June 10 has come and gone and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada has experienced its first professional MMA card which also served as the inaugural MMA event for The Score Fighting Series. The evening was comprised of the full gamut of fighters, with varying skill levels and a multitude of skills sets. All but two of the event’s ten fights made it to the judges’ score cards, and though to some this may imply that the event was filled with uneventful fights, that assumption could not be further from the truth.
Strikeforce is set to take over Showtime this Saturday night with another full card of promising fights. Kicking off the main card, the master of flying submissions Shinya Aoki (19-5) returns to take on Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) who seeks to get back in the winner’s circle after tasting defeat for the first time back in February. UFC veteran “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1) steps in on a week’s notice to take on current DREAM Light Heavyweight Champion “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1). The lightweight title is up for grabs when “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2) faces beloved Japanese grappler “Crusher” Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2). With San Diego saturated with already main-event worthy fights, British slugger “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2) hopes to get his hands on another professional title when welterweight champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) greets him in the headlining match. Capturing the title will prove Daley to be truly one of the top players of the game but with the recent tear Diaz is on, winning is easier said than done. Will it be a successful sophomore effort in Strikeforce for the lethal British brawler or will the native of “the 209” add another win to his growing streak? Let’s have a closer look at this match-up.
California’s most successful MMA promotion to date will make its first appearance as a Zuffa product in San Diego tomorrow night as Strikeforce presents Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley for the viewing pleasure of the mixed martial arts world. The night opens with a classic ground battle as Washington-native wrestler “Fancy Pants” Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) takes on world renowned submission expert “Tobikan Judan” Shinya Aoki (26-5) and a sure fired stand-up barn burner between Netherlands boxing machine “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1) and former UFC stand out “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1). The action will lead up to a main event between the Stockton-based welterweight champion “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) and former UFC welterweight contender “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2), but not before lightweight champion “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2) defends his title in a rematch against Japanese superstar “Crusher” Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2). The two warriors first met in 2006 at PRIDE: Shockwave where Melendez used his wrestling to counter the superior striking of Kawajiri on his way to a Unanimous Decision victory. Since then, both men have evolved and have seemed on a collision course ever since the announcement that Strikeforce and DREAM would be co-promoting.
San Diego, California gets its latest taste of MMA action when Strikeforce comes rolling in this Saturday night. The main card offers enough action to entertain even the more casual mixed martial arts fans, covering the full gamut with young up-and-comers, seasoned veterans, aspiring champions, and game competitors. Submission specialist Shinya Aoki (19-5) battles the always dangerous Lyle Beerbohm (15-1). Japanese wonder “Crusher” Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2) comes onto US soil with the goal of taking the lightweight title from “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2). In the main event, “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2) challenges current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) in a five-round battle. Within the chaos going on, former UFC superstar “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1) replaces an injured “MAK” Mike Kyle (14-8-1) to take on 205lbs. contender “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1). For Mousasi, every win gets him closer to regaining the light heavyweight title. With Jardine on the opposite end of him, Mousasi better tread carefully lest he wants to become a stepping stone to Jardine’s second change at glory.
The city of Uncasville will see Bellator Fighting Championships make its first stop in Connecticut tonight when the regional promotion turned national TV MMA sensation arrives for Bellator 39. Hosting the event is the Mohegan Sun and attending will be a house full of fans of the Northeast native and Bellator Lightweight Champion, Eddie Alvarez (19-2). Alvarez will defend his title for the first time against Season 2 winner and perennial underdog contender Pat Curran (12-3). After an injury during training early last year, Curran had to sit out and recover on the side lines while Alvarez continued his reign as the promotion’s best lightweight. Now after a full recovery and months back into his training, Curran is ready to challenge the champion and looks to upset yet another fighter with the title of champion being the prize.
So, the big news this week in MMA was that UFC parent company ZUFFA, LLC. purchased Strikeforce. Surprising, yes. I can only assume that this happened rather quickly since a secret that big doesn’t stay secret very long and no one seemed to have even heard rumors to this effect prior to the deal being announced by Dana White. However, considering the fact that contracts with fighters and deals with Showtime are already in place and Dana’s assertion that it’ll be “business as usual”, I don’t think we can expect to see any real changes or fallout for the immediate time being. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an eventual merger but I think that’s at least a few years off. Still, I see why it’s a big deal. Zuffa now owns most of MMA – aside from DREAM and Bellator and the much smaller regional organizations. With so few options outside of the Zuffa umbrella can a fighter’s union be on the horizon for the future? I dunno, man… just thinking out loud. I don’t mean to piss off King Dana by any means. Just Nick Diaz needs to have his ADHD medicine (aka: weed) covered by a health care plan, not to mention Diego Sanchez’s face and Brandon Vera’s nose.
After another night of excellent mixed martial arts bouts Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Hendo is in the books. The card delivered something for every fan with a technically masterful decision, a quick finish submission, a come from behind title fight victory, and a brutal KO finish all found amongst the evening’s results. The California-based promotion played well off of the star power and name recognition in former UFC tournament and PRIDE divisional champion “Hendo” Dan Henderson (27-8) and the niche market draw of its WMMA roster to build interest in a card that also featured potential title contenders for the lightweight and middleweight belts. This was a change for the better for Strikeforce as the promotion has displayed a history of stacking all of their big named fighters on tri-annual super cards while the middle tiers of their divisional rosters are left to promote themselves. Strikeforce’s use of “Hendo’s” star power and the draw of WMMA to help introduce its talented second level fighters to the casual fan base was a definite step in the right direction for the nation’s second largest MMA promotion.
On Saturday night, Strikeforce returns to San Jose, California with its much anticipated Diaz vs. Cyborg card, putting two belts up for grabs. Welterweight Champion and Strikeforce golden boy “Diablo” Nick Diaz (22-8) takes on the dangerous Brazilian slugger “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-13) who seems to have found his place at 170lbs. after his brutal KO win over DREAM Welterweight Champion “The Whitemare” Marius Zaromskis (13-4) last June. Also on the main card, former NFL great Herschel Walker (1-0) makes his return to the cage against WEC veteran Scott Carson (4-1), as does undefeated Roger Gracie (3-0) against UFC washout Trevor Prangley (22-6-1). The middleweight title is also on the line as current champion “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (12-2) the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace takes on the American brawler “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-6) in an old school style clash that is sure to have the fans on their feet. Lawler comes in off a vicious highlight reel knockout of “The Law” Matt Lindland (22-8) in early December and looks to string together two wins for the first time since 2007. The champ “Jacare” looks to use his ground game to put away the brawler and continue his undefeated streak under the Strikeforce banner.
Despite a professional MMA career peppered with legal tribulations including most recently the California State Athletic Commission’s (CSAC) refusal to license “The Babyfaced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) to fight in the State of California, Barnett is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for the inaugural Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix to get under way. He signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce in September 2010 and is expected to have his debut fight in the promotion in the quarter-finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament, facing “The Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2).
After over a month of speculation, planning, and contract negotiations, Strikeforce has confirmed that it will be holding its inaugural heavyweight tournament starting next month. The eight-man single-elimination Grand Prix is set in four stages; the quarter finals will be held on two events and the semi-finals and the finals will each take place on separate cards. All of Strikeforce’s biggest named heavyweights are involved in the tournament including current Strikeforce, K-1, and DREAM heavyweight champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (30-12), who will be competing in the Grand Prix to defend his Strikeforce title.
This past month rounding out the 2010 MMA calendar and transitioning into the New Year has been thrilling. UFC 124: St. Pierre vs. Koscheck II was for all intents and purposes an exciting affair. “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (21-2) put on another picture perfect fight against perennial contender “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5) and “Pitbull” Thiago Alves (18-7) showed he could stay relevant at welterweight by testing the iron chin of “Doomsday” John Howard (14-6), Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu 2 was quite literally a knockout, WEC 53: Henderson vs. Pettis was an explosive send-off for the exciting organization, and the main event at UFC 125: Resolution featured lightweight champ “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) and his challenger, NCAA Div. I wrestler “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-0-1), partaking in a five round war dominated by stand-up that rather surprisingly resulted in a Draw. However a disturbing realization has come to light. It is likely that given the growth of MMA, especially the UFC, this beloved sport one day will begin to emulate the stale monotony of professional boxing. As the UFC and MMA continue to grow into the meganaut of combat sports, mainstream growth’s effect on the sport, its entertainment value, and its fighters will only become progressively more apparent.
Happy New Year, kids. And here we are with the very first column of the new year. The pressure, man… the goddamn pressure! So, back last year we had the DREAM: Dynamite!! 2010 card that had about thirty-eight fights. Holy shit, just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap. Granted, most things make me want to take a nap and it may also be the fact that the card started at like 1am and was almost three days long. Luckily, the place I was staying in Vegas had Direct TV and HDNet so, I didn’t have to watch it hunched over a laptop for three days. I didn’t make it through the whole card in one sitting but I did make it to daybreak and I didn’t have to kill anything for food or drink my own urine but it did test my dedication to MMA.
—DREAM openweight bout—
Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Hiroshi Izumi: Izumi via TKO (Punches), Round 3, 2:50
—DREAM featherweight bout—
Kazuyuki Miyata vs. Caol Uno: Miyata via Unanimous Decision
—DREAM featherweight bout—
Hideo Tokoro vs. Kazuhisa Watanabe: Tokoro via Submission (Armbar), Round 3, 2:02
—DREAM Featherweight Championship Bout—
Bibiano Fernandes vs. Hiroyuki Takaya: Takaya via Unanimous Decision*
—DREAM lightweight bout—
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Josh Thomson: Kawajiri via Unanimous Decision
—DREAM welterweight bout—
Andy Ologun vs. Katsuaki Furuki: Ologun via Unanimous Decision
—DREAM welterweight bout—
Hayato Sakurai vs. Jason High: High via Split Decision
—DREAM Welterweight Championship bout—
Marius Žaromskis vs. Kazushi Sakuraba: Zaromskis via TKO (Doctor Stoppage), Round 1, 2:16**
—DREAM heavyweight bout—
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Tatsuya Mizuno: Kharitonov via KO (Knee), Round 1, 1:25
—DREAM heavyweight bout—
Jérôme Le Banner vs. Satoshi Ishii: Ishii via Unanimous Decision
—DREAM Interim Heavyweight Championship bout—
Alistair Overeem vs. Todd Duffee: Overeem via KO (Knee and Punches), Round 1, 0:19***
Gegard Mousasi vs. Kyotaro Fujimoto: Mousasi via Unanimous Decision
—K-1 MAX bout—
Akiyo Nishiura vs. Tetsuya Yamato: N/A, Majority Draw (30-30, 30-30, 29-30)
—DREAM/K-1 special rules bout—
Shinya Aoki vs. Yuichiro Nagashima: Nagashima via KO (Flying Knee and Punches), Round 2, 0:04
*Hiroyuki Takaya becomes the new DREAM Featherweight Champion.
**Marius Zaromskis retains his title as DREAM Welterweight Champion.
***Alistair Overeem earns the DREAM Interim Heavyweight Championship title.
Strikeforce lightweight “The Punk” Josh Thomson (17-3-1) not only has one of the coolest nicknames in MMA but also is one of the best lightweight fighters in the world when it comes to putting a hurt on his opponents. Thomson infiltrates the Japanese MMA market once again and puts himself to the test at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on New Year’s Eve when he faces PRIDE veteran and Shooto fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2) at DREAM: Dynamite 2010.
With that date quickly encroaching many hope to see former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion “The Punk” have a better camp than he did in his contested win over American Top Team graduate “JZ” Gesias Cavalcante (14-3-1) in October where Thomson himself admitted to MMAJunkie.com that “it was the worst camp ever.” He elaborated, “I had ankle injuries. I had a partially torn MCL in my leg and my knee. Obviously I was having hand and wrist problems.” With all those complications, one would wonder why Thomson didn’t forfeit the fight but, to earn a nickname like “The Punk” it would have to take a lot of grit and determination which Thomson displayed in his fight with not only being stitched in his head due to “a headbutt kind of thing”, as Thomson called it, but also getting caught in the arm-in Guillotine Choke of Cavalcante.
The year 2010 showcased a wealth of fights and events for the mixed martial arts world to marvel over. “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (13-1) defeated one of the greatest lightweights of all time in “The Prodigy” BJ Penn (16-7-1). Boxing great “Lights Out” James Toney (0-1) stepped into the the cage to face UFC Hall of Famer “The Natural” Randy Couture (19-10) in what was intended to determine the superior combat sport, MMA or boxing. Couture pummeled Toney for nearly three minutes of pure fan delight before submitting him via Arm Triangle Choke. The MMA world was shaken and the heavyweight rankings sent into a state of disarray when the top ranked “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) was handed his first legitimate loss via first round submission to Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1).
To follow up with the 2009 roster exchange agreement between the Strikeforce, DREAM, and M-1 Global MMA promotions, the UFC ended 2010 with the intake of the WEC organization. With all the memorable fights and events that have taken place in the last 12 months, 2011 is the year where prospects can become contenders, fighters inflicted with injury or tribulations return to fight their way to a title, and champions become legends.
Here are some of the top fighters to look out for in 2011.