Strikeforce made its first trip to the state of Mississippi on Friday night, settling in the city of Jackson to host Challengers 12. The card housed a roster of talented fighters – including locals as well those who hailed from other countries – and did not disappoint fans. There were some long-fought battles, some that ended more quickly and in a glorious fashion, and one that ended abruptly in a rather tragic No Contest. Here, MMA Gospel recaps Strikeforce’s twelfth effort in their Challengers series.
The prelims kicked off with several mixed martial artists making their professional fighting debut, none of which disappointed the early crowd. TUF Season 7 tryout “Big Rigg” Jeremiah Riggs, who is 1-0 officially but has several unsanctioned matches under his belt (4-5) and TUF 10 heavyweight “The Perfect Storm” Wes Shivers (4-1) were crowd favorites in the cage. Riggs fought a tough three round war and walked away with the Unanimous Decision win over opponent “Razor” James Sharp (5-5), but Shivers won with a brutal knockout that lit up the convention center with cheers from the crowd.
The main card that started the Showtime Sports live broadcast ended with a one-of-a-kind D’arce Choke – “The Future” Caros Fodor (7-2) locked the powerful choke around “The Pretzel” Derek Getzel’s (2-2) neck and squeezed. The referee pulled Fodor away once he realized after several seconds that Getzel was asleep.
Next up was former women’s middleweight (145lb.) title challenger “Cuddles” Jan Finney (6-8) taking on undefeated rising star “Girl-Rilla” Liz Carmouche (2-0 officially, and 6-0 with inclusion of unsanctioned bouts) at a lesser weight of 135lbs to climb back to a shot at the new Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Champion Marloes Coenen (16-3). Finney’s chances of victory wore down as the fight pressed on. Despite Finney’s wealth of experience and several previous TKO’s/KO’s to her credit, Carmouche controlled the fight on the feet and when the battle hit the mat, it was still Carmouche’s game. Finney had difficulty pulling the trigger and also looked tired, quite possibly due to the weight cut being more than she is used to. In the third round Carmouche took Finney’s back and rained down punches until the referee called a stop to the bout, declaring “Girl-Rilla” the winner. Her dominant performance and decisive victory sets up Carmouche for future matches with the bigger names in her division, while Finney is sent back to the drawing board with two consecutive losses.
In a battle of fan favorites in the 185lb. division, DREAM Welterweight champion “The Whitemare” Marius Zaromskis (13-4) and Native American warrior Waachiim Spiritwolf (6-6-1) came at each other with aggressive energy. With the sound of the bell, Zaromskis charged toward Spiritwolf with a flying knee. Spiritwolf caught the knee but then was covering his left eye. The referee called a break to the fight to have a look at the eye of the visibly upset Spiritwolf. The ringside doctor entered the cage and checked out the fighter’s eye. The ringside doctor came in the cage and checked out Spiritwolf’s eye, deeming it okay to continue the fight, but the competitor continued to show signs of anger. The fight was ruled a No Contest at only six seconds into the bout. The crowd booed and audibly expressed their distaste towards Spiritwolf and the fight’s outcome. The match-up had an unexpected and undesirable outcome for all involved but it does not reflect poorly on either of the warriors, both of whom were game to step into the cage and put on the fight of the night.
MMA Gospel was ringside at the event and was permitted to go back stage after Zaromskis and Spiritwolf left the cage. Spiritwolf stood with his corner, his face unable to mask a look of immense disappointment. The kickboxer expressed his discontent over the crowd’s boos. He said,
“My gameplan was to come out aggressive and bring it to him. I’m always pushing forward and bringing the fight. Sadly it ended the way it did. When he threw that knee his hands were open and right in my face. After the poke I couldn’t see out of my left eye, it was just black.” – Spiritwolf
He showed interest in having a rematch with “The Whitemare” to erase the No Contest and get back to his winning spirits and ascend the rungs of the Strikeforce welterweight ladder. Spiritwolf may have been unknown to many fans that night, but one thing that was made abundantly clear is that Spiritwolf’s heart is for his fans – even for those who don’t call him a favorite, he comes to fight for all MMA fans.
In the co-main event, Ovince St. Preux (7-4) took on “The Juggernaut” Antwain Britt (12-5) in a three round war of heart and determination to win both on the feet and on the canvas. After several standing exchanges, the fight went to the mat where both men tried to use their respective wrestling abilities to control their opponent. The first round went to Britt on the scorecards but the second and third saw the former University of Tennessee Vols linebacker take advantage of the fading Britt, keeping the fight on the mat and controlling the action for the remaining ten minutes. St. Preux earned a Unanimous Decision victory and potentially put himself on a fast track for a title shot.
The main event of the evening pitted “Shaolin” Vitor Ribeiro (20-5) against young star “The Silverback” Justin Wilcox (9-3). From the opening bell Wilcox used his boxing to keep Ribeiro at bay from clinching him or getting a takedown. The entire first stanza was essentially a boxing match and resulted in “The Silverback” taking the round. The second round started as a duplicate of the first – with Wilcox controlling the fight with his boxing and Ribeiro being unable to gain the upper hand. “Shaolin” went for several takedowns but Wilcox showed amazing takedown defense, sprawling then attacking on his way out. Ribeiro was showing signs of wear, his nose bleeding lightly. Wilcox grew more and more comfortable with the fight and continued using his boxing to edge out his opponent. The third round was a repeat of the previous two with Wilcox boxing, sprawling, and controlling nearly every aspect of the fight. The final bell rang and was the prelude to an easy Unanimous Decision victory in favor of “The Silverback” on the judges’ scorecards. Wilcox came in with a gameplan and walked out with a victory. When asked what was next for him, Wilcox made it clear that he was gunning for a step up in competition. He said, “I want to fight [Lyle] Beerbohm (15-0) and give him his first defeat.”
Fight Card Quick Results:
Wes Shivers defeats Goldman Butler via KO (Punch), Round 1, 2:15
Jacob Noe defeats Wesley Little via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Jeremiah Riggs defeats James Sharp via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00|
Anthony Mitchell defeats Jeffery Hedgepeth via Submission (Guillotine Choke), Round 1, 2:02
Thomas Vazquez defeats Brian Hall via TKO (Strikes), Round 3, 2:11
Joel Cooper defeats Brian Burse via Submission (Armbar), Round 1, 1:27
Ken Duboise defeats Travis Robertson via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Justin Wilcox defeats Vitor Ribeiro via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Ovince St. Preux defeats Antwain Britt via Unanimous Decision, Round 3, 5:00
Waachiim Spiritwolf vs. Marius Zaromskis declared No Contest (inadvertent eye poke)
Liz Carmouche defeats Jan Finney via TKO (Strikes), Round 3, 1:30
Caros Fodor defeats Derek Getzel via Submission (D’arce Choke), Round 1, 4:39