The headlines may have been stolen by a slew of huge UFC announcements, but when it came down to it, the Strikeforce fighters who stepped into the cage this past Saturday night delivered. Even if the company is on life support, and the Grand Prix hasn’t quite lived up to its original potential, and Cincinnati fans were too busy dying their hair red for the Bengals game and the Andy Dalton era. The fighters came to fight, which is all you can ask for when it’s all said and done.
*Dominique Steele vs. Chris Mierzwiak was awesome in the first round, pretty good in the second round, and boring in the third round. I give Steele a lot of credit for coming back and dominating the fight after a rough round one.
*Every time Strikeforce wants to hype up a new female challenger for Cristiane Santos, they end up losing. Great performance by Alex Davis to slow down the fight and wear out Amanda Nunes.
*Evangelista Santos didn’t psychically look like “Cyborg” but it was the same “Cyborg” once he stepped into the cage. Good leg kicks early, went away from them, and then got picked apart. Solid performance by Jordan Mein once he found his rhythm. The kid looks to have a bright future.
*I’d be happy if I never had to see Yoel Romero fight again. Rafael Cavalcante has the talent to be a very good light heavyweight fighter. Hopefully he steps up to the UFC in his next fight, especially if Strikeforce is going to keep putting him on prelims against unknowns even though he was the most recent 205 champion.
*Mike Kyle won. He looked solid but faded as the fight went on and was content on riding out the decision instead of really pressing and finishing.
Pat Healy defeated Maximo Blanco by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:27 in Round Two
Healy Is A Dog: Last week, Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett said that he wanted his players to, “Be a dog.” Pat Healy could play for coach Bennett, because he’s a dog. Maximo Blanco hit Healy with all kinds of strikes, including illegal ones, and Healy just kept moving forward. I think that broke Blanco mentally, because he threw everything in the book, and some stuff out of the book, at Healy and yet Healy wouldn’t go down. Eventually he wore down Blanco, took him down, and just roughhoused his way into a submission finish. Healy wasn’t lookin’ in the mirror, wondering if he looked good. He was a dog. MMA could use more dogs.
Blanco To 145: I’m sure that once he learns the art of weight cutting, Blanco could easily make 145. He’s just too small to compete at lightweight in the US, where there American wrestlers will simply bully him around. As long as he can maintain his speed at featherweight, which I don’t think would be a problem, he should be able to compete with most of the division. Plus, it’s a quicker route to the UFC.
Don’t Judge A Fighter By His Record: You should never judge a fighter by his record, but by his level of competition. Healy might not have the greatest record in the world, but he’s fought a lot of top fighters and he always comes to fight. He’s in one of the most competitive divisions in MMA, but he could be a very serviceable lightweight in the UFC division and a test for any up and comer in the sport. But first, I think he’ll fight once more in Strikeforce.
Predicted Next Fight: Blanco vs. Assuncao/Yagin Loser – Healy vs. JZ Cavalcante
Muhammed Lawal defeated Roger Gracie by KO (Punches) at 4:33 in Round One
KING! MO! As a fan of Muhammed Lawal, I was happy to see him pick up the victory. That said, this fight didn’t really prove much. We all knew that if he caught Roger Gracie that Gracie would go down, and that’s exactly what happened. This fight was a lot like Nate Marquardt vs. Demian Maia, where it was interesting on paper, but then when it played out, we all realized that we learned nothing because the interesting part never happened.
Gracie Not Long For MMA: Like most fighters who spend the majority of their life grappling, Gracie doesn’t react well to getting hit and doesn’t appear to be able to take a punch. Granted he was hit on the temple and that that followed up by an accidental headbutt, but just hearing the stories about him, it seems like MMA is more of a hobby, while grappling is still his passion. He could always go the route of Vinny Magalhaes, who has started to adapt to getting hit and MMA, but if his heart isn’t into it, he’s better off getting out before he gets hurt.
Mo UFC Bound: Now that it looks like “Feijao” Cavalcante suffered a broken arm and likely won’t fight again until mid-2012, it’s probably best for Lawal to move to the UFC. There’s no one left for him to fight at 205, unless Strikeforce retains Dan Henderson, but I wouldn’t bank on that happening. He has the charisma and skill to be a star, he just needs to be on the big stage in order for him to truly shine. I know the talk is for him to fight Quinton Jackson if Jackson loses to Jon Jones, but lets let “King” Mo prove a little more before he fights the current UFC 205 top contender.
Predicted Next Fights: Gracie vs. Grappling – Lawal vs. Rich Franklin
Luke Rockhold defeated Ronaldo Souza by Unanimous Decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47) to win the Strikeforce Middleweight Title
The Right Decision? Personally, I thought Ronaldo Souza won the fight 48-47, but I was fine with the judges giving the nod to Luke Rockhold, because it was a very close fight and Rockhold was the aggressor, which is weighed more in the eyes of the judges than countering. However, 50-45 was a joke of a score. In fact, I can’t believe Pat Miletich had it 50-45 for Rockhold as well. Again, I think too much emphasis is put on aggression because Souza was doing a good job countering and did control the grappling aspects, as few as there were, of the fight. Lets not forget that, even though they sounded loud, all those blocked head kicks Rockhold threw were still blocked.
Rockhold Obviously Ready: If there were any doubts before, Rockhold erased them with this performance. He went 25 minutes, after never having been out of the first round, and he beat a top middleweight, after never fighting even an upper-level middleweight. He can only get better as well. An underrated part of Rockhold’s game is the fact that he’s a tremendous athlete. He can cover a lot of his mistakes simply with his athleticism. I still want to see him against a high-level wrestler, but he’s definitely someone who could be at the top of the UFC middleweight division in a few years.
Souza Lost Little: Even though it’s a mark on his record, I don’t think Souza has anything to be ashamed of with his performance. He showed a tremendous chin, which is what everyone questioned, and went shot for shot with Rockhold. I think he’s fallen into the Demian Maia trap of neglecting his jiu-jitsu in order to work on his striking though, which is why I’d love to see Souza vs. Maia next. I think Souza jumps to the UFC, because there’s really nothing left for him to do in the Strikeforce middleweight division. Maia vs. Souza will either be an epic grappling battle or a test to see whose stand up has improved more.
Rockhold vs. Kennedy: That feels like the obvious fight to make. Tim Kennedy has earned himself another title shot based on the closeness of his first title fight, two straight wins, and the thinness of the division. It’s an interesting fight as well, because Kennedy is a guy who, like Rockhold, will press forward and won’t stop until he gets the takedown. It’ll be interesting to see how Rockhold responds to the pressure that Kennedy is sure to put on him.
Predicted Next Fights: Souza vs. Maia – Rockhold vs. Kennedy
Daniel Cormier defeated Antonio Silva by KO (Punches) at 3:56 in Round One
Cormier Is The Real Deal: I knew Daniel Cormier was good, but I didn’t think he would make it look so easy. He tagged Antonio Silva early and often and there was nothing Silva could do about it. He had Silva, who has no wrestling background, shooting for a takedown against an Olympic wrester. I’ve always compared Cormier to Cain Velasquez, and while I don’t think he’s quite at that level yet, he’s well on his way. Cormier is the truth my friends.
Seriously, Silva? It wasn’t shocking that Cormier was quicker than Silva. But it was a little shocking that Silva got caught with the exact same right hand that Mike Kyle caught him with. Did Silva not expect Cormier, who trains with Kyle, to look for that right hand in this fight? I just couldn’t believe that Silva got hit with that punch, and unlike against Kyle, he wasn’t able to recover and use his size to overwhelm his opponent.
Cormier’s Hand: In unfortunate news, Cormier jacked up his hand on Silva’s chin, and as of this writing, we don’t know the extent of his injury. Hopefully it’s not that bad and it’ll be healed by early 2012, because if Cormier is forced out of the finals and has to be replaced with Chad Griggs, who I like and think is better than given credit for, it would still suck.
Predicted Next Fights: Silva vs. Kharitonov – Cormier vs. Barnett
Josh Barnett defeated Sergei Kharitonov via Submission (Arm Triangle) at 4:28 in Round One
That Went As Expected: Was anyone really shocked when Josh Barnett easily got the takedown into mount and then dominated Sergei Kharitonov on the ground? Nope, me neither. I was shocked that Barnett decided to stand for so long with Kharitonov, but he did pretty well, despite taking some good punches. Barnett’s top game is outstanding though and Kharitonov is a fish out of water when he’s on his back.
Now Barnett Will Get Tested: Barnett had an easy road to the GP finals, taking on two guys who wouldn’t know a wirstlock from a wristwatch. Now he’s going to fight a guy who is well rounded and will actually test Barnett in all areas of the fight. I think Barnett is very talented and has the skills to beat most heavyweights on any night, but he hasn’t fought great competition over the years. That will change in 2012 when he meets Cormier.
Predicted Next Fights: Kharitonov vs. Silva – Barnett vs. Cormier
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE