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The Walk Out – “Strikeforce: Heavyweight GP Semifinals” Undercard

7It’s the first major Strikeforce event in over a month and company has stacked the card with plenty of big name fighters. The undercard features one of the most explosive lightweights making his US debut against a veteran lightweight with a very deceiving record. Also on the card is the best Gracie to come along in years taking on a former light heavyweight champion. Plus a middleweight title fight, which should be the headlining fight but unfortunately isn’t.

Preliminary Predictions

*Chris Mierzwiak to defeat Dominique Steele by Submission in Round Two
*Amanda Nunes to defeat Alexis Davis by TKO in Round One
*Jordan Mein to defeat Evangelista Santos by TKO in Round Two
*Rafael Cavalcante to defeat Yoel Romero Palacio by TKO in Round One
*Mike Kyle to defeat Marcos Rogerio de Lima by TKO in Round One

Lightweight Fight: Maximo Blanco vs. Pat Healy

Blanco’s US Debut: Anytime a fighter has spent the majority of his career competing in Japan, it’s fair to get worried when they make their US debut. Such is the case with Maximo Blanco, who has never fought outside of the land of the rising sun. Most Japanese fighting veterans struggle in their US debuts for any number of reasons. Either they’re not used to the cage, they’re not used to opponents really cutting weight and bulking back up, they’re not used to the rules and rounds, ect…. The biggest struggle is that they’re not used to dealing with high-level wrestlers, but Blanco is one of the better foreign wrestlers in the sport.

Healy Fighting On Short Notice: Pat Healy took this fight on August 29 after Josh Thomson had to pull out with another injury. Not only is he taking this fight on short notice, but he just fought a fifteen minute bout on August 12. While I know that Healy wanted to be more active than he has been, I have to assume that he wanted to get a full training camp in instead of fighting on a couple weeks notice and just having fought less than a month ago. While he’s usually in good shape and is as mentally tough as they come, his performance could suffer due to the circumstances.

Striking & Wrestling: Blanco has the striking advantage, while Healy has the wrestling edge in this bout. Blanco is a more technical striker with a speed advantage and power in his hands. Even though Blanco is a good non-American wrestler, he’s not on the level of Healy, who trains at Team Quest and is the very definition of a grinder. Blanco has to use his speed to stay away from Healy, who will no doubt be looking to get inside, use his strength, and rough up Blanco on the cage and the ground. Healy can hold his own striking, but his basic boxing won’t be quick enough to deal with the speed and diversity of Blanco.

Fight Prediction: I like Blanco’s chances in this fight and I’m looking forward to his Strikeforce debut, but I have a tough time picking anyone making their US debut after spending their career fighting weaker competition in Japan. Although Healy isn’t a top of the food chain lightweight, he’s good enough to give Blanco plenty of problems in all areas, especially on the ground. I think Healy grinds out Blanco en route to a decision.

Official Prediction: Pat Healy to defeat Maximo Blanco by Decision

Light Heavyweight Fight: Roger Gracie vs. Muhammed Lawal

The Striking Battle: Roger Gracie is a very underrated striker who does a great job using his reach and his jab to peck at his opponents. Muhammed Lawal is the better striker, although I think he’s a little overconfident in his abilities. Lawal is a student of the game and likes to emulate the style of many famed boxer, but in doing so, he fails to find a style that works for him. So he goes out of his comfort zone, tries some things that don’t always work, and ends up paying for them. With Gracie, he’s never going to leave his jab-straight right comfort zone.

Wrestling vs. Jiu-Jitsu: “King Mo” is one of the best credentialed wrestlers to enter MMA while Gracie is one of the best credentialed grapplers. So something has to give in this fight. Will Lawal put Gracie on his back, knowing that Gracie is very comfortable working from his guard? Can Gracie somehow get Lawal on his back and gain a dominant position on the ground? If Lawal is smart, he dumps Gracie down to score points and then lets him back up or gets him down and stay at the end of his guard, giving Gracie minimal control.

Lawal’s Cocky Confidence: There’s a fine line between cockiness and confidence, and Lawal walks that line very line. I like “King Mo.” I think he’s an entertaining guy, even though I don’t agree with what he always says. But he has a very high opinion of himself and his skills, despite the fact that he hasn’t really proven a whole lot in MMA. I take nothing away from Lawal and his accomplishments in MMA, but he got beat up in the fight where he won the Strikeforce light heavyweight title and then lost the belt in his first defense. I just need more from him in the cage if he’s going to talk like he’s Muhammad Ali.

The Gracie Myth: Every Gracie that has come along since Royce Gracie has had to put up with “The Gracie Myth.” Because of Royce, most fans believe that if your last name is Gracie, you’re supposed to be some type of unbeatable jiu-jitsu expert who can submit any man you put him in the cage with. Most Gracie’s failed to live up to high expectations, but Roger is the exception. Of all the Gracie’s he’s translated his jiu-jitsu to MMA the best, has learned how to be effective in the clinch, and has developed a striking style that works for him.

Fight Prediction: This is a very interesting fight because of the strengths of each man. Lawal is the better striker, but can he get inside and lay leather to Gracie’s chin? Lawal can also dictate where the fight goes thanks to his wrestling, but does he want to grapple with Gracie? I think “King Mo” will take this fight, simply because of his power and boxing, and the fact that jiu-jitsu guys really don’t like to get hit, but if he makes one mistake, Gracie will capitalize and finish him with a submission.

Official Prediction: Muhammed Lawal to defeat Roger Gracie by TKO in Round One

Strikeforce Middleweight Title Fight: Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza ©

Not The Main Event: You want to know one of the many reasons why Strikeforce won’t be in business in six months? It’s because their titles don’t mean anything. Is Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza a big time title fight? No, but it’s still a title fight and it should close the show. A title fight should always close the show, even if it’s not the biggest draw on the card. It makes the title seem important because it’s going on last and it’ll be the thing the fans remember most, especially if it happens to be a good fight. And yet this is one of a handful of times where Strikeforce has put the title bout lower on the card in favor of the guys who might be a little more well-known. Of course, the champions and title fights might be a little more well-known if Strikeforce actually put them on last, but we won’t have to worry about that pretty soon.

Luke Rockwho? If you haven’t head the name “Luke Rockhold” before, it’s probably because he hasn’t fought since February 2010 and has never appeared on the main card of a major Strikeforce show since the company has started running on Showtime. His most notable career victories have come against Jesse Taylor and Paul Bradley. He’s never been out of the first round and the majority of his victories have come by way of submission.

Rockhold’s Skills: Now that you know who Rockhold is, just how good is he? He’s a well-rounded fighter, with a lot of power, especially in his right hand. He’s a solid striker, likes to use a lot of head kicks, and has a deadly counter right hook. He’s not a great wrestler, but has good takedown defense and is good in the scrambles. Most importantly though, is that he’s a finisher. When he has a guy hurts, he puts little to no time to put him away. You can’t teach a killer instinct, and Rockhold certainly has that.

The Ever Improving Jacare: When “Jacare” Souza started MMA, he was almost exclusively a grappler. But thanks to a lot of hard work in the gym with guys like Anderson Silva, his striking has come a long way. He’s not a great striker by any means, but he does have very good basic boxing. I would like to see him throw more kicks though, mainly because his jiu-jitsu is so good that he shouldn’t be afraid to be taken down. He doesn’t seem to have natural punching power, but he does have a good gas tank, which allows him to throw more without getting as tired.

Swimming & Drowning: Never mind the deep end, Rockhold has yet to get out of the kiddie pool. He’s not only fought less than stellar competition, he’s yet to get out of the first round. He doesn’t know what that second round feels like, while “Jacare” has been five rounds before. Souza has also fought some good competition and veterans of the sport while Rockhold has been brought along very slowly and is now being matched up against one of the best middleweights in the world and is coming off a myriad of injuries.

Fight Prediction: Rockhold might have a bright future in the sport, but Souza seems like a huge task at this point in his career. Rockhold does have one-punch power, which gives him at least a chance in the first round, but the longer this fight goes the more is favors Souza. I think “Jacare” wears out Rockhold on the feet early, gets him to the ground late, and finishes him in one of the middle rounds.

Official Prediction: Ronaldo Souza to defeat Luke Rockhold by Submission in Round Three

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