Strikeforce re-enters the fold this weekend after a very disappointing event in Nashville nearly one month ago. After some very methodical and boring main card match-ups that featured many of Strikeforce's biggest stars, a post-fight brawl and talk of Jake Shields leaving the promotion didn't paint a pretty picture of the promotion's future. Fortunately for Scott Coker, they've returned with what looks to be a very solid and competitive card that will be headlined by current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and challenger Brett Rogers.
The event will air LIVE on Showtime in the U.S. and on Super Channel in Canada at 10:00 PM EST. Before we take a meticulous look at the five main card battles taking place on Saturday night, let's dive right into some of the preliminary match-ups that will have some relevance in Strikeforce's future events.
Lightweight: Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro (20-3, 0-0 SF) vs. Lyle Beerbohm (13-0, 4-0 SF): For hardcore fans who've been following the sport since the days in which PRIDE reigned supreme, this should be a fairly interesting fight in terms of the questions that will be answered in the outcome. Lyle Beerbohm has been one of Strikeforce's best kept secrets as he's been carefully groomed to have some significance in the landscape of Strikeforce's lightweight division. While he hasn't faced any middle-echelon level talent in his career, he did manage to finish two former UFC fighters in Duane Ludwig and Rafaello Oliveira in first round stoppages in two performances under the ShoXC banner.
While Beerbohm continues to climb the ladder of relevance, Ribeiro has already succeeded against some of the best in the world early in his career. Wins over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, and Mitsuhiro Ishida during his days in Shooto vaulted him into a select group of elite fighters at the top of the weight class. His only losses have come against Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gesias Cavalcante, and Shinya Aoki -- a list of names that once littered the top ten rankings.
Ribeiro's Nova Uniao Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt credentials are hard to ignore in this fight. Once considered to be one of the absolute best grapplers in the sport, Ribeiro's only flaw has been his deficiencies in the stand-up department. As evident in his loss to Shinya Aoki, Ribeiro's striking is by far his most lacking attribute in his skill-set, and his grappling has been criticized as being far too methodical at times.
It's tough to gauge exactly what Beerbohm wants to do in this fight. Ribeiro will more than likely want to drag Beerbohm to the ground and gain side control as he likes to clamp on arm triangles and armbars, but Beerbohm has solid enough wrestling to stuff Ribeiro's attempts. Beerbohm is definitely an aggressor though, and it wouldn't surprise me if he tries to test his skills in Ribeiro's guard in an attempt to land some of the heavy blows he's capable of using from top control.
The smarter gameplan would be to stand and trade with Ribeiro while being aware of his takedown attempts. In reality, I think Beerbohm is highly confident in his top control skills, and he'll more than likey try to bomb Ribeiro from the top while avoiding submission attempts from the four-time Mundials champion. There is some truth to the methodical ways of Vitor's submission game, and at times -- it seems like his opponents are given a lot of time to work their way out of attempts rather than remain on the defensive from quicker transitioning movements. Despite the criticisms, Ribeiro continues to be a submission threat with twelve of his twenty wins coming by way of submission.
I'm going to stick with my initial prediction of this match-up that I formulated when this bout was announced. I think Beerbohm's wrestling and defense from the top is going to be a real problem for Ribeiro. While Ribeiro is a great submission fighter, I think the power he'll feel from Beerbohm's punches will ultimately stop him in his tracks.
Welterweight: Justin DeMoney (13-2-1, 0-0 SF) vs. Jesse Finney (4-0, 1-0 SF): As with most Strikeforce cards, they've leveraged the local talent to bolster the gate. Jesse Finney will make his return to Strikeforce after submitting Josh Bumgarner at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields back in June of 2009. It'll be his second appearance with the promotion, and he'll be looking to maintain his perfect record against a veteran competitor in Justin DeMoney.
Both men are former boxers with Finney also having an extensive background in kickboxing as he was the coach of the St. Louis Enforcers in the World Combat League and an undefeated 23-0 professional kickboxer. DeMoney has a background in boxing as well as wrestling, and he trains out of Iowa with the likes of Jeremy Stephens. That should probably give you an idea of what to expect.
More than likely, we'll see a stand-up battle in this fight with Finney getting the better of DeMoney during the early minutes of round one. I think DeMoney will more than likely resort to his wrestling, but Finney is surprisingly good on the ground in the jiu-jitsu department. Ultimately, I think DeMoney has only one way to win this fight whereas I think Finney has a couple different scenarios that could play out in his favor. My only real concern is whether a 35-year-old Finney can outlast a younger fighter like DeMoney.
Light Heavyweight: Lee Brousseau (3-1, 0-0 SF) vs. Francisco France (4-1, 0-0 SF): Another battle of local products with somewhat of a twist. Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Francisco France, who fights out of Columbia, Missouri as part of American Top Team's affiliate school in the city, will battle Wood River, IL-native Lee Brousseau in light heavyweight action.
The twist is that France is from Fortaleza, Brazil, and originally trained at the facility in Coconut Creek, Florida. How did a two-time Pan-Am Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion make his way to Columbia, Missouri? Wade Rome, owner of ATT's Columbia branch, brought him over from Florida in order to bring a solid Brazilian jiu-jitsu learning center to Missouri, and surprisingly... France has benefited as Olympic wrestler Ben Askren also trains at the facility.
Brousseau was actually a finalist for a spot on The Ultimate Fighter season eleven roster, but his dreams of making it into the UFC didn't come true. Now, he'll have his opportunity to shine on Strikeforce's undercard and earn himself some bigger fights. Unfortunately, I think France's Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Judo black belt, and the help of Ben Askren's training are going to make it one tough night for Brousseau. France via submission.
Welterweight: Michael Chandler (2-0, 1-0 SF) vs. Sal Woods (3-7, 0-1 SF): If you have a chance to actually go to Strikeforce's event on Saturday, you'll want to keep an eye on Michael Chandler. He's one of those "under the radar" prospects that people will be hearing a lot about in the future. He was a NCAA D-I All American wrestler out of Missouri who was a four-time NCAA qualifier who took fifth place in his senior year in the 157 pound weight class. He finished behind three former NCAA champions and a two-time NCAA runner-up that year... not exactly the easiest field of competitors for Chandler to beat.
Huge power, phenomenal wrestling, and crushing ground and pound will be on display in this fight. Sal Woods, unfortunately, is being brought in as the sacrificial lamb in this fight. Sure, he has a chance to defeat Chandler with a punch from the Gods, but Chandler is immensely powerful and tenacious. Chandler via TKO, Round 1.
Rest of Card
Lightweight: Thomas Aaron (1-2, 0-0 SF) vs. Eric Steenberg (3-0, 0-0 SF)
Lightweight: Gregory Wilson (0-0) vs. Matt Ricehouse (1-0, 0-0 SF)
Light Heavyweight: Darryl Cobb (3-1, 1-0 SF) vs. Booker DeRousse (2-2, 1-0)