After a weekend that featured the return of Alistair Overeem to Strikeforce, the continued downward spiral of former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski, and the resurgence of Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, we're due for a small break in major mixed martial arts action as it will heat up after this weekend. For the fans who simply want MMA action non-stop, you've still got some options this weekend as Strikeforce Challengers VIII and Moosin: God of Martial Arts both take place on Friday, May 21st.
Moosin will be hosted at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, and it will air LIVE on pay-per-view at 9:00 PM EST. Head over to Moosin's website for all the details if you're interested. The main event will feature former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia (25-6) battling five-time World's Strongest Man champion Mariusz Pudzianowski (2-0). This will be Pudzianowski's U.S. debut and third professional mixed martial arts fight while Sylvia will go for his 26th victory and aim to re-energize his career after suffering some setbacks.
Super Heavyweight: Tim Sylvia (25-6) vs. Mariusz Pudzianowski (2-0): Pudzianowski's recent battle with Yusuke Kawaguchi at KSW XIII didn't give fans a lot to look forward to when Pudzianowski storms the shores of Boston. Kawaguchi was, at the very least, able to fend off Pudzianowski's large size and enormous strength for two rounds, but he was unable to produce any sort of dangers for the "Strongman". Pudzianowski was visibly gassed, breathing heavily into the second round, and didn't show any significant improvement in his technical abilities in any department. But what should we expect from a rather green MMA fighter with only two professional bouts?
We should probably expect him to take it easy and increase his level of competition slowly. Unfortunately for him, he seems to have his own visions of how his MMA career will pan out. Sylvia hasn't had the greatest run of luck lately as he was knocked out by Ray Mercer back at Adrenaline III in June of 2009. He became quite the laughing stock among MMA fans, but did rebound from the loss with a win over Jason Riley at Adrenaline IV roughly three months later.
We can harp on Tim Sylvia for quite a long time for being crushed by Ray Mercer. It was embarrassing to say the least, but we still need to recognize that Sylvia probably has the skills to be effective against most of the competition outside of the UFC in the heavyweight division. While Fedor did overwhelm him, Sylvia's physical frame and ability to keep a fight standing does present challenges to guys in Strikeforce and many regional promotions with rising stars.
Sylvia really should take this fight. The appeal is that Sylvia's losses in recent fights will rear its ugly head, and fans have always wanted to see Sylvia just get beat because of his rather boring style in the UFC. Pudzianowski's only chance is in the opening few minutes, and he'll actually need to be accurate and damaging in his striking. He has a shot simply due to his power, but I think Sylvia outclasses him here.
Heavyweight: Josh Barnes (5-4) vs. Travis Wiuff (60-14): Mu Bae Choi was supposed to battle Travis Wiuff, but now we've got a relatively inexperienced Josh Barnes against a seventy-four fight veteran. Even more worrying, Barnes is very susceptible to the knockout, and Wiuff's wrestling and power from the top can be quite devastating to inexperienced opponents.
Expect a victory for Travis Wiuff in this contest. Barnes won't be able to compete with the experience of Wiuff, and he certainly won't be able to handle Wiuff's wrestling. Whether or not Wiuff can actually finish is another story as he's historically grinded out decisions from top control in many of his wins.
Middleweight: Travis Lutter (10-5) vs. Rafael Natal (11-2): Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and Capoeira practitioner Rafael "Sapo" Natal continues his quest to become one of the top middleweight prospects in the country as he battles a recognizable former UFC competitor in Travis Lutter on Friday evening. Under the tutelage of Vinicius Magalhaes, Natal earned his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt last year and has been training under the Gracie Fusion banner.
As with any fight that Travis Lutter's involved in, conditioning is a factor, and he lacks the striking acumen to be an enormous threat on the feet as well. They've always been factors that have plagued his ability to become a huge star, and fighting every once in awhile doesn't inspire any confidence that'll change.
Capoeira backgrounds haven't been widely used in mixed martial arts, but those who do have the experience do translate some of the kicks and movement to the sport. Andre Gusmao is one particular fighter who incorporated some of the "rocking" motions into his striking, and many of the Capoeira fighters in MMA today have benefited with increases in their agility and balance. I think speed and agility will come into play on the feet, and I don't think Lutter will be able to submit Natal easily. Too many x-factors for Lutter in this fight, so I'll go with Natal.
Lightweight: Yves Edwards (37-15-1) vs. Mike Campbell (6-2): I think experience definitely dictates how this fight will turn out. Edwards, a UFC, Strikeforce, EliteXC, and PRIDE veteran, has ran through some middle-to-lower level competition in his most recent fights with his most notable wins coming against Derrick Noble and Kyle Jensen. Not only does experience outweigh Campbell's eight career fights, but Edwards should have the edge in nearly every area of this fight.
Campbell, a former weightlifting competitor who once benched 440 pounds, has had some bad luck in the WEC as he lost to both Danillo Villefort and Anthony Pettis. He has the strength to be a menace from the top, but he's obviously lacking the technical skills that Edwards possesses. For that reason alone, I'd bank on Edwards continuing his winning streak.
Women's (130 lbs.): Tara LaRosa (18-1) vs. Roxanne Modaferri (14-5): Probably one of the more relevant women's bouts we've seen in quite some time, Modaferri will get a chance to avenge a loss from back in 2006 as she meets one of the best female fighters in the business in Tara LaRosa. LaRosa is currently a fourteen fight win streak, and some say she's the Fedor Emelianenko of the women's division. Modaferri is coming off a win over Molly Helsel, but lost to Marloes Connen at Strikeforce's Fedor vs. Rogers event in only 1:05 of the first round. It was a battle in a weight above her own.
I'd give LaRosa the nod here as she still remains a very strong fighter with a well-rounded skill-set. I think Modaferri is definitely dangerous on the ground, but her striking isn't going to be as effective as the power that LaRosa brings. I think she'll eventually batter Modaferri enough to open up the submission, but I think Modaferri is resilient enough to stifle those attempts. LaRosa via decision.
Light Heavyweight: Kim Ho Jin (7-6) vs. Lukasz Jurkowski (14-9)
Welterweight: Matt Lee (11-9-1) vs. Brett Oteri (4-1)
Welterweight: Ralph Johnson (4-0) vs. Forrest Petz (17-7)
Heavyweight: Paul Barry (4-0) vs. Stipe Miocic (1-0)
Heavyweight: Frederic "The French Zohan" Belleton (6-2) vs. Anthony Lapsley (17-4)
Super Heavyweight: Eric "Butterbean" Esch (12-7-1) vs. Lyndon Byers (0-0)
Not too many fights stand out on the undercard. Barry vs. Miocic is actually a pretty legit contender for knockout of the evening as both men have stopped all comers with punches in the first round. I've heard good things about both guys, so keep an eye on some video of that hitting the Internet quickly.
Johnson vs. Petz is a bit intriguing for the mere fact that Petz is hit or miss. His loss to Brian Gassaway was strange in that Petz simply swung for the fences the entire fight, but he's shown some discipline as well in past battles. Johnson is a prospect, so this win could push him up the ladder considerably.
And finally, Eric "Butterbean" Esch makes one final appearance against former Boston Bruins enforcer and radio personality Lyndon Byers in a charity fight as all proceeds go to the family of Mark Bisnette, a Worcester police officer who was killed in an automobile accident. Esch has actually turned his attention to promoting as he's the lead promoter for Moosin, and these last few fights have been his way of settling all commitments before he goes leaves the sport.
There is some hilarity here as Byers is 46 years old, out of shape, and has never boxed in his life. He's enlisted the help of former junior welterweight boxer Micky Ward, famous for the trilogy of bouts with Arturo Gatti, as his trainer for this fight. Interestingly enough, Esch actually earned his purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, more than likely from his abilities to submit people from top control. The fact of the matter is that Ward hasn't even trained for the ground, and Esch is probably miles ahead of him in the boxing game as he's actually BOXED. Somebody get the stretcher ready... but hey, it's for charity, right?