Strikeforce’s Challengers series has always served as a proving ground for its up-and-coming prospects.

When the series heads to Kent, Wash., and the ShoWare Center, it will be the turn of James Terry, Caros Fodor, Ryan Couture, Matt Ricehouse, Lorenz Larkin, Gian Villante, Jason High, Quinn Mulhern, Julia Budd and Germaine de Randamie to make their marks within the promotion.  They’ll do it in front of a live television audience on Showtime, beginning at 11 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Round Table panel of Josh Davis, Bryan Henderson and Richard Wilcoxon gathered to make their predictions for the event’s five-fight main card.

WW: Jason High (13-3) vs. Quinn Mulhern (15-1)

Wilcoxon: Both of these fighters have been around the sport for awhile now, although High has been on the bigger cards.  The UFC, Affliction and Dream veteran has a background in collegiate wrestling.  Once on the mat, High looks for submissions.  High’s striking may not be the best part of his game, but it is solid, making him a well-rounded fighter.

Mulhern has spent the majority of his career in the King of the Cage organization.  He is a Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu specialist.  On the ground, he is constantly attacking, which is shown by ten of his 15 victories having come via submission.  Mulhern has worked hard on his striking and it is improving greatly.  The biggest weakness of his game is his wrestling.

This match-up poses real problems for both fighters.  High typically likes to get a fight to the ground, but that is where he will be in the most danger in this one.  Mulhern wants to be on the ground, but probably doesn’t have the wrestling to get it there.

This fight will go one of two ways.  Either it will hit the mat, where it will be constant action and a real chess match or it will stay standing, where both men will try to show a part of their game where they may not be the most comfortable.  Mulhern has a six-inch height advantage.  Standing, I think this will be huge and he will continue to land the jab.  On the ground, High has a chance to smother Mulhern, but I think Mulhern’s attacking BJJ will eventually catch him.  High can pick his poison, but I think Mulhern wins this one.

Davis: This is going to be a very exciting fight between two fighters that want to prove to the world that they belong on the big stage.  Both fighters are very talented and will look to finish their opponent as quickly as possible.

Both fighters match up against each other very well.  They both have solid striking and solid ground games.  The key to victory for this fight though is going to be the person who can get the best of the striking battles.  From there they can determine where the fight is going to take place.

Don’t blink because this fight is going to be exciting, but when fight is over it will be Mulhern getting the victory.  Mulhern wins this in the second round by rear-naked choke.

Henderson: I’ve been waiting for Mulhern to get this opportunity.  At 15-1, he’s ready to move from King of the Cage mainstay on to the bigger shows.  Mulhern bounced back from his lone career loss, which came at the hands of UFC veteran Michael Guymon, with a win over another UFC vet in Rich Clementi.  Since then, he hasn’t looked back, claiming six more wins and the KOTC welterweight crown.

High’s record hasn’t been too shabby either, with wins over Hayato Sakurai and Andre Galvao.  While the two fighters have the same amount of fights, High has faced a higher level of competition.

While experience would have me leaning towards High, I cannot get over the height advantage for Mulhern that Richard mentioned.  Plus, there’s something in my gut telling me that Mulhern hasn’t just been the creation of favorable match-ups.

Mulhern’s recent weapon of choice has been the rear-naked choke, so I’ll echo Josh’s sentiment on how this one ends.  High will get frustrated with Mulhern towering over him, and decide instead to utilize his wrestling to bring the fight to the mat.  It’ll be a mistake though, as Mulhern will eventually gain superior positioning before taking High’s back for the submission finish.

Female 145 lb: Julia Budd (1-1) vs. Germaine de Randamie (2-1)

Henderson: Budd looked impressive in her pro debut against Shana Olsen at Strikeforce Challengers 11, but then had a horrible sophomore outing when she ran into Amanda Nunes and a 14-second KO.  She’s a striker with a 7-1 record as a Muay Thai kickboxer, but such a big knockout loss makes even her striking a question mark.

De Randamie’s Strikeforce debut in January ended in an impressive knockout of Stephanie Webber.  “The Iron Lady’s” only loss has come to Vanessa Porto, a top fighter whose losses have come against elite competition.  It shows that de Randamie needs work on her submission defense, but her 49-0 kickboxing record shows that she’s a proven striker.

This is an extremely interesting fight.  De Randamie holds a victory over Budd in Muay Thai competition, and should this battle stay on the feet, I’d expect a repeat of that outcome.  However, this is MMA, which means grappling and wrestling could come into play.  If one of these ladies has managed to put in significant time learning the intricacies of takedowns, takedown defense and the submission game, that person could hold a big edge in this matchup.

Without either fighter having proven efficient on the mat, I have to stick with past results and predict a TKO win for de Randamie.

Davis: This is a very intriguing matchup between females that are looking to make waves in their respective division. A loss for either fighter here will certainly slow down their career and a win will put either fighter on the path up the mountain.

As Mr. Henderson stated above, these two battled before in a Muay Thai bout with De Randamie earning the victory.  However, many things have changed since then and this is a mixed martial arts fight.  I think that Budd finds a way to win.  Budd wins a decision.

Wilcoxon: It looks like I get to be the tiebreaker on this one.  Both fighters seem to possess a similar skill set, both are very proficient at striking, and neither has shown me a lot on the ground.  With that said, since neither have really demonstrated submission or wrestling skills, I have to weigh their striking.  With de Randamie having more experience, a more impressive striking record, and a victory over Budd in a striking sport, I will have to go with her winning again. De Randamie wins by TKO.

LHW: Lorenz Larkin (10-0) vs. Gian Villante (7-2)

Davis: This is going to be an exciting bout between two fighters with excellent punching power.  Eight of Larkin’s 10 wins and five of Villante’s seven have come via knockout or TKO.  In addition to being heavy-handed strikers, both of these fighters are well-schooled in grappling and submissions.

Villante is coming off of a loss to Chad Griggs in his Strikeforce debut and can not afford to lose his second straight fight.  Just 1-2 in his last three fights, Villante will need to attempt to use his superior wrestling to secure takedowns in an attempt to control the fight on the ground if he does not want to drop to 1-3 in his last four fights.

Larkin on the other hand is on a 10-fight win streak and has yet to taste defeat.  Six of his 10 victories have come in the first round and he will need to use that aggressive style to keep Villante backpeddling.  If Larkin is able to keep Villante backing up and keep the pressure on him, this could be his seventh first-round finish.

This fight could be the Fight of the Night.  These two guys will certainly come to throw down and at the end of the night, it will be Larkin earning his eleventh straight victory.

Wilcoxon: Villante is a guy I have seen compete several times here on the East Coast.  He is a big, athletic fighter.  He competed in both football and wrestling throughout high school before doing the same at Hofstra.  Before injuries slowed him down, it was widely believed Villante would be a linebacker in the NFL.

Larkin impressed me in his last fight when he stopped former K-1 fighter Scott Lighty in the second round.  Larkin is heavy-handed and possess one-punch KO power.

Villante will enter the fight as the bigger man and he may be the more athletic guy, but he will need to be smart in this fight.  He may have too much faith in his hands and has been drawn into wild brawls where he has been caught in both of his losses.  If this stays standing, Larkin will eventually put Villante out.  If it goes to the mat, Villante will win.  Until Villante demonstrates to me he is willing to put together a smart game plan that plays to his strengths, I can’t pick him to win.  Larkin wins this by TKO.

Henderson: With a record of 10-0 with eight KO/TKO victories, and Kung Fu cited as his primary style, it’s hard not to like watching Larkin fight.  He lives up to his nickname of “The Monsoon” and his defeated both a noted striker in Scott Lighty and a high-level submission specialist in Joao Assis.

Here, Larkin has drawn another opponent who prefers to stand and trade.  That’s good news for the undefeated prospect.

Richard is right on target with his insight into Villante’s game-planning.  The Ring of Combat veteran will throw his wrestling skills and athletic abilities out the window if his opponent can force him into a brawl.  In the case of Griggs, Villante met up with a scrappy brawler who has a knack for finding his opponent’s weak spots and capitalizing on them.  In the case of Larkin, Villante is likely to run into someone whose power is enough to do the trick.

Unless Villante comes in with a plan to use his wrestling and play it safe, he’s going to end up on the bad side of a beating.  Larkin takes this one via knockout late in the first round.

LW: Ryan Couture (2-0) vs. Matt Ricehouse (4-0)

Wilcoxon: This is a match-up of two up-and-coming talents in the lightweight division.  On one hand, you have the closest thing we have to a MMA legacy.  Ryan is the son of UFC Hall of Famer and multiple-time champion Randy Couture.  Ryan grew up as a wrestler in high school, but then he ceased his athletic career for over five years before returning to train with his father at Xtreme Couture.  Ryan is 5-1-1 as amateur.  He definitely prefers the ground, as both professional fights and four of his amateur bouts ended via submission.

Ricehouse is no slouch either.  He is a well-rounded fighter that has a background in wrestling and BJJ, where he holds a purple belt.  He also was a Golden Gloves Novice champion.  As an amateur in MMA, he went 7-1 with six stoppages.

Ryan Couture (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

This fight is really even.  Both guys have solid ground skills.  While Couture trains with the better team, Ricehouse has the better striking.  The game plan is what should set these two apart.  Ryan will need to steal a page from his father’s book and look to clinch and dirty box.  While I would not be completely surprised if Ricehouse wins, I think Ryan will follow the blueprint that made his father a legend to get a decision victory.

Henderson: Couture does have a recognizable name and has been showcased by Strikeforce already, but his opponent here represents a step up in competition and is more indicative of how I expect Zuffa to influence Strikeforce’s bookings.  We’re not going to see Ryan get easy opponents, and that means we’ll get to see what he’s really made of.

This is also a big test for Ricehouse.  He is undefeated at 4-0, but has also fought some less than stellar competition.  In his biggest test so far, he came out on top after three rounds in the Strikeforce cage against Tom Aaron.

I’m in agreement with Richard that this fight is pretty even.  Anytime you get two young prospects together in the cage, anything can happen.  They both might have looked good in previous fights, but against each other we might see a huge disparity in skills.  I’m going to say Ryan’s submissions and his time with an elite camp give him the edge here, as he’ll lock on a submission to coax Ricehouse into tapping in the third round.

Davis: I don’t know that there is anybody with a bigger name and higher expectations in the Challenger’s Series than Ryan Couture.  With that being said, he has only shown mixed results in his young professional career. At times, he has shown flashes of greatness, while other times he has certainly made the mistakes of a rookie.  There is no doubt that Ricehouse will be his toughest competition yet and he will be able to capitalize on any rookie mistake that Couture might make.

Ricehouse is also a very hot prospect that wants to knock off the young Couture and take away all of his hype.  Ricehouse is a very well-rounded fighter with good striking and solid wrestling as well as holding a purple belt in BJJ. He has all the tools necessary to defeat Couture.

This is a very even match-up and, in my opinion, the winner of this fight will be the one that can impose his will and implement his game plan.  This is going to be a tough task for both fighters, but when the fight is over, it will be Couture who has his hand raised.  Couture wins this fight in the second round by TKO.

LW: James Terry (10-2) vs. Caros Fodor (8-2)

Davis: This is a fight between two very explosive lightweights that you won’t want to miss.  Terry, a former welterweight, wants to let the lightweight division know that he is there to stay by defeating one of its brightest prospects in Fodor.  Terry is on a three-fight win streak and hopes to make Fodor his fourth straight victim as he rises through the ranks of the division.

He will have his hands full though when he faces Fodor, who after dropping his first two professional fights, won 10 out of his last 11 and is currently riding a three-fight win streak of his own. If Fodor is going to get his fourth straight victory, he is going to have to use his Muay Thai to win the striking battle and get the fight to the ground so he can work a submission.

This is a fight that is very interesting on paper, but in the end I see Terry winning by second-round TKO.

Henderson: Both of these up-and-comers have shown promise and already train with excellent camps.

Terry’s striking should be superior to that of Fodor, while Caros should hold a distinct advantage on the mat.  That means that whoever drags the other fighter into their world will likely come out victorious.

Caros Fodor (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

I just haven’t seen enough from Fodor to convince me that he can bring Terry into his world.  The Cung Le protege should be able to keep Fodor at arm’s length throughout this contest, while slowly picking apart the AMC Pankration product on the feet.

I see Terry dictating the pace and keeping this fight in his comfort zone.  As he chips away at Fodor, he’ll be able to start landing cleaner blows until he finally connects with something that rocks “The Future” for a third-round TKO win.

Wilcoxon: This is a classic grappler versus striker fight.  As always with these types of fights, it comes down to who can impose their will on the other.

Fodor is the grappler of the two.  The former Marine has ended six of his fights via submission.  That leaves Terry to be the striker.  Terry is an instructor and trainer at Cung Le’s gym.

Fodor has already beat one of Le’s proteges a year ago, so he knows what he is in for in this fight.  Terry is a striker with more decisions than KO’s on his record.  The one thing I hate to see is a striker without KO power because it limits the ways they can win.  While those factors make me want to pick Fodor, it is hard to pick a submission specialist who will be the smaller man especially if they do not have a strong wrestling background.  Fodor doesn’t.  I think this fight goes the distance with Terry coming out on top.

Top Photo: James Terry (Strikeforce)