Strikeforce Challengers 13 will take place on Friday, January 7th from the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, live on Showtime at 11:00 PM EST. The event will be headlined by a clash of highly-touted welterweight prospects as NCAA All-American wrestler Tyron Woodley looks to extend his undefeated streak to eight wins as he battles Team Quest fighter Tarec Saffiedine in the main event of the evening.
Also appearing on the card, former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier continues his tear through the ranks as he takes on knockout threat Devin Cole. Ovince St. Preux, Ron "Abongo" Humphrey, women's Muay Thai great Julia Budd, and Olympic Judo player and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Rhadi Ferguson will also be featured on the main card.
Welterweight: Tyron Woodley (7-0, 5-0 SF) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (10-2, 2-0 SF): It isn't surprising that this solid welterweight battle isn't getting a whole lot of interest from fans. After all, the UFC is king and Strikeforce's Challengers series cards have been hit-or-miss. But that shouldn't take away from that fact that both Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine stand to gain a considerable boost in Strikeforce's ranks with a big win on Friday night, and that fact alone should put a little interest behind this clash of top prospects.
Woodley's All-American wrestling credentials, on paper, should merit a nod from most fans. It's either that or they have no idea who Tarec Saffiedine even is and scoff at the idea that Strikeforce would give him a challenge. On the contrary, Woodley battled through a scare at Strikeforce Challengers 8 when he fought Nathan Coy, and he impressively knocked out Andre Galvao in his most recent bout at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II in October.
Saffiedine is far from a step down as he possesses solid wrestling on top of an effective stand-up game. The 24-year-old Team Quest fighter dropped a split decision to Dong Sik Yoon at DREAM 12 in October of 2009, but has rebounded with three straight victories which includes an unanimous decision win over former UFC fighter Brock Larson in September. The improvements he's made over the course of the last year have been surprising enough to garner a long look at the possibility of Saffiedine upsetting Woodley on Friday night.
It's a close fight on paper. Saffiedine's kickboxing has proven to be an effective weapon against wrestlers, and his improvements in the wrestling department haven't gone unnoticed. If Woodley can take Saffiedine down and work his submission game, this could be a rather quick contest. If not, Woodley is in for a rough night of eating jabs and counters. I'll go with Woodley due to his proven submission game, but Saffiedine may be a nice bettor's pick.
Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier (6-0, 3-0 SF) vs. Devin Cole (18-8-1, 0-0 SF): I've talked about the lack of heavyweight talent in-depth here at BloodyElbow.com frequently over the course of the last year. The outlook isn't good, but Daniel Cormier is one of the few heavyweight prospects that stands out. An Olympic-caliber wrestler with heavy hands, the 31-year-old remains undefeated with six victories, five of those taking place in 2010.
Cole's intrigue stems from his own propensity to knock opponents out, but he'll have his hands full against Cormier's superior wrestling. Look for Cormier to throw kill shots at Cole's chin early. If he gets tagged with a counter, we'll more than likely see a wrestling clinic in which Cormier comes out victorious. In either case, Cormier should win.
Light Heavyweight: Ovince St. Preux (9-4, 3-0 SF) vs. Ron Humphrey (7-2, 1-2 SF): St. Preux's epic beatdown of Benji Radach puts a lot of emphasis on him winning this showdown with former heavyweight Ron Humphrey, but I'm not sold on this fight being a repeat performance. Abongo's proven power could be a problem, enough of a concern that I wouldn't be surprised to see St. Preux succumb to a heavy overhand.
St. Preux's other abilities are better than anything Humphrey possesses however, and I can see this turning ugly if Abongo can't land a stunner early. He'll likely tire as well, and that doesn't bode well for his chances if this fight makes it to the second round. I'll go with St. Preux via TKO.
Women's: Julia Budd (1-0, 1-0 SF) vs. Amanda Nunes (5-1, 0-0 SF): Budd's extensive background in Muay Thai translated to success in her debut at Strikeforce Challengers 11 as she defeated the previously undefeated Shana Olsen. The win was impressive considering the fact that it was Budd's mixed martial arts debut, and Strikeforce has thrown her another solid opponent in Amanda Nunes.
Nunes' power is surprising to see in the women's division as we don't often see finishes. In her last five bouts, she's finished all of her opponents inside two rounds, which includes knockout wins over Vanessa Porto and Ediane Gomes. Her grappling prowess is by no means weak either, but she'll have her hands full with Budd's size and strength in this match-up. Nunes has an outside chance of upsetting Budd, but I think Budd's lengthy frame and strong stand-up skills will be the highlight of this fight. I'll take Budd via decision.
Light Heavyweight: Rhadi Ferguson (2-0, 0-0 SF) vs. John Richard (1-1, 0-0 SF): Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, most well-known for being the cousin of former UFC fighter Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson to casual fans, will make his Strikeforce debut on Friday night as he battles late replacement John Richard. Ferguson, a black belt in Judo who competed on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic team, is what I would refer to as a freak of nature. At 37 years of age, he doesn't have much of a shot at being a relevant fighter in the light heavyweight division, but he certainly has the physical skills and knowledge to surprise a lot of fans.
Richard and Ferrguson are neophytes in this sport, but Ferguson's background in Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu should give him a huge edge in this fight. Furthermore, he'll likely be the physically superior fighter as he's a mammoth of a man at 205 pounds. Look for Richard to succumb to that power inside the opening frame.
UPDATE: Moved to Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg -- Welterweight: Nate Moore (6-2, 1-1 SF) vs. Nathan Coy (8-3, 1-1 SF): A fairly even match-up here as both fighters can bring a fight to any opponent, but I like Coy in this match-up due to his overall toughness and blue-chip skill-set that should smother Moore in grinding wrestling and peppering stand-up. He gave Woodley a run for his money, and I expect him to use that performance as a way to motivate him to a higher level. I'll take him via decision here.