their higher rated Challengers Series events.