Well fight fans, the MMA train continues to roll this weekend as we have yet another action-packed card going down this weekend. Once again Zuffa is rolling into town with a high class offering, although this time it’s not their flagship UFC property, instead they are bringing an intriguing Strikeforce card into the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
Headlined by a pair of title fights, the four bout main card holds a number of interesting bouts and some potential epic clashes, including a main event that may be an underdog candidate for Fight of the Year. In the Main Event of the evening Gilbert Melendez puts his Strikeforce Lightweight title on the line against Jorge Masvidal in what should be a high-paced, action-packed fight. The co-main event sees the new face of women’s MMA Christiane “Cyborg” Santos return from a fourteen-month layoff to defend her title against Japanese import Hiroko Yamanaka. The other two main card bouts feature Gegard Mousasi answering the challenge of fast-rising prospect Ovince St. Preux and boxer-turned-brawler KJ Noons battling Billy Evangelista.
Preliminary Card Bout: Welterweight Bout: Herman Terrado vs. Chris Brown – Chris Brown via TKO in Round Two
Preliminary Card Bout: Light Heavyweight Bout: Fernando Gonzalez vs. Eddie Mendez – Eddie Mendez via Submission in Round One
Preliminary Card Bout: Heavyweight Bout: Devin Cole vs. Gabriel Salinas-Jones – Devin Cole via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout: Lightweight Bout: Caros Fodor vs. Justin Wilcox – Justin Wilcox via Unanimous Decision
Preliminary Card Bout: Catchweight Bout (181 Pounds): Jerron Peoples vs. Roger Bowling – Roger Bowling via TKO in Round One
Main Card Bout (Showtime): Lightweight Bout: KJ Noons vs. Billy Evangelista
Karl James “KJ” Noons is a 29-year-old American fighter from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Noons is a former professional boxer and kickboxer who has made the transition to MMA with solid results. Noons is a freelance fighter who doesn’t belong to any one specific gym or team, instead he travels the Southern California region searching out the best training partners he can find. In addition to his professional boxing skills, Noons is also a Black belt in Kenpo Karate. With his diverse striking skills, Noons is best when he can keep the fight standing and bang away with his opponent. In addition to his strong striking skills, Noons is also well known to have a very strong chin and can withstand a lot of punishment without being knocked out. Noons holds a professional MMA record of 10-4.
Billy Evangelista is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy who was born and is currently based in Southern California. Evangelista is a Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu based fighter who has solid kickboxing skills and well-rounded grappling skills to compliment his stand up abilities. The 31-year-old Evangelista has looked solid in a number of his recent bouts, but his striking defense remains a slight question mark as he was tagged by mediocre strikers in Jorge Gurgel and Waachim Spiritwolf. With his background in Muay Thai, Evangelista should look to use kicks to the lead leg of Noons to keep distance and slow Noons explosive striking game down a step. Evangelista will also hold the advantage on the mat as he is the superior grappler of the two men. However, Noons is a strong and compact fighter, who despite not having great technical takedown defense, uses brute strength to keep himself upright, so Evangelista will need to fight smart to get a takedown against Noons. Overall, Evangelista has a career MMA record of 11-1.
Analysis and Prediction: I think it’s hard to bet against KJ Noons in this one. Noons is the taller and larger fighter, who should be able to dictate the range of the bout, especially with his superior boxing skills and footwork. If Evangelista is unable to earn a takedown, he will be in for a long night. He outboxed Jorge Gurgel, but Noons is a significantly better striker who hits much harder, and even Gurgel rocked Evangelista at times. Overall, Evangelista will test his striking skills, but get blasted too badly to recover and work the fight to the ground where he would have an advantage. KJ Noons via TKO in Round Two
Main Card Bout (Showtime): Light Heavyweight Bout: Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux
Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi is the owner of one of the worst nicknames in the sport of MMA. However, his skills are no joke and he is one of the best “unknown” talents in the world. The Armenian-Dutch born fighter is a Kickboxing and Judo based fighter, who is a black belt level Judoka. Mousasi has been associated with a number of notable fight teams, including Red Devil Fight Club in Russia with Fedor Emelianenko and the Golden Glory Gym in Amsterdam alongside the Overeem brothers. Mousasi has strong striking skills with excellent power in both of his hands, as well as a number of flashy kicks. Mousasi’s background in Judo has also given him an excellent grappling base, which is often overlooked by many fans. Mousasi holds a career MMA record of 31-3, including 28 wins via stoppage.
Ovince “OSP” St. Preux is a Haitian-American fighter. At 6’3” and as a former NCAA Defensive Linebacker for the University of Tennessee, OSP is one of the most athletically gifted fighters in Strikeforce’s Light Heavyweight division. OSP struggled to open his career, losing his first two bouts and four of his first seven. However, since diving into the sport full-time, he has turned his career around and his riding an eight-fight winning streak. OSP is a wrestler who is still developing stand up skills to compliment his strong ground skills. He is a member of the Knoxville MMA Gym in Knoxville, Tennessee. OSP’s career MMA record is 11-4.
Analysis and Prediction: Mousasi clearly holds the edge in experience and in striking ability. However, if there is one thing that Mousasi has struggled with in the past it is definitely the wrestling game. Mousasi has been out-wrestled by world class wrestlers like Muhammed Lawal and even fairly mediocre wrestlers like Keith Jardine. He has said that it has been a focus for this fight, and it better have been, because it is very likely that OSP will be looking for takedowns and changing levels constantly. It is important to note, that St. Preux actually called out Mousasi after his last win and was looking for this fight, so he and his team clearly believe that this is a fight that they can win. In fact, I agree with them. Mousasi needs to keep this bout standing to win, I don’t think he can do it against OSP. After re-watching the Lawal and Jardine fights, Mousasi looks awkward once taken down and gasses out very easily when a highly active fighter is working on top of him, with OSP on top, the ground and pound will be constant and he will have to work extremely hard. Even if OSP fails on a few takedowns to start, he is still rapidly improving his stand up skills and is such a great athlete that he can continue to shoot for takedowns and make Mousasi work. If he pushes the pace I think he can keep Mousasi off-balance and unable to strike successfully, which will earn him opportunities for takedowns and the chance to win rounds. It might not be pretty, and there is likely going to be some bumps along the way, but I smell an upset in this one. Ovince St. Preux via Unanimous Decision
Main Card Bout (Showtime): Women’s Featherweight Championship Bout: Cristiane Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
Hiroko “The Incomplete Queen” Yamanaka is a 33-year-old fighter from Kisarazu, Chiba, Japan. She is a member of the B Crew, a fairly well-recognized MMA Dojo in Japan. She is a strong grappler with decent Muay Thai kickboxing skills. She is widely regarded as one of the top-three female Featherweight fighters in the world. She is a strong striker who at nearly six feet tall is a fairly tall fighter for the division and will hold a slight reach advantage in the fight. She will need to use all of that advantage to the best of her abilities as Santos is a vicious striker. Yamanaka holds strong grappling skills and may actually hold an advantage on the ground if she can work the fight there. She holds an MMA record of 12-1.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is the reigning and defending Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Champion. She is a vicious striker with knockout power in both of her hands, as well as nasty Muay Thai kicks and knees. She is the wife of fellow Strikeforce fighter Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. The 26-year-old Brazilian fighter is the #1 ranked female fighter in the world and is a member of the Chute Boxe Academy in San Diego, California. She is an extremely aggressive striker who is constantly moving forward behind huge power punches. On the ground she is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Santos holds a professional MMA record of 10-1, with the lone loss coming in her professional debut and only two of her opponents surviving until the final bell.
Analysis and Prediction: The current betting line favors the champion massively and it’s not hard to see why. Her opponent is mostly unknown and she is the most dominant female fighter of all time. If you’re looking for factors going against the champion you would have to consider how she will deal with being on the sidelines for over a year as ring rust may be a factor in the opening of this bout. In fact, Yamanaka has fought three times since Santos last stepped inside an MMA cage to compete. That’s about where the advantages for the Japanese fighter end, Santos is an extremely powerful striker who is extremely aggressive and is dangerous from anywhere that the fight takes place. To be honest, I think Santos would fair well against a number of male Featherweight fighters. If I was going to bet, I’d probably take the 8 or 9-to-1 odds against the champion and hope for a fluke, but it’s much more likely that she takes a round to feel the cage out, before flipping it on for the second round and absolutely demolishing the challenger. Cristiane Santos via TKO in Round Two
Main Event (Showtime): Strikeforce Lightweight Championship Bout: Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal
Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez is a 29-year-old fighter from Santa Ana, California. Melendez is the reigning and defending Strikeforce Lightweight Champion. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Cesar Gracie and is also a member of the famed Cesar Gracie Fight Team, where he trains regularly with UFC fighters Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and Jake Shields. Melendez is one of the best-conditioned fighters in the world, who is constantly pushing the pace against his opponents. To put it in perspective Melendez holds a victory over Clay Guida by Decision in a bout where he outworked the fighter who cannot be outworked. Melendez is best when he can push the pace against his opponents and work them to the mat, from there he uses aggressive ground and pound to wear down his opponents and search for submission opportunities. Melendez owns a professional record of 19-2.
Analysis and Prediction: I believe that this bout is going to come down to who can implement their game plan on their opponent. For Masvidal that’s going to mean keeping the fight standing for as long as possible. Melendez is a fairly decent striker, but he is not on the same level as Masvidal. If the bout is standing Masvidal should be able to be effective with his counter-punching and leg kicks. If Melendez can push the pace and work Masvidal to the ground, something that Masvidal has struggled with in the past, then it is his fight to win, as his pace and his experience in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu give him a clear edge on the mat. Overall, I think that Melendez can just push the pace too hard for Masvidal to keep up with. Look for Melendez to struggle slightly while standing, but his quickness and strength will be too much for ‘Gamebred’ to handle. El Nino begins to earn takedowns and the damage continues to mount until he eventually stops Masvidal late in the fourth round. Gilbert Melendez via TKO in the Fourth Round
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