Shoo away those circling vultures and other carrion feeders, because Strikeforce is going to live! But you knew that already, just as you knew that Dana White had rolled up his sleeves and entered into the consecrated offices of the Showtime network with the determination to keep some kind of worthwhile MMA property on the channel. So yes, Strikeforce will remain alive, albeit without its heavyweight division, without its low-calorie Strikeforce Challengers series, but with female bouts and no more fighters fleeing for the greener pastures of the UFC’s Octagon. Wahoo! More MMA! Which brings us to Saturday night, and an event headlined by a meeting between Strikeforce champ (whatever that’s still worth) Gilbert Melendez and the always-scrappy Jorge Masvidal. Savor that bout, for reasons that will soon follow, but ultimately, savor the fact that the event won’t be one of the organization’s last. Because without Strikeforce in our lives, what MMA show would we watch on Showtime eight times a year? M-1 Challenge? Ha!
-Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal – Given his hard-fought win over Josh Thomson, his dominant performance over Shinya Aoki, and his prison-rape of Tatsuya Kawajiri, Melendez can be considered among one of the best lightweights in the world (but the inter-dimensional portal between Strikeforce and the UFC has closed, so we’ll never know if he’s the best!). And with his wrestling mixed with pinpoint striking and laser-like intensity, it’s not hard to see why he’s such a badass. The dude is a machine. Challenger Masvidal is no slouch, either, but he’s not quite the same caliber of machine as Melendez. Put another way, if Melendez is a T-1000 Terminator-kind of machine, then with his competent jiu-jitsu, solid Muay Thai, accurate high-kicks and propensity for starting somewhat slowly, Masvidal is an espresso maker. Which, hey, is a great machine if you like coffee-type drinks, but when it comes to dethroning one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world from their royal seat, forget about it. Melendez is finishing this one via TKO early.
-Cris “Cyborg” Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka – There’s a tale Brazilian mothers tell their children to scare them into behaving, a tale about a creature that lives in the jungle and comes out at night to devour the unwary. That fabled creature – that feared monster that preys upon mankind – is called the dreaded “Lobisomem”. Recently, Strikeforce 145-pound female champ Cyborg was hungry, so she ate the Lobisomem. And now she wants to feed again. Who’s next for her, and is it someone who stands a chance? Sadly, it’s not Ronda Rousey, so the answer is “no”. A well-rounded Japanese fighter named Yamanaka is the one that gets sacrificed to appease the appetite of Cyborg, which means we have to wait a while longer for something meaningful to happen in female MMA. Given her unyielding aggression and ability to strike better than most of the men on the planet, Cyborg is winning this one via TKO in what should be a quick, violent and ugly match.
-Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux – I admit, I drank the Kool-Aid when it came to believing that DREAM champ Mousasi was the next big thing. Then King Mo laid on him and took his Strikeforce belt, and he drew against Keith Jardine, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, there were some holes in the ace striker’s game. Oh well, he can still be exciting, and his skills are nothing to be trifled with. Which begs the question: will St. Preux, who sometimes likes to stand and bang as well as get guys down and manhandle them, trifle with Mousasi’s superior submissions and superior face-punching? If you’re the up-and-coming St. Preux’s coach, you have to hope your kid plays it smart and tries to grind out the win. I’m guessing that’s not what’s going to happen, though. Mousasi is finding St. Preux’s chin in the later rounds, and that’s all she wrote.
-Billy Evangelista vs. KJ Noons – Despite his top-notch boxing and ability to avoid trouble on the ground, Noons got completely housed by Masvidal and Nick Diaz in his last two fights, while the well-rounded Evangelista blew his chance at breaking out into the big time when Masvidal beat him too. Well, here we are, with a pair of guys who aren’t the best, but who are very capable at throwing leather and putting on a show. Which actually seems like a pretty good metaphor for Strikeforce itself – it’s pretty much not going to be the absolute best fighters throwing down, but it’s going to be good, skilled fighters doing it in entertaining fashion. In that spirit, I see this bout going the distance. The winner: who cares! It will be fun no matter what!