Thursday night I wrote a "jaded fan's guide" to tonight's Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson event. Today it's time to look at the other side of the coin and explain what about each fight has me excited. Speaking honestly, this is a perfectly fine looking card on paper which could deliver five very exciting fights.
A win here by Henderson would give him wins over Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. There aren't too many men in the history of this sport who hold three wins on that level. There was also a strange desire to write Henderson off following the loss to Jake Shields. While that loss obviously wasn't good, he has wins over Rafael Cavalcante (#9 LHW in the USA TODAY / MMA Nation Rankings), Renato Sobral (#19 LHW), Michael Bisping (#7 MW), Rich Franklin (#13 LHW) and Rousimar Palhares (#18 MW). That's far from a resume where I'm willing to write a guy off.
It's strange to go into a Fedor fight knowing that he doesn't really fit into a title picture of any sort. It's hard to overlook him trying to get back on track via fighting a guy from a lower weight class, but we're going to learn a lot about the man's character by seeing how he reacts when forced into a position he has never been in his entire career.
The power punching and iron chins of both men make for an extremely compelling fight on paper.
I've never made any secret of the fact that I don't enjoy women's MMA. I'm not going to be dishonest and pretend I enjoy it just to make people feel better.
That being said, Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche makes my top 15 MMA fights of the year currently and I think both women are talented. Tate is likely to be able to put Marloes on her back at multiple points in the fight, making for an interesting battle between Tate's top game and Coenen's submissions. I think the fight slants heavily in Marloes' favor on the feet so it's Tate's ability to avoid Coenen's offense that tells the entire story of this fight. Can she close distance on the feet without getting cracked? If she does, can she take it to the ground and keep Coenen from taking a limb?
I was serious when I questioned Tim Kennedy's competition to date in Strikeforce. Other than Zak Cummings he has not beaten anyone in Strikeforce with more than 1 win in their last 5 fights. That's a serious reason to be concerned. Still, he has decent skills and his striking game is coming along at a decent enough rate. I'd expect him to use his improved striking more to set up distance to clinch up and avoid Lawler's power shots.
Lawler is nothing if not entertaining. He also has spent the last few years proving that he can't hang with the top end of the division. Still, he will test Kennedy's chin and has enough heart to make Tim work for it over the course of the fight.
I may have my doubts about either man as a real player at 185 pounds but this is set up to deliver some legitimate action.
Watching Paul Daley do his thing in the striking department is fantastic. He has always had a weakness in the wrestling department but he claims that he has been training to get better. He isn't training takedowns, just working on staying on his feet. If he has advanced his skills at all he is going to stop Woodley's undefeated streak.
Woodley hasn't developed quite as quickly as a lot of people hoped struggling against Nathan Coy and not dominating Tarec Saffiedine the way some expected. But the good moments have given a lot to be excited about. The bombing of Andre Galvao was something else. We're going to find out a lot about Woodley in this fight. He's going to have to avoid getting crushed with some of Daley's power shots and he is going to have to be very effective with his takedowns and top control. He has to spend as little time as possible at any sort of distance on the feet.
Daley has a chance to prove that he can deal with wrestlers after the Koscheck fiasco and Woodley has a chance to prove that he can survive on the feet with a very good striker and break through to the next level.
Scott Smith is a guy who delivers these incredible moments without being someone that anyone ever expects to compete for any sort of title. His comeback wins against Cung Le, Benji Radach and Pete Sell are moments that I'll remember fondly twenty years from now. But his chin isn't holding up and his body has many more miles than his 32 years would suggest. He's clearly on his last legs as a "big stage fighter" but maybe he has a little magic left.
Saffiedine gets lost in the "prospect" shuffle much of the time, but he's 24 years old and has some decent wins. He got outgrappled by Woodley in his last fight but this is a fight he absolutely can win (as being a sizable gambling favorite would seem to indicate).
This could easily be the showstealing fight.