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The Real Reason to Watch Strikeforce Challengers: ‘Bowling vs. Voelker III’

There was an episode of Star Trek (the original series) where Captain Kirk et al. encountered a pair of aliens with faces painted half black and half white, and it was determined that the two were both the last of their kind and engaged in an eternal struggle that defied all reason.  Remember that episode? (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” was the title for you Trekkies out there.)  The folks at Strikeforce must remember it, because they’re reenacting it on Friday night, with Roger Bowling and Bobby Voelker playing the roles of the aliens.  Somehow, someway Bowling and Voelker will meet for a third time, fanning the flames of their endless conflict because… I don’t know, maybe Voelker’s last TKO victory over Bowling was inconclusive or something.  So is that motivation enough to warrant you tuning in?  Hell no!  Watch Strikeforce Challengers on Friday night for one fight and one fight alone: Liz Carmouche versus Sarah Kaufman.

Let’s face facts.  Ever since Strikeforce became Strikeforza, things have been looking pretty dire for female mixed martial arts.  Despite the epic match-up that pitted Gina Carano against Cris “Cyborg” Santos, and despite the frequent flashes of brilliance and excitement we’ve seen from some of the other lady-on-lady pairings, the new upper-management just isn’t feeling it.  And that’s too bad, because often, when the ladies make it to a big show (like Strikeforce or Bellator), they’re skilled enough to make watching them worthwhile.

Take, for instance, Carmouche.  With a win over Jan Finney at a Strikeforce Challengers edition last year, she was given the green light to replace an injured Miesha Tate in a title bout against 135-pound champ Marloes Coenen.  And for much of their almost three-and-a-half-round fight, the ex-Marine kicked the Dutchwoman’s ass.  It was unexpected and it was thrilling, and though Carmouche succumbed to a fourth-round triangle choke, she’d done more than enough to establish herself as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to ground battles and face-pounding. 

(As an aside: the sexual orientation of a competitor should not matter in the slightest, but it’s exceedingly noteworthy that Carmouche is the first openly gay fighter to step into the cage at a big show.  Excuse the pun, but coming out – especially when you’re going to be fighting on the national stage in a few weeks – takes gigantic figurative balls, and that’s exactly what Carmouche has.  Again, it shouldn’t matter at all, but that’s still pretty cool.)

Kaufman has proven herself to be among the elite with numerous killer performances herself – not the least of which were her stunning knockout of Roxanne Modafferi via slam, her smashing of Megumi Yabushita a few months ago at a Canadian event, and the dominant performances that marked her climb up Strikeforce’s 135-pound mountain.  If not for Coenen’s dangerous submission game, Kaufman would still be champ (and her record would be unblemished).  Kaufman is strong, she’s a fantastic puncher, she’s been handful for everyone who has ever faced her, and she’s the farthest thing from a fighter content to “lay and pray”.  Do you think when she and Carmouche meet they’re going to just sit in the middle of the cage and crochet?  Do you get the idea that Kaufman’s bout against Carmouche will be exciting?

By all means, if you’re engrossed in the never ending saga that is Bowling vs. Voelker, watch Strikeforce Challengers on Friday for them.  For me, it’s all about the women bashing each other silly.

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