Strikeforce was back in the spotlight this past weekend and while a lot of the promotion surrounding this event had to do with the Arnold Sports Festival, the popular MMA promotion took another step in the right direction with a solid event. The show featured dominant performances, star making performances, and great stories. Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting show in terms of action but Mad Men isn’t known for its explosions and action scenes, they’re known for drama, performances and January Jones. Well Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson had drama, performances and Kelli Hutcherson so I don’t want any complaining.
Dan Henderson defeated Rafael Cavalcante by KO (Punches) at 0:50 in Round Three to win the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title
The Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title continued to bounce around as Dan Henderson captured another major title with his victory over Rafael Cavalcante.
Henderson started this fight like he starts every fight, very patient but always looking for his heavy right hand. After just missing with it, Cavalcante caught Henderson with a right hand of his own that wobbled and dropped the granite chin veteran. Henderson not only managed to survive though, he turned the round around and put Cavalcante on his back. He didn’t manage to do anything with the position though, nor did he manage to do anything with the clinch control he had for good portions of the round. The second round was largely dull outside of Henderson throwing his right hand, which might just be the biggest “holy crap” strike in MMA, but never connecting. Henderson once again controlled the clinch and managed a couple of takedowns but again failed to do anything with them. Cavalcante also had a brief moment where he was on top of Henderson but he failed to do anything with the position either. After two rounds things seemed pretty even with Cavalcante doing more damage thanks to the knockdown and leg kicks but Henderson having more control in the clinch and on the ground. The third round started with a big exchange where both men landed solid punches. After a quick clinch and a break, they squared up on the feet, and Henderson landed his big overhand right that sent Cavalcante into a spin and down to the mat. Henderson quickly pounced on his fallen opponent, got his back, landed a few more right hands, and that was all she wrote. At the age of 40, Henderson proved that he still has plenty left in the tank by adding another title and knockout to his resume.
Cavalcante will be back. He’s still very talented and he trains with a lot of good fighters. Some people seem to be questioning his chin but his two KO losses are to Henderson and Mike Kyle. Henderson has shown a number of times in his career that the power in his right hand is second to none and Kyle dropped Antonio Silva and by all accounts hits like a heavyweight. I don’t question Cavalcante’s chin at all, I just think that he got hit flush by two hard hitters and went down. If Cavalcante did anything wrong in this fight, he didn’t throw enough leg kicks. He was clearly scoring with them but didn’t go to them often enough, likely afraid of the counter right. Maybe Cavalcante should use his jiu-jitsu more but he’s a very good striker and likes to knock people out. Maybe when he fights a lower level grappler he will use his jiu-jitsu but it’s not like Henderson is the easiest guy in the world to takedown and control, especially at light heavyweight. A fight that’s been shelved for years thanks to different circumstance can now happen and that’s Cavalcante vs. Renato Sobral. It’ll test both men and see if they can make another run at the title.
Henderson just continues to chug along in his career. He’s grown wiser with age, his chin has still yet to be cracked, and his right hand makes him as dangerous as anyone in the sport. Maybe he’s not an elite level fighter like he used to be but he’s a big fish in a small Strikeforce pond and he’ll likely be able to succeed at this level until his body tells him that it’s time to give it up. He fought Cavalcante perfectly. He got inside and initated the clinch, he got some takedowns, and he kept throwing his right hand. As I mentioned above, Henderson throws his right hand, the whole crowd just waits to see if it lands because they know that if it does, it’s lights out. He was stumbled and dropped in the first round but that punch was more to the temple than the chin and Cavalcante does hit hard. Big credit to Henderson for not only surviving the round but coming back strong and making it a close round. Strikeforce doesn’t have the deepest light heavyweight division in the world but there is an upcoming fight between Kyle and Gegard Mousasi that should determine the #1 contender. Both guys present a good challenge for Henderson but in both instances I would favor the current champion.
Predicted Next Fights: Cavalcante vs. Sobral – Henderson vs. Kyle/Mousasi winner
Marloes Coenen defeated Liz Carmouche by Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:29 in Round Four to retain the Strikeforce Women’s 135 lb Title
Taking the fight on two weeks notice, Liz Carmouche gave Marloes Coenen all she could handle but in the end experience won out.
For some reason a lot of people were down on this fight but I loved it. The first round was a little slow as Carmouche respected the technical ability of Coenen and Coenen respected the power of Carmouche. Coenen did a nice job keeping Carmouche at bay with kicks and Carmouche seemed to have a lot of trouble getting past the length of Coenen. The second round started fast with Carmouche getting caught in a standing guillotine but she was able to survive and get the fight to the ground. Some claimed that Carmouche tapped from the guillotine and there was a buzz in the arena like they saw a tap out but Carmouche claims she wasn’t tapping and I’m inclined to believe her. After avoiding an armbar on the ground, Carmouche passed to side control and then full mount. From that position she pounded away on Coenen but none of the shots looked all that heavy and Coenen did a nice job covering up and moving the entire time. Coenen survived the round but Carmouche clearly wasn’t going away easy. Carmouche picked up right where she left off in the third round, getting Coenen down, moving to mount, and pounding away. Again though, the punches didn’t have much power behind them and Coenen was covering well. It’s a real shame Strikeforce doesn’t allow elbows on the ground because Carmouche could have really used them in this contest. Coenen once again survived the round but needed a strong final two rounds to make up the deficit. Coenen tried to overcome that deficit early in the fourth by putting Carmouche on her back but Carmouche was quickly up and on top on Coenen again. This time though, Coenen went for a triangle instead of an armbar. Carmouche tried to fight out of it but Coenen locked it up tight and forced Carmouche to tap out. It wasn’t quite on the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen level of dramatic comebacks but it was certainly a turn of events that few saw coming.
Carmouche deserves nothing but credit in this fight despite losing. She not only took the fight on two weeks notice against a far more experience opponent but she was also studying for finals while training. As a fellow student who juggles studying with writing, I understand what she was going through except that studying for finals and training for a title fight in a major organization against one of the best female fighters in the world is roughly a million times tougher than taking a couple of classes and writing one or two columns a week. Had Carmouche had a full training camp, maybe this fight would have gone differently but Carmouche still made a huge statement with her performance given the circumstance. And remember folks, she’s only been training for a year or so and hasn’t even been training full time. Coenen said after the fight that Carmouche will be a future champion for sure and who the hell are we to doubt the current champion when she speaks? The 135 lb division isn’t the deepest division in the world but Carmouche should be one fight away from another title shot so the best opponent for her would be another fighter who is one fight away from a title shot, and that’s Hitomi Akano, the runner up in the recent women’s tournament.
I love Marloes Coenen. I have a lot of MMA crushes ranging from Chuck Liddell to Brittney Palmer but Coenen is even a level above them. This wasn’t her strongest performance ever but she proved that she has the heart of a champion by pulling out the victory when she was down. Her mount defense was pretty suspect as she tried to use her legs more than her hips but a part of me believes that she was allowing Carmouche to punch herself out, knowing she didn’t have a full training camp and wouldn’t have the gas tank to go five rounds, and it’s not like she was taking a ton of damage on the bottom. What I really love about Coenen, besides the fact that she’s very pretty and a talent fighter, is that she’s classy but you can tell she has an edge to her. She’s the most complete female fighter in the sport, both inside and outside of the cage. Next up for Coenen is Miesha Tate, who didn’t seem very impressed with Coenen’s performance based on her tweets. I hope she doesn’t think that just because Carmouche dominated Coenen for the better part of 15 minutes that she’ll be able to do the same because every fight is different and whether you were impressed by Coenen’s performance or not, in the end, she won the fight.
Predicted Next Fights: Carmouche vs. Akano – Coenen vs. Tate
Tim Kennedy defeated Melvin Manhoef by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:41 in Round One
After losing the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight Title fight, Tim Kennedy rebounded with a dominating performance over Melvin Manhoef.
This fight was as predictable as a Katherine Heigl movie. Kennedy came out almost immediately looked for a takedown. Manhoef fought off the first couple attempts and landed some stinging leg kicks but each time Kennedy shot in, he got closer and closer to getting the fight to the ground. Finally, Kennedy wrestled Manhoef where he pounded on Manhoef until he was able to sink in the rear naked choke for the victory. It was a strong bounce back fight for Kennedy and another submission loss for Manhoef.
Manhoef is one of the most devastating strikers in MMA and his takedown defense isn’t as bad as many make it out to be but he doesn’t have much of a gas tank and has almost no ground game. I hope Strikeforce is smart enough to match up Manhoef with strikers from here on out because they’re doing him no favors pairing him up with grapplers and the more losses he accumulates, the less valuable he’ll become. And make no mistake about it, Manhoef can be valuable. He has a very exciting style and he’s very charismatic. He just needs the right opponents.
This was a designed win for Kennedy and to his credit, he took care of business. He didn’t mess around much on the feet, went for takedowns to wear out Manhoef, and once he got him down he made quick work of him. Kennedy is extremely charismatic and this was a nice showcase for him. He called out Robbie Lawler after the fight but I’m not sure that’s the right fight for Strikeforce. Kennedy is probably one fight away from a title shot given the closeness of his first fight against Ronaldo Souza while Lawler isn’t as close. Plus Lawler is coming off a loss and two straight wins over two guys who haven’t been performing consistently well is a tough title sell. Kennedy’s original opponent for this event, Jason Miller, seems like the perfect opponent. It’s a rubber match, they’re both great at selling fights, and the winner gets a title shot and another crack at Souza, who holds victories over them both. Lawler might be the perfect opponent for Kennedy but Miller is the perfect opponent for everyone.
Predicted Next Fights: Manhoef vs. Benji Radach – Kennedy vs. Miller
Jorge Masvidal defeated Billy Evangelista by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jorge Masvidal became the first man to defeat Billy Evangelista with a one-sided decision victory.
While this wasn’t the most exciting fight ever, Masvidal’s defense was very impressive. The story of this fight was Evaneglista pressing forward but missing while Masvidal constantly moved away, jabbed, and landed a good straight right hand. Evangelista also went for a number of takedowns but Masvidal stuffed all of them. Evangelista tried hard to get Masvidal to brawl with him but Masvidal would have none of it. He just continued to stay on the outside, peck away with the jab, and his right hand. Again, it wasn’t all that exciting and there wasn’t a ton of action to write about but Masvidal’s defense was outstanding. Luckily for Masvidal, the judges didn’t reward Evangelista for moving forward, missing, and getting punched in the face as Masvidal took him a comfortable unanimous decision.
Evangelista is a guy who can have exciting fights against fighters who are willing to brawl with him but there are a ton of holes in his stand up, highlighted by his poor defense. He just eats too many punches for his own good. Now Masvidal is a very good striker but even against lower level opponents like Waachiim Spiritwolf, who gassed after the first round, Evangelista took far too many punches. He’s a guy who benefitted from some questionable decisions and good match making but now that he’s fought a top guy, we see just how far he has to go before reaching the upper level. I’d like to see Evangelista fight Conor Heun next. I know Heun is itching for a fight, his back is against the wall with two straight loss, and he’s a guy who always brings it.
Masvidal is an immediate contender in the Strikeforce lightweight division. He’s a very talented fighter who has had his ups and downs in his career but when he’s on his game, he can give most guys a run for their money. People seem to be discouraged that Masvidal couldn’t put Evangelista away but I don’t hold that against him. Evangelista is a very tough competitive and Masvidal would have been dumb to stray from his game plan and get into a slugfest with Evangelista. KJ Noons was mentioned as a possible next opponent for Masvidal and I’m fine with that fight or Josh Thomson. I think Noons makes more sense because the winner can get a lightweight title shot but it could just come down to scheduling and who is more ready and if that’s the case, Thomson will likely get the nod.
Predicted Next Fights: Evangelista vs. Heun – Masvidal vs. Noons
This was a bit of a down card for Strikeforce in terms of star power and promotion and I’m sure the viewership will reflect that but Strikeforce is still doing some good things at the moment. They have two big events coming up and if they step up their promotion of those events, which they should be doing anyway but we’re still talking about Strikeforce, then they could be very successful for the promotion.
The next big event is UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones so get ready for The Walk Out.
PHOTO CREDIT – ESTHER LIN / STRIKEFORCE