The reports of female MMA’s demise have been greatly exaggerated (wait, have I used that lede before?). This Saturday night, Strikeforce brings us the biggest, most compelling pairing of femme fighters since Cris “Cyborg” Santos stepped into the cage to take on Gina Carano. That’s right, I’m talking about Miesha Tate versus Ronda Rousey, a matchup that pits the organization’s 135-pound champ against an Olympic judo bronze medalist who rips off arms like you and I rip off pieces of toilet paper from the rolls hanging beside our respective crappers. There are, of course, other things on the card that will get the blood flowing, like former champ Josh Thomson’s return, Brit slugger Paul Daley’s collision course with Japanese warrior Kazuo Misaki, and Ronaldo Souza and Scott Smith’s impending handling of young upstarts. But what’s motivating me to tune in to Showtime this weekend is that marquee bout involving the fairer sex, and yes, it has everything to do with the violence one is surely going to be visiting upon the other – particularly, that other fighter’s limb. Preview time!
-Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey – Let me start off by saying some good things about Tate. She hasn’t tasted defeat since a decision loss to Sarah Kaufman back in May of 2009; she’s experienced; she won the Strikeforce belt by tapping out Marloes Coenen, so she’s no slouch when it comes to submissions; and, she’s a solid wrestler. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s state the obvious: Rousey is going to throw her down and transition into the kind of armbar that requires rehab and physical therapy to recover from. In just four pro fights and three amateur ones, the judoka has finished all who stood before her, all via armlock, all in under a minute. That’s the kind of feat that more than warrants her title shot. Heck, with that kind of streak going, Rousey deserves credit for turning a run-of-the-mill Meisha Tate title defense into “Oh man is that lady going to get her arm broken for sure” fight. And folks, that kind of hype, though morbid, is just what female MMA needs to make it more than just “two attractive chicks fighting”. I see Rousey coming away with the belt (obviously), but the question remains: Can Tate last longer than a minute?
-Josh Thomson vs. KJ Noons – Miraculously, Thomson’s body has held together enough for him to face Noons (note: Thomson has had to drop out of about a thousand fights due to injuries, and he spent all of 2011 suspended in a nutrient tank a la Luke Skywalker in the Rebel base on Hoth). But here he is now, a former champ and perennial badass, taking on someone who possesses some of the best hands in the business. For Noons, the keys to victory are to keep Thomson from taking him down, and keep him at the end of his fists. This is very doable, especially if the duct tape holding Thomson together spontaneously comes undone. However, Thomson could just as easily be the one pushing the pace and imposing his will, so it could go either way. I predict a decision here, but I can’t decide which way the decision will go.
-Paul Daley vs. Kazuo Misaki – As one of the most exciting British fighters in the game, and, despite his extracurricular actions against Josh Koscheck (which got him banished from the UFC), one of the most likeable Brits in the game, Daley is right up there among the best welterweight properties Strikeforce has under contract. But signing Misaki, and pairing him up against Daley… that’s a stroke of genius, so let’s all give Strikeforce a little golf clap. *Claps effetely* Twice Misaki went to the well with Jorge Santiago in Sengoku, and twice it was an epic Braveheart-esque battle replete with carnage and heads being lopped off. Therefore, putting Daley and Misaki together should be a sure-fire recipe for thrills, and honestly, I haven’t the faintest clue how it’s going to end. It won’t be boring, though!
-Ronalda Souza vs. Bristol Marunde – Souza was the Strikeforce middleweight champ until he laid an egg against Luke Rockhold, but his road back to title contention looks to be paved with cans of the tomato variety. First it was to be against wrestler Derek Brunson. Unfortunately, the athletic commission took issue with Brunson’s imitation of Mr. Magoo, so now it’s going to be Bristol Marunde who faces the vaunted jiu-jitsu of “Jacare”, and the common denominator between the Brazilian’s two opponents is that they both pose the same amount of threat – nil. Souza is going back to basics and getting the submission, and soon Strikeforce will once more have someone legitimate to fight for Rockhold’s crown.
-Scott Smith vs. Lumumba Sayers – The clock is ticking on Smith and his time in the cage, and that’s a shame because he brings it, win or lose. However, although Sayers put away Antwain Britt in impressive, hard-hitting fashion, he’s still got a ways to go before he can step to the likes of Smith, who’s managed to score knockouts even after being knocked out and/or gravely wounded himself. Smith is taking this one via TKO after doing his best “Walking Dead” imitation.