While Strikeforce has often been criticized for being unable to secure matchups between their top fighters, they have done a commendable job creating a platform for several very promising up-and-comers to perform and develop. The first example in the New Year will be the 13th edition of the Strikeforce Challengers series taking place this Friday night from Nashville, Tennessee.

The main event features rising star Tyron Woodley (7-0) looking for his eight straight win over Belgium fighter Tarec Saffiedine (10-2). Woodley, a two-time All American at the University of Missouri, continues to build hype after entering Strikeforce with two first round submission victories. Since then, he’s won four more fights via submission and most recently defeated Andre Galvao via TKO. Woodley showed an improved striking attack against Galvao but it is his wrestling that he has relied on for the most part early in his career. In a very thin welterweight division, some speculated that Woodley would be catapulted to a title shot sooner rather than later. While it’s very possible a bout with current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz could be in the cards for 2011, Woodley faces a difficult test in Saffiedine. Coming off a decision victory over UFC/WEC veteran Brock Larson at Shark Fights 13, Saffiedine traveled to the U.S. to train with Team Quest mostly because no other team offered an invitation. The team has to be satisfied with Saffiedine’s success, though, has he already has two victories in Strikeforce and will look to pull the upset over Woodley. While Saffiedine was mostly a kick boxer and Muay Thai fighter, since coming to Team Quest, he has increased his wrestling prowess which will be a critical factor against the standout wrestler.

Heavyweight fighter Daniel Cormier (6-0) will no doubt be the most standout wrestler-turned-fighter of the night, however. Cormier brings a laundry list of wrestling credentials into the sport with him including being a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 and 2008. As captain of the team in 2008, Cormier was forced to withdraw from competition due to kidney failure. The Oklahoma State University alumni has transferred his skills to the sport very well earning sixth straight victories with five of those in 2010 alone. The 31-year old member of San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy likely knows he only has so many years in which to compete at a top level and he looks to continue his rise to the top against Devin Cole (18-8-1). Cole’s biggest victory was against current Strikeforce light heavyweight competitor Mike Kyle back in 2006 in the WEC. Since then, he’s seen little success competing in various independent promotions against the likes of UFC fighters Krzysztof Soszynski and Ben Rothwell and current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael Feijao. All three of those particular contests were losses, though, and Cole comes into this bout with a recent loss to Aaron Rosa at Shark Fights 13. The 34-year old Cole will likely have trouble with Cormier, who has only gone past the first round once.

Ovince St Preux (9-4) will be the hometown star competing at his second Strikeforce event in Nashville. Preux, who played defensive end and linebacker for the University of Tennessee from 2001-2004, currently fights out of Knoxville, TN. He made his Strikeforce debut on the undercard of the Strikeforce: Nashville event in April, earning an impressive TKO victory of Chris Hawk in just 47 seconds. Starting his career with a mediocre record of 3-3, Preux has won six straight and dominated veteran fighter Benji Radich just one month ago at Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu. His opponent, Abongo Humphrey (7-2), looked good in his light heavyweight debut against George Bush III at Strikeforce Challengers 7 in March but was submitted by newly motivated Mike Kyle in July. St Preux will have a distinct advantage with his athleticism and reach. Humphrey dropped down from heavyweight after suffering a second round TKO against Brett Rogers but will still find himself against a bigger opponent in St Preux.

About The Author

Josh Davis
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Josh Davis is the owner and President of The MMA Corner, LLC. He has been a fan of mixed martial arts since seeing UFC 1 in his hometown. In addition to his The MMA Corner responsibilities, Josh is the editor of Scrapp! Fight Magazine. Josh has also written for MMA Unleashed and MMA Sports magazines. Josh also manages some of Colorado's best up and coming fighters and is dedicated to the positive promotion of the sport.