Strikeforce hits the ground running in 2012 as it dishes out MMA action this Saturday night from the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The California-based promotion’s veterans welcome new faces to the main card and hope to stake their claim within their respective divisions. Knockout artist ”The Evolution” Tyler Stinson (22-7) takes on “The Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (11-2) in the main card’s opener. One of the welterweight division’s top dogs, “T-Wood” Tyron Woodley (11-0) collides with the fast rising Jordan Mein (22-6). “The Monsoon” Lorenz Larkin (11-0) takes a step out from the Strikeforce: Challengers series to face his stiffest test to date, “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal (8-1). Just as many who watch NASCAR hope to see a crash, the casual MMA observer comes to watch someone get knocked out and with Adlan Amagov (2-0) and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-8) suited against each other, the crowd should be on the edge of their seats. Middleweight gold is up for grabs in the main event when champion Luke Rockhold (8-1) defends his newly earned title for the first time against “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (16-9-2). Strikeforce has stepped up its game over the past several years, and if this card is any indication of what’s to come, fans are in for an exciting year.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson: Welterweight action opens the main card as Tarec Saffiedine welcomes back Tyler Stinson to the six-sided cage. Both men are bouncing off spectacular performances and would like to put another win together in their hopes to ascend the ranks. Stinson is a promising fighter who hit the mainstream through Bellator. His modus operandi revolves around his dangerous striking game that composes the majority of his victories. While Saffiedine is a phenomenal striker in his own right, the edge he might hold over Stinson will fall back on his wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu development. Saffiedine has impressive takedown defense but with Team Quest as his main camp, he could dictate the pace and setting of the fight. “The Evolution’s” submission game is respectable but pitted against a superior grappler, the difference is evident. Stinson needs to storm the gates once he lands a good shot on Saffiedine. If “The Sponge” finds that Stinson is not one to buckle easily when struck, he needs to take him down and seek a limb to take home. Saffiedine via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3
Tyron Woodley vs. Jordan Mein: Jordan Mein makes his sophomore showing with Strikeforce when he battles one of the welterweight division’s top contenders, Tyron Woodley. Woodley’s game plan revolves around his NCAA Div. I level wrestling where he actively seeks to control the pace of the match. Mein is the more seasoned fighter with a better array of tools at his disposal though he prefers to handle the fight standing. Mein rides into this next fight with solid performances over Marius Zaromskis (14-5) and “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (18-15) behind him, but he has yet to face a fighter with the wrestling pedigree that Woodley owns.”T-Wood” will almost certainly seek to achieve the takedown and maintain control before thinking about finishing the fight which calls for Mein’s takedown defense and Jiu-Jitsu to be on its toes. In what can be considered a “striker versus grappler” pairing, it is Woodley’s overwhelming wrestling that will be the X-factor that will debunk Mein. Woodley via Unanimous Decision
Muhammed Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin: Undefeated prospect Lorenz Larkin makes the jump onto the main card from the Challengers series to take on former light heavyweight champ, Muhammed Lawal. Larkin steps into action with his foundation set in boxing and Kung-Fu and with nearly all his wins coming by way of stoppage, it is safe to say he knows how to use it well. “King Mo” though enters the cage as a wrestler who just happens to boast knockout power in his hands. Two things that stand out in this match is that while Larkin holds more professional MMA fights than Lawal, the latter has faced much stiffer competition such as “Feijao” Rafael Cavalcante (3-2) and “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (26-3-2). Furthermore, Larkin, while possessing powerful strikes, lacks the athleticism and wrestling prowess that Lawal offers. The six-foot-tall Lawal at one time fought at heavyweight and was able to take down the much larger, 6’3”, “The Specimen” Mark Kerr (15-11) prior to finishing him with punches. Larkin is much smaller at 5’11” and unless his Jiu-Jitsu game is top notch, he could see himself being rag-dolled for a majority of the match. Larkin’s chances are to rely on the old fashioned “stick and move” form of striking to deal his damage but if he ends up getting taken down, he will have to work instantly and feverishly to draw the fight back to its feet before Lawal rains a knockout blow. Lawal via Unanimous Decision
Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov: Amagov has started to get his name known in the US on the lesser Strikeforce: Challenger cards and will get a chance for a bigger break when he meets Lawler in the co-main event. Amagov’s tale of the tape shows the Russian favors to exchange with highly technical kicks and let his knockout power handle business. Against Robbie Lawler, he will be locked in with another heavy-handed knockout artist who claims as many (T)KO victories as Amagov claims wins. The chink in Lawler’s armor though has been his grappling game. His losses stem from fighters who had a more complete wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu base behind them to take Lawler down and control him, such as “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (13-3) and “Babalu” Renato Sobral (33-10). Amagov’s striking is his greatest asset but Lawler has shown from time to time that all it takes is one punch to change everything. Melvin Manhoef (24-8-1) was easily manhandling Lawler on the feet up until “Ruthless” Robbie sent a right hand to end the fight instantly. If he does not want to end up staring at the ceiling at the bout’s end, Amagov’s best chances of victory will rely on how well he can smother the “Ruthless” one and work his way into a submission. Lawler via Technical Knockout (Strikes), Round 2
Luke Rockhold vs. Keith Jardine: Continuing to rebuild himself from a five-fight skid, Keith Jardine makes his Strikeforce middleweight debut for Luke Rockhold’s title. Out of the gate, Jardine’s awkward approach to striking is one that troubles many as it often comes from odd angles with difficult timing to follow. For Rockhold, his Jiu-Jitsu game is his primary weapon to threaten the UFC veteran. However in each fighter’s last outing, it was Rockhold who showed improved and impressive striking to dethrone former champion Ronaldo Souza and Jardine choosing to grapple with Gegard Mousasi to lull the fight into a Majority Draw. All facts considered, Rockhold’s greatest weapon, his submissions, might be negated as Jardine has never tapped out in his MMA career kudos to Greg Jackson’s submission fighting. This means for the champ he will have to seek control on the ground or contend with Jardine’s ape-like striking that has caused fits even for the likes of Forrest Griffin (18-7) and UFC Hall of Famer “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell (21-8). In the twilight years of an MMA career, Jardine’s conditioning to go five rounds along with the reliability of his chin to take a hit could do him in. Should Rockhold land the first clean shot or ride Jardine into later rounds, he might make his first title defense a successful one. Rockhold via Unanimous Decision