On March 3rd, Strikeforce will hold its second event of 2012 during the weekend of the Arnold Classic. Headlining the card is a title fight between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey for the Strikeforce women's bantamweight title. The card was originally scheduled to host the finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix but Daniel Cormier's hand injury prevented the fight from coming together. The event will also be the second on a renewed deal with Showtime that sees the premium cable network airing every fight across its stable of channels. The night of fights begins with the prelims airing on Showtime Extreme.
In the final fight of the Showtime Extreme portion of the card, Sarah Kaufman (14-1, 5-1 Strikeforce) takes on fellow Canadian Alexis Davis (11-4, 2-0 Strikeforce). Sarah Kaufman is the former bantamweight champion who feels overlooked with the arrival of Ronda Rousey. A talented grappler, Kaufman's sole defeat is to Marloes Coenen by armbar at Strikeforce: San Jose. She was last seen against Liz Carmouche at Strikeforce: Voelker vs Bowling III this past summer. A grinder by nature, the biggest knock against her is that she doesn't look to finish fights or put opponents in dangerous situations.
Alexis Davis made her Strikeforce debut with a unanimous decisions over Julie Kedzie at Strikeforce: Fedor vs Henderson. She followed up her successful debut with a TKO win over highly touted Amanda Nunes at Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov. Davis holds a black belt in Japanese Jiu Jitsu and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and used her ground skills to keep pressure on her opponents while on the ground. Alexis is a former flyweight and is one of the smaller bantamweights in the division. The one big criticism against her is that she's never been victorious when faced with a tough opponent.
This is actually a rematch of a fight that took place in 2007. It was Alexis' debut against a then 3-0 Sarah Kaufman. Sarah Kaufman finished Alexis Davis in the third round. Since the fight both fighters have made improvements but the more obvious is Alexis Davis who has grown into a well rounded fighter. As far as match ups go this is as even as we've seen booked in WMMA. A slight advantage on the ground would go to Davis but the wrestling and punching power are in Kaufman's favor. Expect Sarah Kaufman to use top positional control to cruise to a Unanimous Decision victory.
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In lightweight action, Caros Fodor (7-1, 5-0 Strikeforce) faces Pat Healy (26-16, 4-1 Strikeforce) in the third fight of the evening. This fight has cruised under the radar as most fans and media are focusing on the KJ Noons/Josh Thompson bout. Caros Fodor made waves when he knocked out top lightweight contender Justin Wilcox in just :13 at Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvildal. Fodor has found a balance between his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai that has made him a nightmare match up for many of his opponents. His sole career loss is surrounded with controversey as Fodor tapped out after the bell in the second round.
Pat Healy, like Heun, has played spoiler in his past Strikeforce bouts. A member of team quest, Healy has used his obvious size advantage to bully opponents around the cage and beat them up with a grinding style. He was last seen at Strikeforce: Barnett vs Kharitonov where he faced debuting Maximo Blanco. Fans noted that Healy looked two weight classes bigger than Blanco, so it came as no surprise when he forced Maximo to tap to a rear naked choke in the second round.
This is one of the most even lightweight bouts booked in 2012 as both fighters have looked dominant in their previous wins. There is a known path to victory for both which means that fans should expect Healy to try and grind out a win while Heun is expected to use his Muay Thai to finish Pat. The slight advantage goes to Pat Healy due to experience and his ability spoil Strikeforce's best laid plans. He'll likely defeat Connon Heun by decision.
Ryan Couture (3-1, 3-1 Strikeforce) was never given a fair shot to develop slowly in MMA. Sharing the last name that his father made famous, it was expected that he would follow in his father's footsteps towards MMA greatness. After going 5-1-1 as an amateur, Couture was signed by Strikeforce to fight on their Challenger's shows. Learning from his father and Neil Melanson, Ryan developed into a solid submission grappler, winning his first two professional fights by submission. It was in his sole loss that his lack of well-roundedness became apparent as Matt Ricehouse beat Couture in the clinch and striking from range.
Conor Heun (9-4, 1-2 Strikeforce) was long considered one of the top lightweight prospects in the promotion. A 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu fighter, Heun possesses the the ability to constantly threaten a fight ending submission off his back. Heun has been able to compliment his ground game with functional stand up to stay out of trouble when the fight is on the feet. The one knock against Heun is that he has never been able to pick up the victory when faced with a "name" opponent, getting outworked by LC Davis, Jorge Gurgle, and KJ Noons in defeat.
He should be the favorite against Couture as he has more experience and has demonstrated mental toughness when caught in a deep armbar against Magno Almeida last summer at Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum. Heun gutted out a deep armbar to walk away with victory. Expect Heun to outwork Couture on the feet and stay out of danger should the fight go to the ground earning a decision victory.
The preliminary fights kick off with a welterweight bout between Roger Bowling (10-2, 3-2 Strikeforce) and Brandon Saling (8-5, 0-0 Strikeforce). Bowling is best known for his trio of fights with Bobby Voelker in the Strikeforce Challengers series of events. A well rounded fighter, Bowling holds wins over two current UFC fighters in Shamar Bailey and Seth Baczynski. Of his ten wins, only two have gone to decision with the majority of his opponents being finished by TKO. His two career losses are at the hands of Bobby Voelker who finished Bowling by TKO in the second round of their last two fights. He finished his last opponent in :42 at Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvidal.
His opponent Brandon Saling is making his Strikeforce debut after an active start to 2012. Fighting out of Team Gurgel, Saling has only fought once at the national level in a losing effort to Gregory Milliard at Bellator 59. A Jorge Gurgel student, Saling has relied on grappling to get the fight back to standing where he is most dangerous. A tough fighter, his one weakness has been his submission defense, losing by rear naked choke in three of his five career losses.
Roger Bowling is a huge step up in competition for Saling who has never faced a fighter as well rounded as the Strikeforce veteran. His best path to victory is keeping the fight standing but he'll likely be constantly on the defensive as Bowling is a solid tactical fighter. Expect Bowling to finish Saling by TKO late in the third round.