Strikeforce returns this weekend with one of their biggest stars. The women’s bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, has burst onto the scene to not only get the belt but to become one of the most talked about fighters on the Strikeforce roster.
Rousey was the youngest judo player at the 2004 Olympics. In MMA, she has dominated her opponents, never making it out of the first round. However, in addition to her obvious skills, her beauty added media attention to her and had people thinking she could be the next Gina Carano. But unlike Carano, Rousey has been brash, assertive and few subjects appear to be taboo to her, which in turn draws even more media interest.
Rousey will be a heavy favorite when she faces off with former champion Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman garners little attention from the media, but her skills cannot be denied. She is a knockout artist who has only lost one fight in her career.
Can the former champion regain the belt? Will Rousey continue her string of first-round wins? These are just a few of questions that will be answered Saturday night.
Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman takes place Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. The preliminary card airs live on Showtime Extreme at 8 p.m. ET. Showtime’s flagship network takes the reins from there, with the live main card broadcast kicking off at 10 p.m. ET.
The MMA Corner’s panel of Corey Adams, Vince Carey and Richard Wilcoxon provide in-depth analysis and predictions for the main card, as well as a brief look at the prelim lineup, in this edition of the Round Table.
Adams: The former University of Tennessee football standout, Ovince St. Preux, returns to the Strikeforce cage after a loss to Gegard Mousasi, but this time, he is in a fight where he should be the favorite.
His opponent, T.J. Cook, has very good striking with nine knockout wins, but he was submitted in his last fight against Trevor Smith. The loss was the fourth submission defeat in his career, so he will need to be more polished on Saturday against a guy like St. Preux.
“OSP” is just too well-rounded, and I don’t see him losing two straight. St. Preux won’t let it go the distance, and will submit Cook midway through the fight.
Carey: Mr. Adams, you killed it.
Mousasi was a bit too much for OSP when they fought, but Cook is probably a notch below the level of fighter that St. Preux needs to be fighting right now. OSP has some serious wrestling chops, and it’s those skills that are going to make this fight nearly impossible for Cook to win.
If somehow Cook can find a way to keep the fight standing, he has an outside shot at winning, but I just can’t see it happening.
St. Preux gets the takedown early, passes Cook’s guard and eventually earns a fight-ending submission.
Wilcoxon: The two fighters possess similar records and are both coming off losses, but that is where the comparison ends.
Cook’s loss was to a fighter most people never heard of, whereas St. Preux lost to Mousasi, one of the top fighters in Strikeforce. Style-wise, Cook appears to be an effective striker, while St. Preux is an athlete who effectively mixes his striking and wrestling skills. In short, St. Preux is just on a different level.
Make it unanimous: St. Preux wins in dominating fashion.
Carey: After a quick submission win over UFC and Strikeforce veteran Scott Smith in his last outing, Lumumba Sayers has become one of the brighter prospects in the Strikeforce organization.Through eight career fights, Sayers has never once made it out of the first round, and he has a good shot at continuing that streak against Anthony Smith on Saturday.
While Smith is the more experienced and likely the more well-rounded fighter of the two, Sayers has two things going for him that should put him over the top in this fight: his submissions and his power.
Smith has been a tough opponent to submit, with only one of his eight losses coming by true submission, but his ability to take a shot hasn’t been quite as good.
Neither of these guys has ever made it to the judges’ scorecards in their career, and that won’t change here. Sayers uses his grappling skills to take it to the mat, and either locks in a choke or pounds out his opponent in the first.
Wilcoxon: As Vince indicated, this fight should result in fireworks. Neither fighter has seen the judges’ scorecards, and there is no reason to think they will this time out.
Both fighters have similar skill sets. Sayers actually has a boxing background, but has shown his proficiency for submissions in MMA. In addition to Smith’s eight victories via knockout, he has seven via submission, highlighting his well-rounded skills. Smith does have more experience, but he has not faced the same level of competition as Sayers. That brings up the question: is it more important to have more fights or is it more important to have faced solid competition?
I tend to believe that iron sharpens iron, so the competition you are facing is more important. With that said, Sayers wins and keeps his streak of first-round stoppages alive.
Adams: My fellow panelists have laid this fight out perfectly, and I’ll make it a clean sweep and go with Sayers.
As mentioned, neither guy has gone to a decision, so a finish here is pretty much guaranteed. Smith is certainly a game opponent, but Sayers is more talented in my eyes. It will be a close battle, with Sayers scoring a first-round TKO.
Wilcoxon: This fight is close on paper. Both fighters are tough veterans hoping to get into title contention with the new champion.
Bowling has two losses on his record, but they are both to Bobby Voelker. Bowling is a tough, gritty fighter who will want to stand and trade.
Saffiedine is a former kickboxer. However, in MMA he has shown his ability on the ground, winning five fights via submission.
Saffiedine should be the more technical striker, but Bowling has more power in his hands. Defensively, Saffiedine is much better and possesses the better chin. Saffiedine should also have the advantage on the ground. With more weapons, Saffiedine wins by decision.
Adams: Having recently spoken with Bowling, he said that he is looking to become an all-around balanced fighter and is trying to break out of his normal strategy of going knockout or bust. With two straight wins under his belt, the Ohio native feels that he is very close to earning a title shot, but he will have the toughest fight of his career on Saturday.
Bowling will be able to land some shots on Saffiedine, but the “Sponge” has never been finished. Saffiedine is a guy that has proven himself a bit more inside Strikeforce and should be considered the first challenger for Nate Marquardt with a win.
In the end, Saffiedine will get the title shot with a decision win. I think this fight will stay standing for a while, but after heavy pressure from Bowling, Saffiedine will take control of the fight in the later stages.
Carey: This should be a really fun fight.
As Corey said, this is the toughest fight of Bowling’s career to this point, but unlike my fellow writers, I think he has the skills to pull off the upset here.
While his stand-up isn’t quite as crisp as Saffiedine’s, he has the power to put his opponent away, and I have a feeling in my gut that says Bowling is due to get the win here
It won’t come easy, and Saffiedine will probably get the better of the majority of the exchanges, but eventually Bowling is going to land a big shot or two and his killer instinct is going to earn him the stoppage win.
Carey: I’m just going to come out and say it: unless Derek Brunson can get his hands on Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza early and often, his chances at winning this fight are near zero.
Souza is well known for his incredible jiu-jitsu skills, but over the last few fights his striking has looked much better than it has in the past. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion held his own quite well on the feet against Luke Rockhold in the close decision loss that ended up costing him his belt, and if he wins on Saturday, he’ll end up on the fast track towards another shot at the title.
While Brunson is actually a pretty solid fighter, I just don’t see him having much success against Souza. Brunson’s loss to Kendall Grove back in June marked the first of his career, and this is an extremely hard opponent to try to get back on track against.
Expect Souza to survive the initial rush that Brunson is going to have to bring in order to be successful. Once he does, it’s just a matter of time before Jacare walks away with the submission win.
Adams: I wouldn’t say Brunson has a “zero” percent chance of winning this fight, but Vince is right in saying that this should belong to Souza.
If anyone has the mentality to defeat the former champion, though, it’s Brunson. The Jackson-trained fighter is very athletic with good boxing, but will be at a high disadvantage if the fight hits the mat.
Credit Brunson for stepping up and taking this difficult fight, but Jacare is hungry to get another shot at Rockhold for the middleweight title he once held. I’ll take the Brazilian, as well, by submission.
Wilcoxon: I think you guys are seriously underestimating Brunson. I am not saying he is the favorite in this fight, but it is a lot closer than my fellow panelists seem to be indicating.
The loss to Grove can’t really be held against Brunson. He took the fight on less than a week’s notice, put on a great showing early, and lost a close split decision that some people felt he won.
We all know the talent Jacare brings to the table. He is one of the best BJJ practitioners in the world. As my colleagues stated, his striking is improving, but his ground game is what has opponents worried.
Brunson actually matches up very well with Jacare. As a three-time Division II All-American wrestler, he should be able to keep the fight standing, where he possess solid boxing and more striking power than Jacare.
While Jacare is still the favorite to win this fight because of the competition he has faced and his terrifying submission game, if Brunson fights smart he could win. I am going to go with the upset. Brunson wins by a late knockout or unanimous decision.
Adams: You see her in magazines, the internet, and on television, so it’s no spoiler that fans are excited to see women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey return to the cage.
Miesha Tate was a very successful champion and a slight favorite to defend her belt against Rousey, but “Rowdy” burst onto the scene by submitting the champion in the opening round by armbar, the fifth of her career.
Her first title defense won’t be an easy task, as she takes on Sarah Kaufman, who has back-to-back wins over Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis. The Canadian isn’t known as a grappler, which will hurt her in this fight, but she has many knockout wins on her record. If anyone can test Rousey inside the cage, it’s Kaufman.
But it’s so hard to go against the champion in this title bout. Rousey has really revamped her training routine and appears to be destined to be the title holder for a very long time. I’ll say Rousey gets the win in the second round, instead of early on, by pressing Kaufman against the cage, using her judo background, and finding a way to lock up a submission hold.
Wilcoxon: Five fights, five first-round finishes, five armbars may make some feel like the champion is a one-trick pony. However, that assumption would be wrong. Rousey is a former Olympic judo competitor who has proven to be one of the physically stronger women fighters.
Kaufman isn’t a slouch either. The former Strikeforce champion is a warrior. She is a striker with knockout power.
However, at the end of the day, Kaufman has a puncher’s chance, but not much more in this contest. She has struggled on the ground in the past. Rousey will use her strength advantage in the clinch to get this fight to the ground, where she will eventually win by submission. The bigger question in my mind is, will Rousey continue her streak of first-round stoppages? I think she can. Rousey wins by first-round armbar.
Carey: Other than “Cyborg” Santos, I don’t think there’s a woman alive that could hang with Rousey for more than a few minutes.
Rousey isn’t just a high-level judo expert, she’s become a high-level athlete, and her finishing instincts make her quite possibly the most dangerous woman in all of MMA.
Kaufman is a great fighter, and against 99 percent of the other women in the world, I think she has an advantage. But her disadvantage in the grappling department is going to kill her in this one.
Unless Kaufman can catch Rousey with a big punch or kick in the opening seconds of the fight, she will likely end up on her back, and once that happens it’s game over.
Rousey will rush in, get the takedown, grab an arm, and force the tap.
Wilcoxon: Honestly, I am a little surprised this fight was approved by the athletic commission. Hiroko Yamanaka is one of the top Japanese imports. Before getting dominated last time out by Cyborg (a fight later changed to a no-contest), she was on an eight-fight winning streak. Germaine de Randamie is barely at the .500 mark. She has a puncher’s chance, but not much more. Yamanaka takes a unanimous decision.
Carey: Like Richard, I’m pretty surprised that this fight was even approved. This is a serious mismatch and I don’t see it lasting long, as Yamanaka is going to win this one pretty quickly. Whether it’s by TKO or submission, this one ends in the first round, because if the latest Invicta card taught us anything, it’s that the girls know how to finish fights.
Adams: Yamanaka by dominant decision. Not much more needs to be said in this one. This is Yamanaka’s fight to lose.
Adams: Expect this middleweight fight to be a stand-up battle, with both men desperately needing wins. Keith Berry is called the “KO Kid,” but hasn’t scored a knockout since 2010. Adlan Amagov is the better fighter in my eyes and will win by TKO.
Carey: I don’t know why Strikeforce seems to love making mismatches, but here’s another one. Amagov should have the advantage, but if either man lands a hard shot it could mean the end of the fight.
Wilcoxon: This fight will end in a knockout. But like Vince, I see no reason for this fight to be made. Amagov lost his last fight—the first defeat since his debut—to Robbie Lawler, while Berry has lost four out of his last five and is just 5-7 since 2008. These guys are just at different places. Amagov wins easily.
Carey: This has the potential to be one hell of a fight. Bobby Green is a solid veteran, and most of his losses have come against moderately tough competition, such as “JZ” Cavalcante and Tim Means, but he’s going to have a hard time holding off a tough prospect in Matt Ricehouse. This fight is going to go all over the place, but I think Ricehouse has a chance to pull off a small upset here. Ricehouse by decision.
Wilcoxon: I am going the other way in this one. Green, who has faced far better competition and has much more experience, is a big step up for Ricehouse. Green scores a late-round submission.
Adams: This is such a difficult fight to call. In the end, I’ll go with Green because he is more experienced, is more of a finisher, and only lost to Cavalcante by split decision. Green hands Ricehouse his first loss with a second-round finish.
Wilcoxon: Julie Kedzie is tough as nails, but Miesha Tate is just on another level. Of Kedzie’s 10 losses, six come via submission, while Tate has secured five submission victories. I think both fighters add to those totals. Tate wins by second-round submission.
Adams: When Kedzie vs. Tate is an undercard fight, something isn’t right. Richard broke down this fight very well, and Tate by submission is my pick, too. I can’t see Tate losing two straight, as she is looking to get back to a rematch with Rousey.
Carey: I have to agree with my fellow panelists and pick Tate by submission. As Corey said, this shouldn’t be an undercard fight. Tate wants a rematch against Rousey extremely bad, and with the publicity those two got prior to their first bout, Strikeforce is going to want to make that fight as soon as possible.
Top Photo: Ronda Rousey (L) locks in an armbar (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)