August’s monster weekend of MMA began with a Friday night dose of Strikeforce Challengers – Strikeforce Challengers’ eighteenth installment, to be exact – and though the card was a mixture of veterans and newcomers and headlined by Jorge Gurgel taking on Joe Duarte, the real reason to tune in was to see a woman hailed by many as female MMA’s next big star. How’d she do? And how was the event? Let’s break down the fights and see.
Did you know Roy Jones fought on Strikeforce Challengers 18? Sadly, this particular Roy Jones was not the famous boxer (but that would’ve been cool, right?), but a light-heavyweight newcomer of much less striking prowess. However, against American Top Team exponent Derrick Mehmen, one has to question how much of a difference being an elite fist-fighter would’ve made when he was so good at delivering Peter Pan-esque flying knees. The first half of the opening round saw Jones blasting his foe repeatedly with said knees, while Mehmen drew upon his wrestling background to dump Jones onto the canvas and keep him there – a mode of attack that he adhered to until the final bell tolled. To make matters interesting, early in Round 2 a spinning back-kick by Jones opened up a hellacious cut above Mehmen’s eye, rendering both competitors accessories to a bloody Jackson Pollock painting as the wrestler ground and pounded his way to a unanimous decision. It was a gutsy performance by Mehmen, who never waivered even though he lost about two gallons of red stuff.
If you strain your ears, can almost hear the faint cries of “Ronda Rousey, please save our sport.” And you know what? Based on her technical display of high, high-level judo (like, Olympic bronze medal, yo), she just might be the tonic to revive the female version of mixed martial arts. Taking on jiu-jitsu specialist Sarah D’Alelio, Rousey came forward with the intensity of an angry gorilla – a blonde, not-so-hard on the eyes gorilla – tossed D’Alelio around, and absolutely flew into an armbar. The only black mark of the bout was the stoppage, which seemed to be a case of referee Steve Mazzagatti assuming D’Alelio tapped when she didn’t. Regardless, it was clear in the bout’s scant 25 seconds that Rousey would have inevitably detached D’Alelio’s limb from her body and taken it home with her, so the victory should go some ways into the establishing the American judoka’s hype as the next big thing.
With a clear size advantage (Pat Healy the lightweight, meet Eric Wisely the featherweight), it should’ve been an easy time for the more experienced Healy at Strikeforce Challengers 18. I mean, in theory, he should’ve manhandled the smaller guy into oblivion. But, uh, not so much. Wisely proved to possess an insanely uncanny bottom game, which he used to go for everything from repeated heelhook attempts, repeated armbar attempts, and even a sweet rolling kneebar – a constant, rapid-fire onslaught that mostly muted Healy’s ground-and-pound efforts. The veteran’s experience did enable him to maintain his cool, though, and after managing to avoid tapping out early on, he rode Wisely like a boogie board en route to a well-deserved (and well-earned) unanimous decision.
A refugee of the UFC, WEC and the IFL, Danillo Villefort came into his bout against Nate James wielding slightly crisper striking, way smoother judo and jiu-jitsu, and a monstrous experience advantage. But despite getting absolutely tossed with an uchi-mata in the first round and surviving being mounted, James proved to be one tough cookie that would not go down without a fight. What followed was flashes of brilliance from the Brazilian middleweight as he transitioned to various submission attempts and dominant positions, and dogged determination as the American wrestler squirmed out, got on top, and peppered Villefort with knuckles. It was a surprisingly close affair, and when the final scores were tallied, James was the man to come away with the unanimous decision.
UFC veteran Gurgel is so scrappy, his favorite cartoon character is Scooby-Doo’s diminutive nephew. (If you don’t get that joke, I don’t want to know you.) Cut from a similar cloth is Duarte. Unfortunately, putting the two together apparently creates some sort of pugilistic vortex where all we get is a medium-paced kickboxing match with occasional takedown attempts thrown in. For three rounds we were treated to Gurgel walking into punches until he was bloody, and Duarte too cautious to throw more than three strikes at a time. The only uptick in action occurred when the Brazilian completely flubbed a takedown in the third round and wound up on his back, with the Guam native taking the opportunity to mark his opponent up as possible. When time expired, Duarte took the unanimous decision.
- Joe Duarte def. Jorge Gurgel via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Nate James def. Danillo Villefort via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Pat Healy def. Eric Wisely via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Ronda Rousey def. Sarah D’Alelio via Technical Submission (Armbar) at :25 in Round 1
- Derrick Mehmen def. Roy Jones via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Gian Villante def. Keith Berry via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Nah-Shon Burrell def. Lukasz Les via TKO (Strikes) at 209 in Round 2
- Mike Bronzoulis def. Chad Leonhardt via TKO (Punches) at 1:30 in Round 3
- Milton Vieira def. Sterling Ford via Submission (Brabo Choke) at 4:49 in Round 1