Nate Marquardt (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)The MMA Corner Round Table: Strikeforce: ‘Marquardt vs. Saffiedine’ Richard Wilcoxon January 9, 2013 Events, Previews Well, it is finally here. The end of the secondest biggest MMA promotion is coming on Saturday night. While it was hoped that the promotion would go out with a roar, it didn’t quite make it. However, the card does feature some of the biggest stars in the sport today, and the first UFC fighter will finally fight under the Strikeforce banner. The final card in Strikeforce history will be headlined by the first title defense of Nate Marquardt. Marquardt is the longtime UFC veteran and was a highly-ranked middleweight. In his first fight at welterweight, he won the Strikeforce title. Marquardt will be looking for a win here to put him in contention for the UFC title. Meanwhile, Tarec Saffiedine will be looking to play spoiler. Saffiedine is not a household name, but a big win over Marquardt will go a long way to putting him on the map. One of the more talked-about fights on the card is Ed Herman squaring off with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. After months and months of talking and one false start, finally a UFC fighter is making his way over to Strikeforce. Herman is a former TUF runner-up and longtime UFC veteran. On the other side of the cage will be one of Strikeforce’s top middleweights in Souza. This will be a good test to see where the top of the Strikeforce division fits into the UFC. The remainder of the card is littered with top names and ranked fighters. Strikeforce heavyweight tournament winner Daniel Cormier returns to action for the first time since winning his crown. Gegard Mousasi returns to action looking to stretch his unbeaten streak to six against power-puncher Mike Kyle before heading to the UFC. Also fighting on this card are longtime top-rated heavyweight Josh Barnett and, on the undercard, fighters like Pat Healy (who was formerly scheduled for a title shot), Tim Kennedy and Roger Gracie. Strikeforce: Marquardt vs Saffiedine takes place on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City and airs live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET with the preliminary card airing on Showtime Extreme at 8 p.m. ET. The MMA Corner’s panel of David Massey, Brian McKenna and Richard Wilcoxon breaks down the entire card in this edition of the Round Table. MW: Ed Herman (20-8) vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (16-3) Massey: This is an intriguing match-up of an arguably top-20 UFC middleweight fighter in Ed Herman brought into the shallow pool of Strikeforce to give Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza a decent test before his inevitable move to the UFC. Herman (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) Herman was gaining attention for himself with a decent run up the middleweight division before Jake Shields got a hold of him. He gets a reprieve from falling too far backwards though, because it turned out that Shields was fighting with banned substances in his system. Jacare, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has gone 6-1 in the promotion against some of the best the promotion had to offer. He’s going to have to pay his dues in the UFC, but his hype is warranted, and this fight should prove that to the uninitiated audiences. Herman is a well-rounded fighter, but I wouldn’t say he is elite in any one area. He’s shown prowess with his hands and submissions, but is just as prone to falling when confronted with opponents that share the same strengths. Where he can’t outdo an opponent in any one area, he has come forward and out-muscled them to achieve his goal. Herman is dangerous from the clinch with uppercuts and knees, and that is where his aggression is best used. When it goes to the ground, he can also be a threat off of his back. Jacare is an understated striker and mostly attacks with counters. He has a stinging jab that can drop opponents and has shown growth in that area by recently knocking out Derek Brunson. When it goes to the ground, it is Souza’s domain, though Luke Rockhold proved to be adept at shrugging off those attempts and keeping it standing in their fight. For this match, I don’t see that as being a problem for Jacare. Herman will be the aggressor and will likely look to clinch with Souza on the feet. If it goes to the ground, we should see Souza able to control Herman, who will offer a decent offense of his own. It will be hard fought, but Souza’s superior ground skills will outmatch Herman, much like Shields was able to do with him, on the way to a decision win. McKenna: For all intents and purposes, a lot of fighters at this event are unofficially making their UFC debut on Saturday. This particular fight especially has that kind of a feel to it with UFC veteran Herman stepping into the hexagonal cage against Jacare, who recently signed a new contract which will lead him into the UFC. This fight has a very interesting aspect to it. Both of these fighters appear to struggle against top competition, but blow lower-ranked fighters out of the water. For example, Herman has losses against Alan Belcher and Demian Maia, but ran through David Loiseau and Joe Doerksen. Meanwhile, Jacare lost to Gegard Mousasi and Luke Rockhold, but stormed through Bristol Marunde and Joey Villasenor. “Jacare” (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog) So what happens when two fighters who struggle against solid opponents fight? It makes for a fun bout. However, I am going to go with the Brazilian in this fight. The biggest thing that sticks out to me is the consistency that has come with Jacare’s career versus the up-and-down career that Herman has had. I’m going to agree with David and predict a decision win for Souza. Wilcoxon: Make it unanimous for all the reasons my colleagues said, plus some. Souza is a five-time BJJ world champion, and those are just a few of his accolades from the BJJ world. Simply put, he is one of the best that sport has to offer. Because his skill is so high on the ground, most of his opponents will try to keep it standing. However, Jacare has been rapidly improving in his stand-up game as well. Herman’s strength lies in the ground game. It is not that he is a bad striker, but his biggest strengths are his wrestling and submission skills. But no matter how good Herman is on the ground, he can’t compete with Souza there. He might hold a slight edge in striking, but I have no faith he can capitalize on it. Herman’s last fight against Shields should have been a fairly easy victory for him. Shields’ striking is far worse than that of Jacare and Herman has the superior wrestling. Herman should have kept the fight at a distance and picked apart Shields. However, time and time again, he failed to implement this obvious game plan. Instead, Herman continually closed the distance, where Shields could clinch and eventually drag Herman down and dominate the fight. I don’t believe Herman can create and effectively execute a game plan that can counter Souza’s skill. Jacare takes this by late submission or decision. LHW: Mike Kyle (19-8-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2) McKenna: Gegard Mousasi will make his return to the cage at this final Strikeforce event. The former light heavyweight champion has been on the shelf since 2011, and a torn ACL delayed his return to action. Prior to the injury, he was supposed to take on Mike Kyle in March. However, the stars haven’t aligned for this fight until now. Gegard Mousasi (Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle) Mousasi has done a great job finishing his opponents throughout his career, but really gets a lot of his work done through his kickboxing. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as a lot of fighters that hail from the Netherlands are stellar kickboxers. And in this particular match-up, the Dutch fighter is facing someone who has had a fairly suspect chin. Sure, Kyle’s last lost was overturned due to Rafael Cavalcante’s positive steroid test, but you can’t unsee getting knocked out like that. I understand that Kyle has a lot of knockout power of his own, but I don’t see him getting the better of Mousasi while standing. If the fight happens to go to the ground, the Dutchman has the advantage, which tells me that he is going to win this fight no matter where it goes. I’m going to take Mousasi by second-round submission. Wilcoxon: Kyle is a tough fighter to figure out. He is a big, strong guy with KO power and some submission skills. He has found success at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, but has never gotten over the hump to become a star or a ranked fighter. I have picked Kyle to win in the past, and have both won and suffered heartbreak in doing so. Mousasi is a much surer bet. He is one of the best technical strikers in the division. While he hasn’t always shown the power you would want to see, he has overwhelmed many opponents, leaving them stunned to the point of the referee having to jump in or to where he was able to lock on a submission before they recovered. I want Mousasi to win. The MMA world is a much more exciting place with Mousasi coming to the UFC with a six-fight unbeaten streak. Mousasi wins this with a first-round TKO. Mike Kyle (Dave Mandel/Sherdog) Massey: I remember the first time I ever saw Mousasi fight. It was his knockout of Renato “Babalu” Sobral at Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg. He came to the cage with a calm, stoic look and viciously used ground-and-pound to give Sobral a nasty KO that left him out with his eyes open. Then he walked away from his downed opponent with the same calm demeanor. I always wondered how well Mousasi could do against the competition in the UFC, and we might finally be on our way to answering that question. Kyle is a true fighter that will accept any challenge and has stepped up to do so at light heavyweight and heavyweight, but has yet to earn a signature win against a name opponent. The edges that I would like to give Kyle are the same ones that have me leaning back to Mousasi due to his past efforts against good competition. Kyle has heavy hands, but Mousasi has been able to beat heavy-handed strikers like Mark Hunt and Melvin Manhoef in the past by taking them down to the mat and submitting them. Wrestling has been a weak point for Mousasi in the past, but his most recent win over the larger Ovince St. Preux showed that Mousasi can do the work in the cage to handle that sort of attack. I’m not trying to look past Kyle, who deserves credit for his past work, but Mousasi has too great of a resume and consistency against better guys. Brian and Richard called it by different means, but I have to agree that a finish from Mousasi is to be expected. HW: Josh Barnett (31-6) vs. Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1) Wilcoxon: This is a fight of a known commodity against a newcomer. Due to the movement of the Strikeforce heavyweights to the UFC, there were not many options in the promotion for Josh Barnett to face, so Strikeforce reached outside the organization. Barnett celebrates victory (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting) As luck would have it, Nandor Guelmino’s first fight for Strikeforce will happen in the promotion’s last event. This means a victory will likely result in Guelmino getting a fight in the UFC. For a longtime veteran, that is a dream come true. Guelmino is on a nice run, having won his last seven fights and nine of his last 10. He has ended seven of his last 10 victories. Everybody knows what you get with Barnett. He has been ranked in the top 10 for most of the last decade and is one of the best catch wrestlers in MMA. He has utilized that wrestling and his submission skills to force 19 opponents to tap. Barnett has worked on his striking throughout his career. Although it is still not at an elite level, it is definitely not an area that is easy to exploit. As good as Barnett has been, UFC President Dana White has said he still isn’t sure he will bring Barnett over to the UFC. The poor relationship and lack of certainty could impact Barnett mentally, but I doubt it. Age (Guelmino is now 37), size (the Austrian fighter only weighs around 230) and competition faced all favor Barnett. Barnett has struggled with truly elite fighters in his career, but has feasted on opponents like Guelmino. I just don’t see much hope for Guelmino in this one. Barnett forces him to tap in the second. Massey: Richard pretty much summed up what Barnett will be looking to do. He’ll give his speeches of death and crushing of skulls and then, come fight time, will be looking to take his opponent to the mat where he will use his catch wrestling and submission skills to secure the win. Guelmino (Tim Leidecker/Sherdog) I don’t have the greatest knowledge of Guelmino’s career, but looking at it on paper, it is hard not to go with Barnett. Sure, Guelmino has shown his prowess with submissions, but we’re talking about him putting those submission skills up against an opponent that has been in the game since the ‘90s and has only lost to the best. I’m envisioning this fight going for Barnett in much the same way as his grand-prix semifinal bout with Kharitonov did. He’ll drag his opponent to the ground and find a submission win. McKenna: Simply put, I don’t see how Guelmino will emerge victorious in this fight. Say what you want about Barnett and his history, and how he has tested positive for steroids a handful of times and has a bad relationship with Dana White. The thing that really needs to be known with Barnett is that despite all of that bad press, the guy is still here, and he is still at the top of his game. If it wasn’t for a broken hand from the first round of his fight with Daniel Cormier, we very well could have had a different winner of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. I have the feeling that “The Baby-Faced Assassin” wants to wash the stench from that fight off and try to impress White and everyone at Zuffa enough to give him another go in the Octagon. Second-round rear-naked choke for Barnett. HW: Daniel Cormier (10-0) vs. Dion Staring (28-7) McKenna: What could have been. After Daniel Cormier won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, his next scheduled fight was supposed to be against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. It would have been the first time under the Zuffa era that a UFC fighter would cross over to Strikeforce. It was a great match-up between a strong wrestler and a jiu-jitsu ace, which is always fun to watch. Unfortunately, in the year of the injury in MMA, Mir had to withdraw from the fight, which has lead up to a somewhat anticlimactic match-up with Dion Staring at this event. Cormier (Sherdog) But believe it or not, this match-up has the makings of a great fight. A lot of Dutch fighters come from a kickboxing background, which helps provide a lot of knockouts in their fights, and Staring is no different. He spent a lot of time at Golden Glory with heavyweight standout Alistair Overeem, and he continues that training alongside Overeem in Florida with the Blackzilians. While it appears that his knockout ability could make him a one-trick pony, he appears pretty sound while on the mat, having submitted eight of his opponents. At the end of the day, though, I don’t see how Staring can win this fight. Sure, if Cormier stood with him, “The Soldier” could very well pick him apart. However, Cormier won’t stand with him. He is going to use his wrestling and get this fight to the ground, and fast. From there, I don’t see this fight going very long, as the AKA product will ground-and-pound out a first-round TKO. Massey: Let’s not forget that Cormier is just as much of a great boxer as he is a great wrestler. The combination of top-level American wrestling with heavy hands is still one of the greatest builds for success in MMA. Staring might have a kickboxing background that could pose a few threats to Cormier, but D.C. will be able to adapt. Staring (Sherdog) Cormier fights standing with his chin low and his hands up, ready to counter with hooks and uppercuts or shoot for a takedown. The best hope that Staring has on the feet will be delivering kicks to the head of his opponent from the outside. The problem for Staring is that Cormier can easily catch those kicks and in turn run the pipe for a takedown if Staring is getting the better of him standing. The size difference between the two won’t benefit Staring with much of a reach advantage either. As Cormier showed against Barnett (in what was truly a special moment in the history of Strikeforce, where Cormier picked up Barnett and slammed him down) he has the ability to hold top position while staying away from the dangers of his opponent’s guard. Cormier’s wrestling will simply be too much for Staring, and he will use it to get a ground-and-pound win, as Brian suggested. Wilcoxon: I don’t want to discount what Staring brings to the cage, but this is going to be an uphill battle for him, to say the least. In addition to Cormier’s boxing and wrestling, which my colleagues have talked about, he has faced off with former UFC title contender Jeff Monson and current top-10 heavyweights Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett over his last three fights. On the other hand, Staring fought fighters with records of 2-0, 24-17 and 2-13 over his last three fights. Obviously, there is a huge disparity in the recent quality of opponents. Cormier wins this fight by utilizing a dominant top game that leads to a second-round submission. WW Championship: Nate Marquardt (32-10-2) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (13-3) Massey: In the world of Strikeforce, this fight makes sense, yet Tarec Saffiedine isn’t a name that I’d associate with being a threat to an established veteran like Nate Marquardt. Granted, Saffiedine is a force in the Strikeforce welterweight division, but unless he can prove to be the better wrestler, I don’t think he’ll have much more than a slim chance at victory. Saffiedine (Dave Mandel/Sherdog) Saffiedine is a fighter with an extensive background in martial arts. He’s trained karate, Muay Thai, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling from an early age, which has granted him a strong striking base, and he has honed those skills with Team Quest. When Saffiedine is in his rhythm, we see him switching stances and circling away from opponents while unleashing kicks and punches from different angles and levels. “Sponge” is always dangerous in the clinch, where he uses his Muay Thai collar grab to deliver knees as well as short elbows from inside. We’ve seen Saffiedine use wrestling to stifle opponents like Tyler Stinson and Roger Bowling, and he’s had success at staying on top, though he has had to continually work to keep top position. In the case of Bowling, Saffiedine used leg kicks to soften up the explosive power of Bowling’s takedowns, which was a smart approach, but the question is whether or not he can work that offense over time with Marquardt. Marquardt does his best work on the feet throwing power punches. Elite wrestlers have given him fits in the past, but he looked better in that aspect of the game against the stout wrestling offensive of Tyron Woodley, who used those skills to shut down the offense of Saffiedine in a previous Strikeforce encounter. I see Marquardt’s larger frame—and therefore stronger foundation—giving him the ability to overpower Saffiedine if the Team Quest product attempts to tie Marquardt up against the cage or take him down. Marquardt should be able to shrug those attempts off and will have his work focused in dealing with Saffiedine’s ranged attack. Over time, Saffiedine can accumulate damage with brutal and diverse attacks, but he hasn’t put anyone away with them. However, Marquardt has a history of putting people away with less effort. I see Marquardt as being the bully in this fight. Once he has gauged Saffiedine’s range of attack and determined the threat of his clench and/or wrestling, the pressure will be turned up and we will see how much of it the “Sponge” can absorb. It won’t be much, as “The Great” will prove to be such a stark spike in difficulty for Saffiedine. Marquardt by TKO in round two. Wilcoxon: David did a great job of breaking down the tendencies of both fighters, and I will try not to repeat much of what he said. Saffiedine is on a three-fight winning streak, including a victory over tough veteran Scott Smith. He possesses solid and varied striking skills, but he lacks real finishing power. His last five fights—and eight of his last nine—have end with the judges’ scorecards. Marquardt only has one victory in the weight class thus far, but that win was in a Strikeforce championship bout against Tyron Woodley. However, before that the longtime UFC veteran was a perennially top-ranked fighter in the middleweight division. To make this simple, Marquardt has every advantage in this fight. He possesses more power, better grappling and solid wrestling; he has faced better competition on bigger stages; and he will be the taller and stronger fighter. Marquardt will win this fight. The only question is whether Marquardt will be the first fighter to stop Saffiedine or if he will be the next one to hand him a decision loss. I tend to believe Marquardt has enough advantages to where he will end this fight. I look for him to batter Saffiedine in the first and get a doctor’s stoppage by the end of the second. McKenna: Fresh off of a three-fight winning streak, Saffiedine will try to exit Strikeforce with the welterweight title around his waist. Should Saffiedine be victorious, he doesn’t have the career resume to command a unification bout with whomever emerges with the UFC title at UFC 158, but winning would would help his positioning in the division. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Saffiedine stands his best chance in this fight by using what got him this far—his wrestling. The Team Quest product grinded out decisions to get to where he is, and it is known, based on Marquardt’s performances against Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami, that the champion has struggled with wrestling. Prior to his time in Strikeforce, Marquardt was the equivalent of Greek mythological figure Sisyphus in the UFC middleweight division. He would roll that boulder up to the top of the hill, suffer a setback and tumble his way back down the ladder. Over and over again this happened, and he was unable to earn that marquee win, which kept him from getting a second title shot with Anderson Silva. It may sound odd, but the whole testosterone flare-up that came with the UFC may have been the best thing to ever happen to him. He took it in stride, ended up in Strikeforce, and defeated a very game Woodley for the vacant welterweight title. That victory got him over the hump and got that boulder to the top of the hill successfully. What remains to be seen is whether or not he can keep the boulder there, or if it will tumble back down. In his welterweight debut, Marquardt looked great. That was one of the big questions that was answered from that title fight. Now that this will be his second trip to welterweight, he will have had a handle on the weight cut and be in top performing shape again. How good he looked in his last fight will carry over to this fight, which will result in another knockout victory for the champion. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Saffiedine land a couple of takedowns and control one of the rounds because of it, but Marquardt will find an opening and land a big standing knockout in the promotion’s final fight. Preliminary Card LW: Michael Bravo (7-3) vs. Estevan Payan (13-3) Wilcoxon: This is a little bit of a classic striker vs. grappler match-up. Michael Bravo has won all of his fights on the regional circuit by knockout. Estevan Payan is more of a mixed martial artist who has collected wins both standing and on the ground. Payan has also participated in much larger organizations such as Strikeforce and Bellator. If this fight stays standing, I might give the nod to Bravo, but I would expect Payan to be able to get this one to the mat and eventually win. McKenna: Richard said it best when he stated that Payan is more of a mixed martial artist. After all, this fight is a mixed martial arts contest. Expect him to get the takedown early and often, which will result in a ground-and-pound TKO victory for “El Terrible.” Massey: I like both Brian and Richard’s logic here. A steady mix of takedowns will throw off the rhythm of Bravo and ensure Payan’s advance to victory. LW: Jorge Gurgel (14-8) vs. Adriano Martins (23-6) Massey: Jorge Gurgel is a noted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt that has only been able to pull off a single submission win since 2005. The rest of the time he is losing hard-fought decisions on the feet, and the couple he has won are over fighters that aren’t noteworthy. Adriano Martins has fought out of Brazil as of late. He has earned respect for his scrappiness and criticism for keeping his hands low as he fights. Due to a few factors—his previous efforts coming outside of the United States, fighting on the big stage of Strikeforce, and going against a veteran in Gurgel—I lean towards Martins losing a decision. McKenna: The experience edge in this fight clearly goes to the Ohio native. Gurgel has spent time in the biggest promotion on the planet, and also a lot of time with Strikeforce. But considering he has gone 2-5 in his last seven, “J.G.” has seen better days. Martins is on the up and will emerge victorious in this fight. Wilcoxon: Gurgel is one of the most frustrating fighters I have ever watched. He could have been great. He is a BJJ black belt who was so talented that he was sought after to coach many UFC-caliber fighters. However, somewhere along the line he decided BJJ was not as fun to watch as sloppy kickboxing, and he refused to use his great skill in his fights. For all of his wanting to stand and bang with opponents, he has never knocked an opponent out. Martins has, and Martins will not ignore his strengths and advantages in this fight. Martins will win this one. LW: Ryan Couture (5-1) vs. K.J. Noons (11-5) McKenna: The only way that Ryan Couture has a chance in this fight is if he can use his wrestling to get takedowns. It is no secret that K.J. Noons is an elite striker, but he is very weak when it comes to the ground aspect of mixed martial arts. Considering his lineage and the training that he will have leading into this fight, Couture will have the ability to avoid the home-run punch by Noons and secure a decision victory on Saturday. Wilcoxon: This is one of the most intriguing matches on this card. Noons is the former EliteXC champion and, as Brian said, he is an elite striker. He is also very difficult to finish. Couture is still learning the sport, and this will be a real test in his young career. I am leaning toward Noons’ experience in big fights and the competition level he has faced to carry him through this one in a toss-up, but Couture does have the skill set that could get him the win. Massey: Couture’s skills have looked great, sure, but decisions against guys like Maka Watson and Joe Duarte (which was a split at that) pales in comparison to Noons’ Strikeforce tenure. Couture has stopped Conor Heun with strikes, whereas Noons barely earned a split decision, but that still doesn’t sway my opinion. Noons was on the losing end of decisions against Nick Diaz, Jorge Masvidal and Josh Thomson, which may be backwards logic on my part in going with Noons, but I’d still have to see it to believe he’d lose to an up-and-coming Couture. I see Noons finishing this bout with strikes. MW: Tim Kennedy (14-4) vs. Trevor Smith (10-2) Wilcoxon: Although Trevor Smith has an impressive record and ground game, I just feel like this is a mismatch. Smith has beat a lot of lower-level fighters, but the biggest names on his record have beat him and are still only what I would consider middle-of-the-road competition. Tim Kennedy is one of the top middleweights in any promotion. I look for Kennedy to have a big advantage on the feet, where he will stun Smith before he locks on a submission. Massey: Like Richard said, this appears to be another mismatch. Smith has secured most of his wins by submission, but never against the caliber of opponent on Kennedy’s resume. Kennedy, in my eyes, has plateaued now that he is facing top competition, but he’s a complete MMA fighter, and those well-rounded skills with his superb athleticism will afford him a somewhat easy path to victory. McKenna: I think what Richard and David are overlooking is the size advantage that Smith will have in this fight. Sure, Kennedy’s skills are better, but you can’t teach size. It is not limited to his height either, as Smith used to fight at light heavyweight. Kennedy isn’t exactly a huge middleweight, and locking in a takedown won’t be easy against “Hot Sauce.” But ultimately, I have to go with my fellow writers and take the American soldier by decision. MW: Roger Gracie (5-1) vs. Anthony Smith (17-8) McKenna: Roger Gracie will always be a fighter that has a target on his back simply based off of his last name and lineage. However, with that, he also commands a boatload of respect on the ground. Four of his five victories have come by submission, whereas the one loss came from a knockout. I don’t see this fight making it to the third round as Smith will either earn the knockout or Gracie grabs the submission. Being forced to choose, I’ll go with Smith. Massey: These are two big middleweights, both standing at 6-foot-4. Smith has earned all of his wins by stoppage and has made it look easy in his last two fights. That aggressive approach could signal trouble for Gracie. However, I don’t believe Gracie will be content to be picked apart or simply moving backwards in defense of Smith’s striking. Gracie only needs one clench or trip to move the fight into his comfort zone. If he can keep his defenses high against striking, like he did in the Jardine fight, Gracie should walk away with a win over a tough fighter in Smith. Wilcoxon: Smith has youth and experience on his side, but Gracie has fought by far the better competition. As my colleagues have said, Smith should have the advantage on the feet, while Gracie will have a definite advantage on the ground. That means this fight really comes down to who can control where the fight happens. Gracie has found a way to get some good wrestlers to the mat, and he will find a way to get Smith down as well. LW: Pat Healy (28-16) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (8-0) Massey: The MMA Corner’s own Rob Tatum interviewed Pat Healy last July and, in that interview, Healy explained turning down an opportunity to wait for a title shot in order to face another opponent, Mizuto Hirota. I’m sure Healy wouldn’t admit that it was a mistake, but now that his last opportunity at facing Gilbert Melendez for Strikeforce gold has slipped through his fingers, he probably has kicked himself a few times in regret. Kurt Holobough is another prospect plucked from obscurity to fill out the card and has notched six of his eight professional wins by submission. Healy has fallen to submissions in the past, but as of late he has shown the ability of a grizzled veteran and grinded himself out of trouble and into a win. Healy should be fighting to prove a point and, save for making a costly mistake, he’ll get a submission win of his own while battling it out with Holobaugh. Wilcoxon: Although Healy did lose the opportunity to fight Melendez, he did defeat Hirota, just as I expect he will beat Holobaugh. Healy is a tough veteran who has faced a lot of solid competition. Holobaugh is a regional star getting a bump up to the big time. He has a chance, but Healy should have the edge. McKenna: Healy was supposed to have a title shot, but he has had it torn away from him. Now, it appears as though he will be fighting a last-minute, junior varsity opponent. I fully expect Healy to avoid the submission, roll through Holobaugh and enter the UFC on a six-fight winning streak.