Fresh off a major announcement that will see the promotion extend its stay on Showtime for at least another year, Strikeforce looks to demonstrate why its survival will be our gain with a decent card capped off by a promising main event. Arguably the best fighter not under contract with the UFC, Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez returns to the cage to take on challenger Jorge Masvidal. The lightweight division has already brought us some absolute crackers this year, with Frankie Edgar‘s fights with Gray Maynard, Ben Henderson‘s frantic battle with Clay Guida, , and Mike Chandler‘s title-capturing win over Eddie Alvarez setting some extremely high standards, and if Saturday’s main event comes close to replicating the high level action set by those fights, we’re in for a treat. The card also features the return of featherweight women champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, who will likely be partaking in another massacre of an over-matched Japanese foe, while Gegard Mousasi and Ovince St. Preux square off in a potential show-stealer.
*Chris Brown to defeat Herman Terrado by TKO in Round 2
* Eddie Mendez to defeat Fernando Gonzalez by Decision
* Devin Cole to defeat Gabriel Salinas-Jones by Decision
* Justin Wilcox to defeat Caros Fodor by TKO in Round 3
* Roger Bowling to defeat Jerron Peoples by TKO in Round 2
Main Card Predictions
Lightweight Fight: K.J. Noons vs Billy Evangelista
While Noons’ boxing ability isn’t what many make it out to be, the stand-up game should favor him here. He is the more technical striker, and Evangelista has always struggled with fighters who can stick a jab in his face, punish his body, and avoid his overly aggressive offense. Evangelista tends to stay inside the pocket for too long, and someone like Noons will make him pay. Moreover, when Evangelista struggles to get much going on the feet, his pursuit of a takedown becomes somewhat reckless and not really properly set up, which makes his takedown attempts telegraphed.
Noons struggled with Masvidal’s diverse attacks in his last fight, and Evangelista would be wise to follow a similar approach. However, while utilizing kicks is good in theory, Evangelista has a habit of leaving himself exposed when throwing leg kicks and it makes him prone for counters. While Noons’ defensive stance and bobbing and weaving isn’t suited for MMA, his head movement should be enough to avoid most of Evangelista’s attacks. Nevertheless, Noons’ habit of keeping his feet planted makes it very possible that he finds himself on his back repeatedly, so footwork and constant movement will be key.
As long as Noons can avoid getting stuck on the bottom for too long, this is his fight for the taking.
Official Prediction: K.J. Noons to defeat Billy Evangelista by Decision
Light Heavyweight Fight: Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux
For as talented a fighter as Mousasi is, he has been somewhat underwhelming in recent times. While he definitely deserved the nod in his fight with Keith Jardine, it was a fight in which Mousasi struggled far more than he really should have. His wrestling has let him down in his last two Strikeforce outings, and he will need to show significant improvement in that regard if he is to get back on track.
The Dutchman will be the better and more technical striker, but he needs to learn from the mistakes he committed against Mo Lawal and do a better job at controlling the distance, as any mistake means he could well end up on his back. Mousasi needs to be particularly wary when throwing body kicks, as St. Preux possesses the speed and reflexes to simply catch one and take him to the mat. In fact, Mousasi’s offense is heavily reliant on kicks, and he needs to pick his spots carefully while throwing them. Most importantly, Mousasi needs to get rid of his nasty habit of simply covering up whenever his opponent throws a feint. It got him in serious trouble against “King Mo”, as the American repeatedly faked a right cross, changed levels and put Mousasi on his back while the latter was doing nothing but stand his ground and cover up.
In his defense, Mousasi knows how to avoid damage once taken down, but he’s almost too comfortable fighting off of his back. He does a very good job of controlling his opponent’s posture and even mounting some offense from the bottom, particularly with his elbows. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to win a fight from the bottom on the judges’ scorecards, and unless Mousasi outright polishes St. Preux off with a submission, he’ll be looking at another disappointing loss.
St. Preux’s conditioning has been at times shaky in the past, and he is occasionally guilty of getting too wild on the feet. Doing that against a striker of Mousasi’s caliber is risky business, not to mention that it would be hugely detrimental to his cardio.
Expect a highly competitive affair that ends in yet another disputed decision…
Official Prediction: Ovince St. Preux to defeat Gegard Mousasi by Decision
Women’s Featherweight Title Fight: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (c) vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
With all due respect to both ladies, there isn’t much to talk about here. Despite the layoff, “Cyborg” will turn yet another poor woman’s face into a hamburger on her way to retaining the title. Hopefully, her next challenge will be sterner.
Official Prediction: Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos to defeat Hiroko Yamanaka by TKO in Round 1
Lightweight Title Fight: Gilbert Melendez (c) vs Jorge Masvidal
The kind of improvement Melendez has shown since his loss to Josh Thomson a few years back is truly astounding. His striking in particular, has progressed tremendously throughout the years. The increasing technique in his boxing is apparent, and it has allowed him to develop serious power as well. Most impressive is the confidence Melendez possesses in his boxing ability. That confidence, coupled with a granite chin, has enabled him to have the conviction to be constantly aggressive and set up some devastating power shots. He has also developed a very solid jab, and uses to set up his right hook (or right uppercut) especially well.
Melendez’s willingness to get on the inside, land some power punches or knees up close is especially troubling for a fighter with Masvidal’s history of ignoring strategy and engaging in ill-advised slugfests. To his credit, when Masvidal chooses to be more patient, he possesses some very competent counter-punching and a deep striking arsenal. Masvidal is especially underrated in the clinch, where his knees to the body are something Melendez wouldn’t want to experience. And yet, fighting on the inside with someone like Melendez is a very dangerous proposition.
Masvidal will be best served to use his jab — which when used, is quite effective — and look to set up the counter right cross as Melendez moves forward. The problem for Masvidal however, is that even if he is to have some success countering, “El Nino” is the superior wrestler, with some brutal ground-and-pound to boot. Mavidal has a solid sprawl and is good in the scrambles, but fending off Melendez’s takedowns for twenty-five minutes is a daunting task, especially given the pace that Melendez’s otherworldly cardio allows him to set.
The match-up is simply too difficult for Masvidal to overcome. Look for Melendez to put on yet another impressive display that will make many momentarily forget about Henderson’s existence and clamor for a fight with Edgar.
Official Prediction: Gilbert Melendez to defeat Jorge Masvidal by TKO in Round 3
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE