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Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg Preview: Bookmark and Share
by Carlos Santana

Strikeforce: Carano vs Santos
Saturday, August 15th
HP Pavilion in Strikeforce’s own backyard of San Jose, CA.

This is a strange card that has seen Roger Gracie, Alistair Overeem and his HW belt, Josh Thomson and his LW belt, Joe Riggs, Erin Toughill, Nick Diaz and Fabricio Werdum all pulled from this card, with Werdum being added back on and Toughill being assigned for ‘just in case’ purposes. This card has seen more pull outs than prom night. The card will feature Werdum on the untelevised undercard, strange considering that his appearance in the UFC Undisputed video game will make him one of the more mainstream fighters Strikeforce has available, against Mike Kyle. Melendez was set to challenge Thomson for the belt, but a lingering injury would pull Thomson off the card and set up a rematch with Ishida for the Interim LW belt. Babalu Sobral will also be defending his LHW belt against tough young up and comer, Gegard Mousasi. Nick Diaz was set to face Joe Riggs in a rematch for the newly created WW belt, but an adverse drug reaction had Riggs unable to properly train and Jay Hieron stepped up to face off with Diaz. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between the chronically controversial Diaz and the CSAC also had Diaz dropping from the card and being replaced by Jesse Taylor and changed to a 3 round bout instead of a title fight. Earning top billing as the main event of the evening, Gina Carano and Cyborg Santos will try to show the world just how exciting and fast paced women’s MMA can be when they face off for the newly created 145lb Women’s Championship in a battle that has all the ingredients for an all out war.

***Although it has been said that Scott Coker and Showtime execs are working on getting Werdum up on the main card, as of now, it is still scheduled for the untelevised portion on Showtime Sports. Just for fun though, Werdum should roll Mike Kyle up, just like Nick Diaz will be rolling one up this weekend too.***

Jay ‘the Thoroughbred’ Hieronymous 17-4 vs Jesse ‘JT Money/Coco the Monkey’ Taylor 13-3 – Jay is an Xtreme Couture fighter that wrestled collegiately at Hofstra before testing positive for marijuana and being suspended for his senior season. He also had some legal problems, being convicted of selling drugs, but has since turned his life around and was the last IFL WW champ. The former IFL, Affliction, and UFC fighter will be making his Strikeforce debut after losing the chance to fight Paul Daley in Affliction, spurning an opportunity to return to the UFC for a title shot against Diaz, and ultimately having to settle for a bout with Taylor. He has a strong wrestling base and has greatly improved his standup game, showing some great boxing in his latest fight, a KO over Jason High. He has losses to UFC fighters Brad Blackburn, Chris Wilson, Jonathon Goulet, and GSP.

The infamous Jesse Taylor signed on to fight in Strikeforce against Jay Hieron after Nick Diaz was unable to fight. He gained infamy by becoming the only fighter ever to be removed from a TUF Finale due to events that occurred after the filming of the show. While a cast member of TUF 7, Taylor defeated Nick Rossborough, Mike Dolce, Dante Rivera, and Tim Creduer to advance to the finals. He also was shown urinating himself on numerous occasions, normally as a result of drinking too many alcoholic beverages and a combination of a full bladder and empty mind. Taylor, or the Poetic PeePee Pants, was also shown running through the house uncontrollably and named this ultra-hyper alter ego Coco the Monkey. After a successful collegiate wrestling career, an 6-2 MMA record, and earning an opportunity that many would strangle their grannies for, Coco the Monkey went on a rampage in a limo, club, and hotel and got himself removed from the finale. After some time off for mental maturation and a stint in AA, Taylor was invited to fight in the UFC against CB Dolloway, who promptly handed Taylor his 3rd MMA loss with a Peruvian Necktie. Taylor than said some stupid things about the UFC and its treatment of their fighter’s and was sent packing. Since then, he has racked up 7 straight victories, all of them in the last year, including a win over tough veteran Drew Fickett. Jesse, who trains at Team Quest in Temecula, has actually fought in every month this calendar year except for April and June, but twice in July. Happy to jump on an opportunity to sign with a major promotion again, he will be making his Strikeforce debut.

Riding a 5 fight winning streak, Hieron will look to stretch it to 6 with a victory over Jesse Taylor using his far more developed MMA experience to negate Jesse’s sloppy striking and smothering wrestling. Hieron should take note of teammate Forrest Griffin’s last fight and play the role of Anderson Silva in using great angles and counters to beat up on the plodding larger fighter in the first round.

Interim LW Champ Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez 15-2 vs Mitsuhiro ‘the Endless Warrior’ Ishida 18-5-1 – El Nino trains his striking game at Fairtex Gym and calls Cesar Gracie Academy his home where he has trained alongside the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields, Dave Terrell, and Cesar Gracie. Melendez opened up his career with a 13-0 run; garnering wins over the likes of Olaf Alfonso (to capture the Strikeforce LW belt), Hiroyuki Takaya, Rumino Sato, Clay Guida (to re-claim the belt after vacating it), Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Tetsuji Kato. El Nino suffered his first loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida by decision in Japan and followed up with a defense of his belt before losing it to Josh Thomson. Melendez has a good wrestling base and submissions, but uses his jiu-jitsu to move and maintain dominant positions and loves to unleash his GNP from there. In his last fight, he scored a devastating KO over Rodrigo Damm to claim the interim title after Thomson had to back out of that fight due to injury. Originally set to face Thomson again in this bout, he has had to change his focus to fight in a rematch against the only other fighter to hold a victory over him in Ishida.

The Endless Warrior is known for his crazy endurance and wrestling skills. He was the first person to defeat Melendez when they faced off at the end of 2007 by using his well documented wrestling skills and stamina to outlast and outwork Melendez. While Melendez has been busy training for a 5 round fight for months, Ishida steps in on only two weeks’ notice, but has never shown cardio and stamina to be much of a hurdle for him as 13 of his wins are by decision. The PRIDE, Shooto, DREAM, and Strikeforce veteran holds victories over Marcus Aurelio, David Bielkheden, and Daisuke Nakamura as well as losses to Vitor Ribeiro, Takanori Gomi, Caol Uno, and is coming off a loss to Mizuto Hirota.

Ishida’s win over El Nino was his biggest to date, and for him to jump in, coming off a loss, to challenge for a belt may be largely influenced by the fact that he does have the win over Gilbert, but the fact of the matter is, Gilbert has improved substantially since they last met and even though Ishida has great endurance, only two weeks to train for a 5 round title fight against one of the toughest opponents he has ever seen will be a lot to overcome. Don’t expect to see Melendez come out as timid as he had in their first matchup, where he was slow to mix it up and lost the wrestling match and scrambles. Melendez will come out hungry, angry, and looking to prove something in avenging a loss and sending a message to Josh Thomson by beating on Ishida like he caught him stealing and finishing him off with some GNP in 3.

Strikeforce LHW Champ Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral 35-8 vs Gegard Mousasi 25-2-1 – Babalu fights with a very aggressive style, using his strong wrestling background as a Brazilian national champion and his Carlos Gracie Jr BJJ black belt. He once defeated Trevor Prangley, Shogun Rua, and Jeremy Horn all in the same night, to capture the IFC LHW Tourney Championship Babalu also defeated mean-mean man, Bobby Southworth, to win the belt. He has fought for the UFC title against the Iceman and been KO’d twice. Other losses include decision losses to Fedor Emelianenko, Kevin Randleman, and Dan Henderson, as well as a KO loss to Jason Lambert, and a sub to V Overeem. In his most recent victory, Babalu dominated feared striker Sokoudjou and finished him by D’Arce choke. This bad ass tattooed MMA vet who got kicked out of the UFC for holding a choke too long to teach David Heath not to talk shit to him is gonna have his hands full with the heavy handed and well rounded Gegard Mousasi in his first title defense.

The Young Vagabond, Mousasi, is relatively unknown to the casual MMA fan despite holding impressive victories over Hector Lombard, Evangelista Santos, Denis Kang, Dong Sik Yoon, Melvin Manhoef, Jacare Souza, and Mark Hunt as well as a K-1 kickboxing victory over K-1 vet Musashi. Gegard is also the DREAM MW GP Champion and trains with the Red Devil International. With a background in Judo, boxing, and kickboxing, he is a very well rounded fighter and looks to make an impressive US debut.

The story coming into this fight is which Babalu shows up, the one that defeated another powerful striker and accomplished judoka in Sokoudjou or the one that took a nap at the hands of Jason Lambert. While Babalu will have the advantage on the ground and Mousasi in the stand up, I am anxious to see how Mousasi deals with a high level wrestler and if Babalu chooses to incorporate that into his game plan. This fight is a difficult one to pick a winner in as both fighters will have to dictate where the fight takes place to impose their will. Babalu has shown to be a very emotional and passionate fighter and could get coerced into standing and trading with the better striker. Despite Gegard’s fighting experience his young age and the fact that he will be making his US debut in a major promotion on a highly publicized and anticipated card will give him jitters and play at his nerves allowing the savvy veteran Sobral to keep his head on and capitalize early to keep the belt.

Strikeforce Women’s 145 lb Championship Gina ‘Conviction’ Carano 7-0 vs Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos 7-1 Gina Carano is the daughter of former Dallas Cowboy quarterback, Glenn Carano. In high school, Carano used her naturally gifted genes to lead her high school basketball team to the state championship. While watching one of her ex-boyfriends train in Muay Thai with famed Master Toddy, the overweight Carano was poked fun at by the instructed and urged to rain to lose some weight and gain some discipline. That gave way to a passion for the sport and led to a 14-1-1 Muay Thai record and an invitation to participate in the first ever sanctioned Women’s MMA match in Las Vegas, a bout in which she took only 38 seconds to defeat her opponent. She went on to KO Rosi Sexton before she defeated Elaina Maxwell in Strikeforce and signed with EliteXC. She went on to beat Julie Kedzie and Tonya Evinger before her stock took a meteoric rise as she was a part of the first ever, Network televised live MMA card and showcased her fierce standup skills as she earned the TKO victory over Kaitlin Young. Her next fight was on the ill-fated, and thus far, last televised MMA card on network TV, where she soundly defeated Kelly Kobold and set up the inevitable match with Cyborg before the demise of EliteXC. In addition to Gina’s MMA career, she has gained fame as a mentor on Fight Girls, as Crush on American Gladiators, and in the Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 video game alongside her trainer at Xtreme Couture, MMA legend Randy Couture.

Santos was actually discovered and recruited into MMA by Rudimar Fedrigo, a government official for Brazil’s national sports program who also happens to be a famed Chute Boxe Academy trainer. He saw her natural aggression and athleticism as she was playing handball. Cris was also a high level track star with a great work ethic that would translate well into MMA. She went on to train with Chute Boxe alongside her husband, Evangelista, as well as Wanderlei Silva, Shogun and Ninja Rua, and Fabricio Werdum amongst others. Cyborg is a classic Chute Boxe fighter with very aggressive Muay Thai and a well-rounded ground game, holding a BJJ purple belt. After losing her first bout, she has not been defeated in the last 7 with 5 of those wins coming by TKO. Her victories include wins over Vanessa Porto, Shayna Baszler, Yoko Takahashi, and Hitomi Akano. Her ultra aggressive style is comparable to that of Wanderlei Silva and is often too overwhelming for her opponents.

With both combatants having a history of issues making weight for their fights, Erin Toughill has been pulled from the card and tapped as a potential replacement, just in case. Gina is commonly referred to as ‘the face of women’s MMA’ but this fight is to determine who the supreme female fighter in the world is in a legit championship fight with 5 full 5-minute rounds. Most may look at this fight and say ’Cyborg is a beast, she’s gonna kill Carano’ this will not only be a more competitive fight than many believe, but Carano’s superior footwork and technical striking will negate Cyborg’s all out attack and unreal strength . On paper, their records and resumes are similar, but 4 of Cyborg’s victories have been against debuting fighters that have gone on to compile 1-5 records while Carano remains the only person to defeat Sexton. Carano will use her experience and lateral movement to avoid Cyborg’s onslaught to create angles and effectively counter, wearing down the tough Brazilian and capitalizing on Cyborg’s early over-exertion with a TKO victory in the fourth in what could be one of the best MMA fights this year, regardless of genitalia.

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