The Strikeforce preliminary card finally has a broadcast home, and Zuffa is taking full advantage of that fact on Saturday by providing a card for “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” that is filled with recognizable names and hot prospects.

The five preliminary contests will be beamed directly from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati to living rooms around the nation via HDNet, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Among the scheduled bouts, fans will get the opportunity to see the Strikeforce debuts of highly-touted prospects Yoel Romero Palacio, Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Jordan Mein, plus a battle between female bantamweight contenders Amanda Nunes and Alexis Davis.

The light heavyweights will take center stage, as veteran Mike Kyle welcomes de Lima to the organization, while former champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante provides a stiff test for Olympic medalist wrestler Yoel Romero. Meanwhile, welterweight Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos will provide the first challenge under the Strikeforce banner for Mein.

Rounding out the five-fight preliminary card, local Ohio middleweight talents Dominique Steele and Chris Mierzwiak will square off.

The MMA Corner’s panel of Bryan Henderson, Brian McKenna and Rob Tatum break down all five prelim battles in this edition of The Round Table.

MW: Dominique Steele (3-1) vs. Chris Mierzwiak (3-0)

Tatum: A battle of Ohio-based middleweights will start the action, as the former heavyweight Steele takes on fellow Strikeforce debutant Mierzwiak.

Both fighters share a similar record, both as professionals and amateurs. While both have achieved success on the local circuit, they have used very different methods to secure victory.

Steele has used his heavy hands to finish 10 of his 14 opponents, including all three of his wins as a professional. Mierzwiak has taken the opposite approach, submitting 6 of his 8 foes, including two of his three professional victories.

With very little exposure for either fighter to date, a classic case of striker vs. grappler ends with Mierzwiak securing a first-round submission win.

Henderson: Little exposure is definitely a problem here. While the rest of the prelim card is rounded out with names that give it the feel of a Zuffa-influenced booking, this fight is much more along the lines of Strikeforce’s pre-Zuffa pattern of booking local talent for fights that will only be seen by a local audience. What a difference HDNet makes.

Here’s one interesting fact for everyone: Steele’s fighter entries on both Sherdog and MixedMartialArts.com list the striker at 250 pounds. If accurate, that’s a Joe Riggs style weight drop!

While these two fighters finish fights via different methods, both tend to be quick when it comes to getting the job done. What I like about Mierzwiak is that he has a wrestling background to go with his submission skills, and those submission skills have been honed under the tutelage of Jorge Gurgel. Mierzwiak should have little problem taking Steele down, he’ll just have to make sure to avoid Steele’s fists while shooting in. Once on the ground, it’ll be a cakewalk for Mierzwiak to secure a submission for the win.

McKenna: When Bryan said that Steele was listed at 250 pounds, I had to go check it out. Then I found it, in both of Dominique Steele’s previous two fights, he was listed as fighting at 250 pounds. Now, seemingly out of the blue, he is going to shed 64 pounds and fight at middleweight. I realize that a lot of these fighters have been grappling throughout their lives and are capable of losing and gaining weight because of it, but when you talk about dropping that much weight, we get into questionable territory.

Look, there are a lot of factors that go into a weight cut and a lot of fighters struggle a lot with it. Something tells me that the 23-year-old bit off a little bit more than he can chew with this and he is going to regret signing that contract for 185 pounds. I have to piggyback on my colleagues here and score the hat trick: Mierzwiak by submission.

Women’s BW: Amanda Nunes (6-1) vs. Alexis Davis (10-4)

Henderson: Nunes burst onto the Strikeforce scene with a 14-second knockout of Julia Budd at Strikeforce Challengers 13 in January. It was an impressive display for Nunes, who currently ranks third among 145-pound female fighters in the Unified Women’s MMA Rankings.

Nunes is a dominant striker who has not lost since her first professional bout. In the six fights since, she has needed 15 seconds or less to defeat two foes, took just 68 seconds on another and even forced a corner stoppage versus Vanessa Porto. In defeating Porto, she joined some distinguished company: Strikeforce champ Cristiane Santos, Carina Damm and Roxanne Modafferi.

Davis, meanwhile, has been more of a mid-tier fighter despite her current ranking as the No. 5 135-pounder in the world. A star of the Raging Wolf fight series, Davis has dropped bouts to Tara LaRosa, Elaina Maxwell, Shayna Baszler and Sarah Kaufman, while nabbing wins over Tonya Evinger (twice) and Julie Kedzie. The submission specialist will likely give up some size to Nunes, who stands two inches taller and has fought at 145 in the past.

Nunes, an AMA Fight Club product with a background in boxing and Brazlian Jiu-Jitsu, can definitely defeat Davis on the feet. Davis has a better chance on the mat, where Nunes has suffered her only pro defeat via armbar. The bad news for Davis is that MMA fights start out standing. Davis is a tough out, but Nunes can make it happen. This will be a battle though, so don’t expect the end to come until the latter stages of the fight.

McKenna: Bryan did a great job laying things out as far as this fight. One of the classic grappler versus striker matchups that was the foundation for MMA in the first place.

When anyone ever brings up a statistic that a fighter won their fight by knockout in less than 20 seconds, I always question the legitimacy behind it: Did the referee stop the fight too soon? Did the fighter just get caught? Did the fighter have no business being in

the cage in the first place? For example, look at Todd Duffee, who knocked out Tim Hague in just seven seconds. Yes, that was fantastic, but then two fights later he himself got knocked out in just 19 seconds. What I am getting at here is that Nunes has earned the legitimacy behind her quick knockouts, having achieved it multiple times.

I’m not even going to talk about grappling in this one. The fight stays standing, and Amanda “The Lioness of the Ring” Nunes walks out with another first-round knockout.

Tatum: I have to concur with both of my fellow panelists on this fight. Davis is nothing but cannon fodder for Nunes. Davis certainly has more experience and has faced tougher competition, but she hasn’t fared well in those fights. Davis will hope this fight hits the mat, where she will have a chance, but don’t expect Nunes to let that happen.

Nunes is hoping to use Davis as a stepping stone toward Miesha Tate’s Strikeforce belt and she should be successful. Another first-round knockout pads her resume as she makes her case for a title shot.

WW: Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (18-14) vs. Jordan Mein (22-7)

McKenna: One might not realize how high stakes MMA is until they start to recognize just how important winning is. Just ask Evangelista Santos, who fought not only in the main event of his last fight, but for the Strikeforce welterweight title. After losing that fight, he is scheduled next to take on Jordan Mein in the undercard portion of the night on Saturday. But not only is Santos fighting on

Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

the undercard, he could be fighting for his contract. He is only 1-2 with the promotion, and in the cut-throat world in MMA, he could be looking for a job if he doesn’t win.

Mein has had a solid MMA career to this point, winning 22 fights and finishing 19 of them. The one problem with all of this is that it all has happened in the minor leagues. His biggest victory of his career came by decision against Marius Zaromskis, who had previously been defeated by TKO by Santos. “Young Guns” is good, but we just don’t know for sure how good he is.

“Cyborg” holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and that will be the biggest factor in this fight as he is able to out-grapple the Canadian, earning the submission early in the second round.

Tatum: I’m going to disagree with Brian’s assessment of this fight. While “Cyborg” certainly has the experience advantage over the young Canadian, his lack of consistency is hard to ignore. The Brazilian has gone just 7-7 in his last 14 fights, finishing four of the fights, while getting finished in five of them.

Jordan Mein (r) gets his hand raised in victory over Marius Zaromskis (Al Quintero/Sherdog)

Mein started his career 3-4, but has now reeled off wins in 19 of 22 contests over the last four years. During that stretch he has defeated UFC veterans Joe Riggs and Josh Burkman, while dropping a bout to former UFC and current Strikeforce fighter Jason High. As Brian pointed out, he has managed to finish 19 of his opponents, with 12 coming by knockout, 7 by submission.

Even a desperate “Cyborg” won’t have enough for Mein. The Canadian will have a successful Strikeforce debut, finishing the Brazilian by TKO in the middle stanza.

Henderson: The importance of even one win cannot be stressed enough here. “Cyborg” was just 2-4 when he stepped into the Strikeforce cage for his 170-pound debut against Dream welterweight kingpin Marius Zaromskis. Just a few minutes later, he had his hand raised following a TKO finish of “The Whitemare.” That one win was enough to vault Santos into a title tilt with Nick Diaz. Santos was suddenly a contender following a 15-pound drop in weight and a single victory.

It’s easy to look at that one win in a new weight class and think of Santos as a legitimate contender being handed a rebound opponent. But that’s not the case. Mein is a solid up-and-comer who has also defeated Zaromskis and proved himself against other top-flight competition. He’s capable of getting the job done regardless of where the fight takes place, and Santos appears to be right in line with the other recognizable names Mein has defeated.

“Cyborg’s” lack of consistency will be his downfall here, as Mein out-works him in every aspect of this fight en route to a unanimous decision.

LHW: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (10-3) vs. Yoel Romero Palacio (4-0)

Henderson: Before we started writing this round table, Rob asked me if I thought Yoel had a chance in this fight. My honest answer: yes.

Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

While “Feijao” represents a huge leap in the level of competition Palacio has faced, it’s hard to discount an Olympic silver medalist wrestler who could quite possibly pull off takedowns in his sleep that most wrestlers in MMA could not manage even while fully conscious.

 

Palacio also possesses heavy hands and works on his boxing skills with brother Yoan Pablo Hernandez, the current interim WBA cruiserweight champion and IBF cruiserweight title contender. While there are glimmers of that boxing pedigree in Palacio’s style, he can be a bit unorthodox and take risks, such as flying knee strikes. That’s the biggest concern here, that Palacio is too confident and will leave himself open against a heavy-handed striker in Cavalcante.

Cavalcante is, by far, the more established mixed martial artist and is a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, but if he cannot land leather on Palacio and score a knockout, he might be in for a long night. Palacio might not be a proven commodity yet, but I truly believe that it’s only a matter of time. The Cuban will be in danger on the feet, so look for him to get this fight to the ground in a hurry. We’ll see some great takedowns and that, more than anything, will be the deciding factor as Palacio wears down “Feijao” on his way to either a decision victory or a late TKO.

Tatum: As Bryan mentioned, this is a fight that he and I were discussing prior to this round table. While Palacio’s wrestling credentials are nearly unmatched in the world of MMA, it’s the other aspects of his game that led to me to pose the question.

The Cuban’s undefeated record includes three first-round finishes, but as Bryan pointed out, Palacio is far from polished as a striker. His explosiveness and raw power have been his biggest weapons. For him to overcome the experienced Brazilian, he’s going to have to utilize his wrestling pedigree.

Yoel Romero Palacio (l) vs. Michal Fijalka (Piotr Pedziszewski Royler/MMARocks.pl)

Cavalcante is looking to bounce back from losing his Strikeforce belt in his last bout against Dan Henderson. The dangerous Muay Thai practitioner has used his heavy hands to finish nine of his 10 wins. Even in a loss, it’s hard to ignore his performance against Henderson and his performance against Muhammed Lawal; both top-notch wrestlers in their own rights.

Assuming that Palacio uses a smart game plan, I will agree with Bryan and take the Cuban by decision. But if he chooses to stand, it may be a rough night against the Brazilian.

McKenna: They say that matchups make fights, and this is going to be a great example of that. While at first glance, this fight looks like it is supposed to be a rebound fight for the former champion, when you really dig deeper you find that this fight is the equivalent of a “trap game” in the other professional leagues.

By the sounds of things, Palacio sounds really wild. But unfortunately for him, bad wild. When you fight professionally where he has fought, the quality of fighter opposing you allows you to be bad wild and still come out on top based on pure athleticism, which is the main reason why he has gotten himself to where he is today.

Whereas, you have Cavalcante, who will be looking to climb the ladder after falling from the top of it after his last loss. Back at home, “Feijao” trains at the Black House with Anderson Silva, Big Nog, Jose Aldo and Lyoto Machida. When you surround yourself by the best talent in the world, you will definitely get better and better with each and every day that passes.

Because of this, I think that Palacio will be in a world of hurt after he realizes that those wild moves he got away with before are not working on Saturday. Cavalcante by technical knockout in the second.

LHW: Mike Kyle (18-8-1) vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima (8-0)

Tatum: American Kickboxing Academy product and former UFC and KOTC veteran Mike Kyle will face his second Brazilian “Bigfoot” in a row as he welcomes light heavyweight Marcos Rogerio “Pezao” de Lima to the promotion.

Kyle’s last fight was against heavyweight Antonio Silva, a fight that Kyle took on late notice after Silva’s opponent backed out of the December affair. Kyle made things interesting for a round, dropping the big Brazilian, but ultimately succumbed to a second-round TKO. During the fight, Kyle broke his hand, an injury that forced him out of a planned contest against Gegard Mousasi in April.

De Lima is one of the most highly-touted fighters to come out of Brazil in quite some time. The undefeated fighter possesses top-notch Muay Thai skills, as well as a strong BJJ skill set under the tutelage of Marco Barbosa. Six of his eight wins have come by way of knockout and his resume includes a victory over former WEC champ Paulo Filho.

Marcos Rogerio de Lima (Marcelo Alonso/Sherdog)

This fight has the recipe for fireworks on the feet. Kyle will challenge the Brazilian with his fast hands, but it will be the kicking arsenal of “Pezao” that will make the difference in this fight. De Lima will keep his record clean with a late-round TKO.

McKenna: Rob brought up Kyle’s last fight and how bad of a situation it was for him. Taking on a fight against one of Strikeforce’s best heavyweight fighters on short notice is a task that many fighters wouldn’t be able to handle, but Kyle was up to the challenge. Sure, he lost the fight, but you have to question just how in shape and ready the American was. Not only that, Kyle is a lighter heavyweight fighter, frequently fighting at 205 pounds as he will be on Saturday. Looking at how Antonio Silva dominated the smaller Fedor Emelianenko, it’s not shocking to hear that Silva handled another lighter heavyweight. The point is that when Kyle is ready for a fight, he is at his best, which should be the case this weekend.

While not a whole lot is known about de Lima, it is clear to all that he has devastating knockout capabilities. The biggest unknown about him though, is just how good is he. Sure, he beat Paulo Filho in his last fight, but that really isn’t anything to brag about. We don’t know for sure how good he is because his competition has been inconsistent and overall not that good. This is his first spotlight fight, and it is time to see if this kid is a contender or a pretender.

Knowing that Kyle fought well in his last fight, even in defeat, is sticking with me. Because of this, I see Kyle earning his 13th career knockout sometime in the second.

Henderson: There’s no doubt that Kyle makes for a tough opponent, but it’s his limited success against high-levels foes that provides me with some doubt as he enters this fight. Sure, he’s defeated Tony Lopez and Abongo Humphrey, but you really have to go back to his 2009 bout with Rafael Cavalcante to find a truly huge win on his resume.

That’s not to say I don’t have my doubts about de Lima, as well. The win over Filho is the high spot in his career, but a win over the former WEC middleweight champ doesn’t mean as much as it once did. Beyond that win, you will not find a single opponent on de Lima’s resume sporting a record more than one fight above the .500 mark.

Kyle might not always perform well against top competition, but I’m not buying into the hype behind “Pezao.” Kyle will hand the Brazilian his first defeat, by way of a first-round knockout.

Top Photo: Mike Kyle (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)