This weekend could be considered a mecca of combative sports action that will feed the hunger for any mixed martial arts fan. While UFC 111 is the obvious headliner, Friday night will serve as the perfect primer as Strikeforce Challengers VII and King of the Cage: Legacy take place. Strikeforce will air during a free preview weekend on Showtime at 11:00 PM EST while Mark Burnett's King of the Cage: Legacy will air at 10:00 PM EST on HDNet.
Strikeforce Challengers VII: Johnson vs. Mahe - Save Mart Center in Fresno, California
I won't sugarcoat my opinions about the Strikeforce Challengers series. It's been pretty disappointing to say the least, and that's probably due to the experience level of these fighters. Kaufman vs. Hashi was unbelievably boring to watch, and while I try to see the positive in those types of match-ups as a hardcore fan -- it was tough to keep my interest.
Hopefully, Friday's Strikeforce Challengers VII card will provide a little more excitement than some of the previous battles we've seen in the smaller feeder series.
Lavar Johnson will enter this contest following a long layoff after being shot at a family gathering that took place on the fourth of July last year. Miraculously, he has recovered and returned to a career that was looking very promising before the scary ordeal. His opponent, Hawaiian Lolohea Mahe, has also had a lengthy layoff as he hasn't fought since June of last year. Both men are power punchers with Johnson having much more experience along with training at the world-renowned American Kickboxing Academy.
Ring rust will likely be a factor, but I see no reason why Lavar shouldn't come back strong with a first round knockout here. Mahe presents a challenge in that he's a big, powerful puncher, and those types of fighters can beat the odds at any given moment, but Lavar is being set-up for a run at making the bigger show. Look for fireworks here, but in the form of a one-sided beatdown favoring Lavar.
Another battle in which both fighters have had very long layoffs. George Bush is mostly known for his loss to Ricco Rodriguez during the now-infamous YAMMA Pit Fighting tournament, and sadly... that was his most recent bout. He's had nearly a two year layoff. Humphrey's last battle was against Brett Rogers at Strikeforce's Shamrock vs. Diaz event, taking the future contender to the second round before succumbing via TKO.
Abongo has monster knockout power, and he defeated every single opponent with the exception of Rogers via a first round knockout. If I remember correctly, Bush's main tactic is to wrestle opponents to the ground and pound on them, but Humphrey should have enough strength to fend off those tactics and crush Bush in this contest. I'll take Humphrey via TKO.
This card seems to be lined with guys who have been off for quite some time. Stewart hasn't fought since he lost to Joe Riggs back in November of 2008 while Galvao has been laid off since July of 2009 after losing to Jason High during the DREAM Welterweight Grand Prix.
On paper, Galvao is the better fighter here. While Stewart has some dynamic striking ability with knees and kicks, Galvao is a surprisingly decent boxer on his feet with world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. The three-time ADCC medalist and sometimes said to be the most decorated grappler to ever hit MMA should be able to put Stewart on his back and work his submission game. Stewart is pretty tough to finish, and Galvao is sometimes susceptible to getting sucked into a stand-up fight... but I think he'll be able to submit Stewart here.
Zoila Frausto nearly put me to sleep with her performance against Helspur, and while the commentary team drooled over her striking -- I couldn't help but be unimpressed with her accuracy at times. Tate should offer some decent wrestling and submission skills, and she's been known to throw some surprising power as well. Frausto could win this by decision, but I think Tate is going to edge her out on the scorecards.
Shamar Bailey (10-1) vs. Justin Wilcox (8-3): Interesting match-up here as both Bailey and Wilcox can survive on the ground and wrestle. I'll give Bailey the nod, but Wilcox can win here. This fight will start the televised main card.
Daniel Cormier (1-0) vs. John Devine (5-1) - Cormier's Olympic background should give him the edge in taking down Devine at will and smothering him, but Devine isn't exactly a slouch. This might get interesting. Not a gimme fight by any means.
Mike Kyle is coming off a victory over Travis Wiuff at the KOTC event back in February in which he dropped Wiuff with an uppercut that saw Wiuff fall like a Redwood tree being cut down in the backwoods of California. He's probably most notable for his loss to Fabricio Werdum and upset victory over Rafael Cavalcante during his stint with Strikeforce.
Murphy was a talked about prospect, but losses to Houston Alexander, Chase Gormley, and Brett Rogers have somewhat put his career up in the air. This should be the perfect test for him as Kyle is mostly known for his striking while Murphy has professional boxing experience that could be a challenge for Kyle to get past. Murphy also has some skills on the floor, and he isn't afraid to mix it up on the ground at all. In fact, I'd be inclined to believe he'd rather stun his opponents from top control rather than box. It's a tough one to call, but I'd take Kyle purely on the fact that he's faced some better competition recently. Murphy is a live underdog though, and if a line opens... I'll take it.
Tony Lopez (18-2) vs. Tony Johnson (4-1): Lopez has a whopping sixteen fight win streak with two victories over current UFC fighter Joey Beltran. He hasn't fought the strongest competition, but he isn't exactly average either. Expect him to win here.
Quinn Mulhern (10-1) vs. Koffi Adzitso (10-4): After Mulhern absolutely dominated UFC veteran Rich Clementi, it's tough to pick against him. He has phenomenal jiu-jitsu on the ground, and I imagine he'll use the same methods to control Adzitso and finish him.
Jaime Jara (25-7) vs. Tim Means (8-2): Jara had some hype around him at one point in his career, but he seems to slip in and out of the mix with some key losses over the course of his career. His age is an issue now, and he doesn't have many years left to compete. Means presents a challenge in that he's a heavy-handed wrestler, but Jara has some impressive chokes in his arsenal. Look for a guillotine if Means shoots often.
Nick Gaston (1-0) vs.
Darrill Schoonover (10-1): I'm hoping this makes the broadcast as this will be Schoonover's first fight since losing to James McSweeny at the TUF 10 Finale. Nick "AfroZilla" Gaston was featured on Bully Beatdown, and he's pretty enormous at 6'4", 250 pounds. This should be a good bounce back for Schoonover though as he has way more experience, proven knockout power, and Gaston is relatively green.
UPDATE: Darrill Schoonover apparently contracted shingles. Mike Guidry (2-0) is now Gaston's opponent.