When Strikeforce travels just miles up the road to Los Angeles, California this week for Wednesday night’s “Strikeforce: Los Angeles” card, two UFC veterans will meet in the cage, each looking to ignite another title run in his respective division.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral, once the top contender to Chuck Liddell’s 205-pound title in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, began fighting under the Strikeforce banner in November of 2008 with a unanimous decision win over Bobby Southworth. The Brazilian submission fighter quickly moved forward in the light heavyweight division, capturing the title. However, Gegard Mousasi’s first round technical knockout of Sobral lost the “Babalu” his belt and made him think about venturing outside of the light heavyweight division to earn another shot at the 205-pound gold with a victory over a top middleweight. Thus, a catchweight match between the former champion and a well-rounded veteran like himself, set for 195-pounds.
Sobral’s opponent, appropriately nicknamed “Ruthless,” last fought at Strikeforce’s Miami event earlier this year, coming from behind to knockout a vicious striker in Melvin Manhoef. The victory proved a successful rebound for Lawler after his disappointing submission loss to Jake Shields in June of 2009 and set him back on the right track toward the middleweight title.
“We’re happy to have the fight between Robbie and Babalu and we’re looking forward to a great fight,” stated Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker in the media call last week. “That fight is going to have a lot of implications. I think that that fight, the winner, if Babalu wins and looks good, he will be first in line for a matchup against King Mo (Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal). Robbie, if he wins the fight, will be first in line to have a title shot at 185 against (Ronaldo) “Jacare” (Souza). Normally, we don’t put those fights out there, but I just wanted to let everyone know that this fight will have consequences and it will be an interesting show and we’re looking forward to putting it on.”
For Sobral, this fight is his return to the cage since he was defeated by former light heavyweight champion Mousasi, who recently lost his belt to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Just under a year has passed since the technical knockout defeat, but Sobral was ready to take on this challenge when it was presented to him earlier this Spring.