Perhaps it’s a sign of Zuffa’s ownership and influence on Strikeforce, or perhaps it’s just coincidence, but either way, Strikeforce is delivering a preliminary card that features compelling fights from top to bottom when it heads to Dallas, Texas, this weekend for “Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.”

The organization is ushering in prospects, giving fighters such as lightweights Brian Melancon and Isaac Vallie-Flagg, as well as welterweights Nah-Shon Burrell and Joe Ray, a chance to shine.  Meanwhile, the veterans are not being left out either, as WEC vet Todd Moore squares off with Mike Bronzoulis in a welterweight affair, Conor Heun gets an opportunity to slam the gate shut on lightweight prospect Magno Almeida, and Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and Justin Wilcox provide a few higher-profile names to headline the HDNet broadcast of the Strikeforce prelims.

The action takes place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, and the HDNet broadcast kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s Round Table panel of Bryan Henderson, Rob Tatum and Richard Wilcoxon submit their opinions on how the surprisingly stacked prelims will play out.  Read on to find out who they see as the winners and why.

LW: Brian Melancon (5-1) vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg (11-3-1)

Henderson: This should be a good battle that could provide a bit of fireworks early in the card.  Both men prefer to finish opponents via strikes, and have done so often in their careers.  Vallie-Flagg carries a nine-fight undefeated streak, dating back to 2007, into this fight.  He looked impressive in his last outing at Jackson’s MMA Series 4, and I expect to see more of that here.  Vallie-Flagg’s experience and his association with an elite camp will give him the edge over Melancon in this fight.  The Jackson’s MMA product ends Melancon’s night in the second round via TKO.

Wilcoxon: Both of these fighters are primarily strikers with solid skills on their feet.  Both men also come in the cage with another advantage over the opponent.  Melancon probably has the advantage on the ground if the fight hits the mat and, as Bryan pointed out, Vallie-Flagg comes from one of the top camps around.  With such a balanced fight, I looked to one last criteria: level of recent competition.  Since 2010, Melancon’s opponents have a combined record of 31-8 while Vallie-Flagg in the same time period faced opponents with a combined record of just 23-23.  I think Melancon has faced the tougher tests and will do enough to stop the winning streak of Vallie-Flagg.

Tatum: In a fairly evenly-matched fight, I have to think that experience is going to come into play.  While Melancon has faced more successful opponents, as Richard pointed out, he only has been in the cage six times.  Vallie-Flagg nearly has as many wins as Melancon has fights.  I expect these lightweights to put on an entertaining fight, with the Jackson’s MMA product taking home a decision victory.

WW: Todd Moore (13-4) vs. Mike Bronzoulis (12-2-1)

Wilcoxon: This is another fight that will feature two men who will stand toe-to-toe.  Eight of Moore’s 13 victories come via TKO and the other five come in the form of a decision.  Moore has spent time in a variety of promotions, including the WEC and Dream, fighting some of the top competitors out there.  Bronzoulis is no slouch either.  Just like Moore, eight of his victories have come in the form of a TKO.  He took Kamal Shalorus to a draw in 2009.  Bronzoulis should come into the fight as the big man with a longer reach.  If he uses his length and size, I think he will end this one early.

Tatum: Although the Greek, Bronzoulis, will enter the fight with a size advantage, it is hard to ignore the level of competition that each fighter has faced.  Moore has battled a number of big names at the lightweight level, and holds a victory over UFC veteran TJ Waldburger.  The same cannot be said about Bronzoulis, whose most recent victory over Lucas Lopes at Shark Fights 14 is his most impressive.  I think Moore will show off a bigger arsenal in this fight and walk out with a decision win.

Henderson: Call this a toss-up for me, guys.  While Moore has faced a high level of competition, he hasn’t fared all that well against those foes.  His win over Waldburger dates back to 2006, and his last four outings have come against middling competition. Bronzoulis has had a better run of late, but it is true that he has never faced anyone as high up the ladder as some of Moore’s recent opponents.

Moore’s ability to take John Alessio to a decision is the swaying factor here.  It means he has actually spent a significant amount of time in combat against someone at a high level, as opposed to just being quickly submitted (as he was by Shinya Aoki and Shane Roller).  I’ll give Moore the edge due to experience, and predict a unanimous decision win for “The Maniac.”

WW: Nah-Shon Burrell (5-1) vs. Joe Ray (5-1)

Tatum: Neither of these fighters has a ton of experience, but both have had success in their early careers.  Both possess solid striking skills, but Ray is the more rounded of the two.  Calling American Top Team home, Ray has a victory over UFC vet Chad Reiner on his resume.  I look for Ray to do damage early and finish off Burrell on the mat in the second round.

Henderson: Ray’s association with American Top Team, his more well-rounded arsenal and the win over Reiner are all solid reasons to pick him over Burrell.  Burrell’s chance at victory lies in the stand-up affair, but Ray is no slouch on his feet.  That will limit how effective Burrell can be.  As Burrell gets frustrated, Ray will take advantage and get this fight to the mat.  From there, he’ll have little issue submitting the Fight Firm product.

Wilcoxon: Both fighters enter the event sporting identical records.  But the similarities don’t end there.  Both fighters have won all fights by stoppage and both fighters’ lone loss comes via decision.

Burrell is a striker who has won all of his fights via TKO.  Ray also has a background in striking, where he has competed both in kickboxing and in Muay Thai.  However, in MMA, Ray has joined a top training group and found success on the ground.  Ray will likely enter this fight as the bigger fighter and he has more ways to win.  I will take Ray to find a way to slip on a submission late in this one.

LW: Conor Heun (8-4) vs. Magno Almeida (9-1)

Wilcoxon: For this fight, we switch from a standing battle to what should be a grappling clinic. Heun has faced by far the better competition out of the two, but he hasn’t particularly fared well against the better fighters he has faced.  He is a brown belt in BJJ and won five fights via submission.  Almeida is currently on a five-fight win streak, all of them won via submission, and four them ending in the first round.  He is a black belt in BJJ.  Almeida is also extremely big for the division, standing six-feet tall.  Almeida is one of the top prospects in MMA, but this will be a test.  I think Almeida is hungry and ready for this one.  Almeida wins this one early and in impressive fashion.

Henderson: Heun has definitely established himself as a tough fight for just about anyone in the lightweight division.  He battled UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel, losing via a unanimous verdict from the judges, and came out on the losing end of a split decision against former EliteXC lightweight kingpin K.J. Noons.  Stepping in the cage with this warrior is no cake walk.

Almeida is, as Richard said, a top prospect with an even more refined ground game than Heun.  Both of these men like to grapple, but Almeida should demonstrate a higher skill level on the mat.

Heun is a tough out, but he has had difficulty against top competition.  He’s the gatekeeper Almeida must defeat to rise to the next level.  Given Heun’s ability to hang in there – all of his losses have come via the judges’ scorecards, with three out of the four defeats ending in split decisions – I don’t see Almeida finishing him.  Instead, Almeida will maintain positional control and threaten often with submissions before ultimately settling for a unanimous decision.

Tatum: I will be the voice of dissent on this bout.  As Bryan and Richard pointed out, Heun is a solid grappler and nearly impossible to finish.  While Almeida is a highly-touted prospect, his level of competition is not on par with Heun’s.  Heun has pushed some of the promotion’s top lightweight talent to the brink, even if he fell short.  Heun will avoid Almeida’s top-notch submission game and earn a hard-fought decision victory.

LW: Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (15-4-1) vs. Justin Wilcox (11-3)

Henderson: This is an interesting battle for the prelim card.  Cavalcante is a well-known name who still resides among the consensus top 25 lightweights despite having lost three of his last four outings.  The key thing to consider in those losses is the level of competition Cavalcante faced.  He dropped bouts to Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Josh Thomson, all of whom are perennial top 25-ers in their own right.

Wilcox has become a grinding decision machine and a star of Strikeforce’s Challengers series.  He’s still relegated to the HDNet portion of the card here, but this is his chance to make a huge statement.  After all, a win over “JZ” is still a very meaningful thing.

Justin Wilcox (Credit: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Wilcox has managed a TKO win, due to doctor’s stoppage, over Rodrigo Damm, and submitted David Douglas in 2009, but eight of the American Kickboxing Academy fighter’s victories have come via decision.  Cavalcante tends to be more of a finisher, but it’s been a while since he has stopped a foe.

While “JZ” still is considered a top lightweight and has only lost to top competition, I don’t think he can end Wilcox’s night.  Wilcox has grown as a fighter since his last loss, a 2008 defeat at the hands of Mitsuhiro Ishida.  I think he’ll be able to avoid Cavalcante’s submissions and stand his ground in the striking department.  Wilcox grinds out a close decision win.

Tatum: This couldn’t be a worse matchup for the exciting Brazilian, Cavalcante.  The once top-ranked lightweight has fallen victim to questionable judging over his last few fights and his record has taken a hit as a result.

Wilcox, meanwhile, is well-known to the judges, as he has only stopped one opponent prior to the third round and holds eight decision wins.  The grinding style employed by Wilcox is effective, yet hardly crowd-pleasing.

For the sake of the fans, I’d love to see the “JZ” of old return in this fight, but I have to agree with Bryan and go with Wilcox by decision.

Wilcoxon: “JZ” possesses an aggressive fan-friendly style that helped him become an international star.  He combines a nice mix of striking ability and grappling skills that has finished the fight in 12 of his fifteen victories.  Eleven times those finishes happened in the first round.  Cavalcante used those skills to win the K-1 Heroes middleweight tournament.

Wilcox is almost the polar opposite.  Instead of exciting finishes, Wilcox is known for his grinding decision victories.

Despite Cavalcante’s exciting style, he has struggled to remain relevant in the division since his run through Heroe’s.  He hasn’t won a fight decisively since 2007.  Throughout his career, the judges have been particularly unkind to him, with all of his losses coming via decision.  This all plays into Wilcox’s hands.  I agree with Bryan and see Wilcox grinding out another decision win.

Top Photo: “JZ” Cavalcante (r) beats on Josh Thomson (Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)