The women's division in mixed martial arts is very similar to that of many other major sports. While it can be competitive and entertaining to watch, it's generally enjoyed by a very small group of fans in comparison to the men's game. In Mixed Martial Arts, the "very small group" is a bit larger due to the fact that there is still an undeniable excitement level when it comes to hand-to-hand combat.
Sarah Kaufman (12-0, 4-0 SF), Strikeforce's 135 pound women's champion, hopes to change that on Saturday night as she battles former Strikeforce 145 pound contender Marloes Coenen (17-4, 1-1 SF) in a women's welterweight title showdown. While Kaufman has been criticized in the past for being relatively boring, she answered those critics by slamming Roxanne Modaferri to the floor and knocking her out in her last performance at Strikeforce Challengers IX. She followed the victory up with a call to Scott Coker to put her on a Showtime main card, and Coker has given her the opportunity on Saturday night.
She won't have an easy task in defending her belt, however, as she battles a very game opponent in Coenen. Coenen is most well-known for withstanding the brutal power of Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos through nearly three rounds back in January. She previously defeated Roxanne Modaferri via armbar in only 1:05 at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers, a feat that was quite impressive considering Modaferri's track record.
Coenen will be making the cut down to 135 pounds for this fight, and she will have the slight disadvantage of only fighting once this year while Kaufman has fought twice in 2010 with her most recent performance taking place in July. Ring rust could be a factor for Coenen, but I'm more inclined to think that Kaufman's style will frustrate Coenen on the feet.
While Coenen's submission skills are her best offensive weapons, Kaufman's takedown defense and ability to avoid submissions is solid. She's very strong for her weight class and throws hard straight punches on the feet with decent footwork to avoid counters. Coenen's striking has likely improved at Golden Glory but has it improved enough to catch an opponent with great defense?
I doubt it, and I think Coenen's relative inactivity in the last year will hurt her as well. Add on the fact that Kaufman is one of the more disciplined fighters in sticking to her gameplan, and you have the makings of a one-sided affair that heads straight for decision. While I'd love to think Kaufman can end Coenen's night quickly, I don't see it happening. Kaufman defends her title, but it won't be in spectacular fashion. Kaufman via decision.