You know how when mom is making Thanksgiving dinner she serves up a tray with assorted raw vegetables and ranch dressing dip to hold you over until the turkey is done? Tonight’s Strikeforce Challengers, which was headlined by up-and-comer Lorenz Larkin and Jeremy Horn-protégé Nick Rossborough, was that selection of crudités, meant to stave off the pangs of hunger until tomorrow night’s UFC 135 and Bellator 51 main course. Did it work? Well, I’m still hungry, but it was something good to munch on. Here’s how it all went down.
Brazilian Felipe Portela stepped into the cage hailed as some kind of striker, while Brian Melancon was purported to have enough wrestling chops to make it a dogfight. And by the end of the first round, it was clear that assessment was accurate, as Portela was quite a bit more technical and dangerous on the feet and Melancon nailed two impressive takedowns to put the Brazilian on his back. However, somewhere in his past the American scored a few knockouts and liked the taste of it, so more often than not Melancon was wading in swinging for the fences – a tactic that earned him a knockdown late in the second, and facilitated a number of takedowns in the third. The end result was a unanimous decision win for Melancon in a moderately entertaining affair.
As a UFC and DREAM veteran, Jason High doesn’t quite fit the mold of the standard Strikeforce Challengers competitor. I mean, the dude once beat Hayato Sakurai, so you know his game – wrestling mixed with hard and varied striking – is solid. Todd Moore, on the other hand, is a WEC veteran who hasn’t really been able to excel in the Big Leagues. Therefore, it should come as no surprise how much High dominated Moore. Case in point: the opening round, which saw High wasting no time getting his foe down and beating on him from the top. TwiceMoorehad to defend chokes, and though he survived the round, and had a brief moment on top in Round 2, he wound up bloody from ground and pound in the third. It was pretty much all High all the time, and the judges agreed, rendering a unanimous decision in his favor.
It’s amusing to see who Ryan Couture gets matched up with. Because of his last name, he gets the TUF winner treatment and is usually fed guys on the “easier” end of the spectrum. Tonight, it was someone named Maka Watson. Who? Exactly. But it’s a testament to Couture’s greenness how rough of a time he has against these kinds of opponents. In the first round the son of the UFC legend got his opponent down and put him through the submission ringer, yet got reversed late and took some damage. Round 2 played out in similar fashion, with Watson spending more time on top delivering punishment and opening up a cut on Couture’s forehead. The final round was on track to turn out even worse for Couture; however, a reversal of his own early on had him reapplying the grappling pressure, and it was enough to ward off disaster. He earned himself a majority decision when time ran out.
Lavar Johnson may have been grappled right out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix’s alternate mix, but he’s still a deadly knockout artist. Unfortunately, Shawn Jordan hits hard and was a state wrestling champ – a mixture that made for one miserable evening for the big puncher. Not long after the referee said “go”, Jordan tagged Johnson square in the eye with his fist, causing that area to swell up instantly. Then came the takedowns, which forced Johnson to struggle under his heavyweight opponent’s weight. Then came the punching exchanges, which had Johnson swinging hard but cautious about his eye. Then came the takedown in the second round, which resulted inJordanon top, torquing Johnson’s arm with anAmericana. The tap out came at 3:08, and it’s back to the drawing board for Johnson.
Lorenz Larkin earned himself “rising star” status by virtue of his dynamic striking and dominant performances under the glare of the Strikeforce Challengers spotlight. Nick Rossborough, on the other hand, was a late-replacement with a ton of experience, an iron head and a propensity for walking forward throwing punches. Putting the two together gave us three rounds of grueling action. From the outset Rossborough made it clear he wasn’t intimidated by the fire Larkin was bringing, stalking him down to tie him up against the cage and deliver punches. Larkin was his usual elusive self, dodging this way and that, but eventually he just began laying into his opponent with four- and five-strike combinations to accumulate points. Only in the final round did Larkin take complete charge, dropping Rossborough with a perfect knee to the solar plexus and bloodying him with ground and pound. For his efforts, Larkin was awarded the unanimous decision, and his rising star status remains untouched.
- Lorenz Larkin def. Nick Rossborough via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
- Shawn Jordan def. Lavar Johnson via Submission (Keylock) at 3:08 in Round 2
- Ryan Couture def. Maka Watson via Majority Decision (28-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Jason High def. Todd Moore via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Brian Melancon def. Felipe Portela via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
- James Terry def. Magno Almeida via TKO (Punches) at 3:27 in Round 1
- Bobby Green def. Charon Spain via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) at 2:54 in Round 1
- Chris Spang def. Joe Ray via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Quinn Mulhern def. Danny Davis via Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) at 4:08 in Round 3