The nineteenth installment of the Strikeforce Challengers series is set to take place Friday night at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada as another crop of aspiring young fighters seek to break into the Zuffa family. Headlining the card is “The Monsoon” Lorenz Larkin (10-0) who puts his undefeated record on the line against late replacement “Leather Face” Nick Rossborough (20-14). The co-main event for the card finds second generation superstar Ryan Couture (2-1) looking to rebound from his first loss against a tough submission guru, Maka Watson (5-1). Challengers Series stand-out “Big” Lavar Johnson (13-4) returns after a less than successful debut on the Strikeforce main card and attempts to return to form against Shawn Jordan (10-3). One-time UFC veteran Jason High (12-3) will continue his second chance at Zuffa favor in the evening’s second bout against Texas native “Maniac” Todd Moore (13-4) and the night will open with a match-up between toughened ground-and-pounder Brian Melancon (5-2) and undefeated Brazilian “Balboa” Felipe Portela (7-0). The film and file on the fighters is practically non-existent and the combatants themselves are starving for the bright lights of Zuffa stardom, which is always a good mix for the fans of MMA.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Nick Rossborough: After losing the original main eventer Virgil Zwicker (10-2) to injury, Strikeforce called in hardened journeyman and Cage Wars champion Nick Rossborough to pick up the slack. Against him is Lorenz Larkin, a battle tested kickboxer with a driving need to be a champion. Rossborough has a wealth of experience and a ground game that has earned him 11 submissions to bring to bear against the kickboxer. For Larkin, it’s all about heart. He came from a family that shunned contact sports, went 5-0 as a boxer, then 10-0 as an amateur mixed martial artist and took his last fight on under a week’s notice all to prove to himself that this is his calling. Rossborough has a strong record against stand-up fighters and has a superior ground game, but unfortunately for him, Larkin has power that even an iron jaw can’t very well stand up to. Larkin via KO (Punch), Round 1
Ryan Couture vs. Maka Watson: The first son of MMA’s Father Time is set to make his comeback fight as the co-main event for Friday’s festivities. Ryan Couture lost a hard fought decision in his last outing and is looking to rebound against Maka Watson, a hard nosed submission fighter with a penchant for Rear Naked Chokes. The match should be a gem for those fans that have a vested interest in Jiu-Jitsu as both men have built their careers around their submission and positional wrestling skill sets. For Watson, this is a bad thing as Couture has both superior wrestling and more finely honed submissions, especially from the bottom. Couture is a threat anywhere the fight goes, making a long night likely for Watson who is viewed by many as a sacrificial lamb to restore Couture’s status as a big name on the rise. Couture via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke), Round 1
Lavar Johnson vs. Shawn Jordan: After a less than promising bout on the big show, Lavar Johnson enters a rebuilding phase in the Series that made his name. Against the heavy handed bomber is cowboy wrestler Shawn Jordan. Between the two fighters, just two fights have gone the distance, both featuring protracted wrestling expositions from Jordan. Johnson brings big power to the cage, but his poor positional wrestling has cost him in the past as it will likely cost him here. The match-up is one of the most evenly paired bouts on the card, but unless Johnson can stuff Jordan’s takedowns and land one of his fight ending bombs, he is looking at a disappointing return to the Challengers Series. Jordan via TKO (Strikes), Round 2
Jason High vs. Todd Moore: Jason High was one and done with the UFC, suffering a decision loss and being cut from the promotion when many fans felt his performance warranted a second chance. In response, High promptly won three straight, two in the first round. On the opposite side of the cage he will find Todd Moore, a Texas-bred ground-and-pounder with a brawling style that brooks no argument. In this match, High will have to be wary of his opponent’s power and brute force cowboy wrestling, but should be able to win every exchange with his superior technical skill set. He can’t afford to make a mistake against Moore’s killer instinct and finishing abilities, but he should come out on top as long as he fights smart. High via Unanimous Decision
Brian Melancon vs. Felipe Portela: The opening fight of the night features two young guns looking to make their names. Houston’s Brian Melancon is a finisher with a reputation for throwing high risk submissions that are exciting to watch, but have cost him decisions in the past after they fail and cost him position. Felipe Portela is the opposite. He is a grounded and methodical Brazilian-trained submission fighter who has won his seven professional fights through a wide variety of methods. In a fight like this, anything can happen, but more than likely, Melancon will get ahead early then take a big chance trying to finish the fight and end up playing the three-tap symphony instead. Portela via Submission (Heel Hook), Round 2