Mike Doyle has returned with another one of his in depth and detailed previews. Mr. DOyle breaks down the six main bouts in Strikeforce 2 "Revenge" and gives his predictions on the winners and how he sees the fights playing out...Strikeforce 2 "Revenge"
After being the first sanctioned MMA event in the state of California, as well as playing host to 18, 265 fans, the largest-ever attendance for an MMA show in North America, Strikeforce is back for its second instalment. Based in San Jose, the promotions first event (Shamrock vs. Gracie) featured a Bay area fighter in each fight, and there are nine fighters returning from the inaugural show in March.
Vitor Belfort vs. Alistair Overeem
This is a rematch from the opening round of Prides 2005 middleweight grand prix where Overeem submitted Belfort in the final minute of round one. Overeem really came into his own in that tournament as he advanced to the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winner, Maurico Shogun Rua. On the other hand, Belfort has only fought once in MMA since then and recently made his professional boxing debut, recording a 1st round KO. However, whenever Belforts name is mentioned, old school fans always hope the Old Vitor will reappear and showcase his explosive striking skills, regardless of his past performances.
As mentioned, Overeems performance during the middleweight tournament really put him on the map, as he picked up wins over Belfort, Igor Vovchanchyn, and came within a heartbeat of submitting Shogun with a guillotine. After a successful tournament run, Overeem added some 20 lbs of muscle and moved up to heavyweight to challenge the highly regarded Sergei Kharitonov. Training with champion Fedor Emelianenko in preparation for his heavyweight debut, Overeem controlled the fight from the onset and took Kharitonov down moments into the fight and immediately gained side control. Overeem then punished his opponent with vicious knee strikes to the head that brought a halt to the contest midway through the 1st round. The shocking upset earned Overeem a spot in the open weight tournament against Fabricio Werdum, and after looking very impressive in the 1st round, Overeem was caught in a kimura in the 2nd round and tapped out.
After bursting onto the scene in the late 1990s with blazing fast hand speed that made short work of Tra Telligman, Scott Ferrozzo, and Tank Abbott, Vitor Belfort hit a wall at UFC 15 against Randy Couture. Heading into that fight as a prohibitive favourite, Belfort looked very sluggish and ended up being TKOd by the wrestler, and since then hasnt been able to string together a series of consistent performances. He rebounded against Wanderlei Silva to capture a highlight reel knockout, only to drop his next fight to Kazushi Sakuraba. Most recently, Belfort has lost to Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Overeem, but in true Vitor fashion he looked very sharp against Anthony Rea at Cage Rage in his last fight. Belfort attempted multiple submissions in the fight and his boxing skills looked great, as he caught Rea with a nice uppercut to register the KO.
During their first encounter, Belfort was content to take the fight to the ground rather then engage in a prolonged striking battle with the 6-5 Overeem. And for the first time in a while, Belfort displayed some of his BJJ black belt skills, as he was quite active from within his guard attempting submissions whenever Overeem was on top. Yet, whenever the fight was standing up, Overeem looked to close the distance and clinch up with Belfort so he could use his devastating knees. Nonetheless, while Belfort was trying to secure a single leg takedown, Overeem took advantage of an opening when Vitor was shooting in and locked on a guillotine for the submission victory. Belfort was too tentative in the first fight which allowed Overeem to take the fight to him, so if he wants to reverse the previous outcome hell need to be more aggressive this time around. One of the few knocks against Overeem is that he can fatigue quickly, unfortunately Belforts gas tank isnt much better. Also, after Belforts last fight he stated that his mind was focused on fighting again, but hes already begun talking about his next boxing fight - the Old Vitor is merely a thing of the past.
Bobby Southworth vs. James Irvin
After being one of the original TUF cast members, B-South is ready to step back into the spotlight for the first time since a surprising loss to Sam Hoger last April. Meanwhile, James Irvin will attempt to get his once promising career back on track, and hell be doing it against a TUF fighter for the 3rd time, after having lost back-to-back fights to Stephan Bonnar and Lodune Sincaid.
Irvins most notable strength is his punching power, and being one of the hardest hitting light heavyweights he prefers to stand and strike. After an unsuccessful UFC debut as a heavyweight against Mike Kyle, Irvin made the decision to drop down a division and fight at 205 lbs. A few months later he fought one of the best fights of his life against Doug Marshall (WEC 15), recording a 2nd round KO and was again headed back to the UFC. During that fight with Terry Martin, Irvin was taken down at will, controlled on the ground and didnt possess any type of threat in the 1st round. Yet, in one of the most memorable moments of 2005, Irvin landed a flying knee at the start of the 2nd round that knocked Martin cold. Irvin rode that momentum into his next fight against Stephan Bonnar, one where most fans were hoping to see something similar to Griffin/Bonnar. Unfortunately, Bonnar had other plans and instead of banging with Irvin, he fought the smart fight and took Irvin down early that eventually lead to a kimura for a 1st round submission. Nevertheless, Irvin is coming off a win over William Hill at IFC, where he utilized his ground and pound game to pick up a unanimous decision victory.
Southworth has solid ground skills, and since hes been training with the American Kickboxing Academy under Bob Cook, hes also a very capable striker too. Bobby was the first person on TUF 1 to fight, as he came in last place during a team competition and was selected to fight Lodune Sincaid. Initially, it looked as though Southworth wouldnt make the 205 lbs weight limit for the fight, as he needed to shed nearly 20 lbs in a couple of days. But with the help of Chuck Liddell and Josh Koscheck, Bobby showed his mental toughness and made the weight, and was rewarded by KOing Sincaid in the 2nd round. A few episodes later, Bobby was scheduled to fight Stephan Bonnar and after a hard fought battle he lost a split decision. At the shows conclusion last April, Southworth lost a decision to Sam Hoger and hasnt fought since.
Even though Irvin has worked on his sprawl, his last two losses occurred because he couldnt stop the takedown and keep the fight standing. However, an even bigger concern is how Bobby will perform after hes been inactive for over a year. I believe with the proper conditioning that Southworth is a legit light heavyweight and just because he hasnt been featured on any Spike TV Ultimate Fight Night shows, its no reason to overlook his skills.
Josh Thomson vs. Harris Sarmiento
Josh Thomson is looking to get back into title contention after his disappointing loss against Clay Guida, for the Strikeforce lightweight championship. Thomson was arguably one of the top ten 155 lbs fighters in the world and hell be looking to regain that status when he battles Harris Sarmiento, who also fought on the last Strikeforce card. Sarmiento has good kickboxing skills, and likes to sprawl and brawl in order to keep the fight standing, however he was unsuccessful against Gilbert Melendez takedown attempts and was stopped in the 2nd round.
Thomson has solid stand up and very good submissions, in addition to being a division 1 wrestler from Stanford. He was a huge favourite in his last fight but couldnt stop Guida from continuing to take him down, even though Thomson was a constant threat with submissions throughout the fight. In the 3rd round it appeared Thomson was on the verge of turning the tables when he locked on an airtight guillotine, but Guida somehow fought through it and eventually went onto to win a unanimous decision.
Sarmiento stepped up on short notice to challenge Melendez, but he was taken down and pinned along the cage for the majority of the fight, while Melendez dropped short elbows. Sarmiento survived the 1st round and started the 2nd with a flurry of punches that actually dropped Melendez to a knee, yet his opponent kept pressing forward and secured a takedown and ground and pounded his way to a stoppage 44 seconds into the round.
Sarmientos offense was essentially neutralized by Melendez while he was on his back, I wouldnt expect Thomson to have any difficulties taking him down either, and working for a submission or a TKO stoppage.
Clay Guida vs. Gilbert Melendez
After a huge upset win over hometown hero Josh Thomson, Clay Guida became Strikeforces lightweight champion, and hell now be making his first defense of the title against Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu student Gilbert Melendez.
Guida is a relative newcomer to the sport, as hes only been competing for 3 years. However, he makes up for his lack of experience with a Jeremy Horn like approach to fighting, competing nearly once a month. Going into his fight with Thomson he felt no one had really gone after Josh and put constant pressure on him. That strategy came to fruition as he was relentless with takedown attempts and essentially forced Thomson to fight off his back for the majority of the bout.
Melendez is whats known as a triple threat in MMA, hes well versed in wrestling, striking and grappling. Hes fought for organizations like WEC, Rumble on the Rock and the Japanese Shooto organization. It was his fights for Shooto when people started to take notice of Melendez, in particular his debut when he defeated their #1 contender Hiroyuki Takaya. In his last fight, Melendez showcased his good takedowns against Harris Sarmiento and won via ground and pound.
Guida will likely look to be the aggressor in this fight, as he was against Thomson and try to take Melendez down. However, Melendez also has a very good wrestling background but in the event he is taken down, having worked out with training partners like Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and David Terrell, hell be more then comfortable fighting from his back. Also, if Guida gives Melendez half the submission attempts that were available to Thomson in their fight, hell have a very short title reign.
Tyson Griffin vs. Duane Ludwig
Undefeated prospect Tyson Griffin will meet his greatest challenge to date when he battles UFC veteran Duane Ludwig. Griffin sports a 6-0 record and its worth noting that only 1 fight has gone past the 1st round. Ludwig will serve as an excellent opponent for Griffin to gauge where his striking skills are, as Ludwig is also K-1 veteran.
Duane Ludwig is a world class striker who came to prominence in 2003 after KOing former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver just over a minute into their fight. Ludwigs devastating striking skills were also on display in his last UFC appearance when he KOd rising Canadian star Jonathan Goulet in only 11 seconds. Surprisingly, the UFC didnt step up and make a significant offer to sign Ludwig, instead Strikeforce presented a more lucrative contract and locked up a top 170 lbs fighter.
Tyson Griffin made a name for himself after he beat Urijah Faber in only his third MMA bout, and a victory over an established fighter like Ludwig will only further validate his status as one of the sports rising stars.
If Griffin feels as though his stand up is on par with Ludwigs and engages in a toe-to-toe battle, it will likely come at the expense of his perfect record. In order for Griffin to succeed hell need to take Ludwig down and utilize his ground and pound tactics. Nevertheless, I think Ludwigs experience will be the deciding factor.
Cung Le vs. Brian Warren
World San Shou kickboxing champion and Bay area fighter Cung Le made his successful MMA debut in March, defeating Mike Altman. Le had previously defeated Altman in a San Shou match, and similarly hes also defeated his next opponent in a kickboxing match, Brian Warren.
Le describes himself as a risky fighter, someone who likes to use a lot of high kicks and he certainly exemplified that against Altman. Le came out and landed a couple of high kicks early that certainly got Altmans attention, but having already lost to Le in a striking battle it was somewhat surprising Altman didnt try to take the fight to the ground, especially since Le would have been vulnerable to a takedown while he was throwing his kicks. Nonetheless, late in the 1st round Le connected with a spinning back kick and immediately followed that up with a right hook to the chin that brought a halt to the fight.
Two years ago Warren lost a unanimous decision to Le after a five round San Shou battle, and has longed for a rematch ever since. Being a submission fighting specialist, Warren feels as though the MMA rules suit him better. Le has spent some time training with the American Kickboxing Academy to improve his ground game, and believes even if he is taken down by Warren hes too tough to submit. If Warren can get the fight to the ground, it will be interesting to see what kind of ground skills Le possesses.