Preview: Strikeforce Henderson vs. Babalu 2

Strikeforce St. Louis
Though it has only been two months, it feels like a lifetime has passed since Strikeforce last offered a major event.

From here on out, we can call it “The UFC Effect,” where the prolific output of the biggest organization in the business makes it seem like an eternity has gone by since other companies cared enough to give us something else to watch.

For the record, this is the inverse of the “Lady Gaga Effect,” where radio stations play so much of the meat dress-wearing weirdo that you crave something – anything – else, even the rest of the auto-tuned, tone-deaf divas who are currently dominating the charts.

While this year certainly hasn’t gone according to Hoyle for the San Jose-based outfit, their final show on the 2010 calendar is actually as impressive a five-fight collection as we’ve seen from the big boys as of late. Too bad a lot of people are going to skip this event in favour of a less compelling collection of fights on Spike TV instead.

Normally, this would be the point where I begin the breakdown of the fights to come with the opening contest of the evening. Unfortunately, the preliminary portion of the program leaves a lot to be desired, as has been the pattern with most Strikeforce events. So instead of talking up fighters you don’t know, let’s just move to the main card and get this edition of the Punch Drunk Preview started.

Benji Radach (21-5-0) vs. Ovince St. Preux (8-4-0)

It has been a long time since we saw heavy-hitting Benji Radach inside the cage; just a couple days shy of twenty months if you’re keeping track. That last outing was a third round, knockout loss to Scott Smith in one of the more entertaining fights to fly under the radar in 2009. Since then, Radach has been on the sidelines dealing with various injuries and illnesses, and enters this bout on short notice following the collapse of the Herschel Walker/Scott Carson fight.

Radach was originally expected to face a fighter from the undercard in St. Louis, but instead, the former IFL competitor will take on Ovince St. Preux, an emerging and intriguing addition to the light heavyweight ranks coming in off the biggest win of his career.

The Haitian-born St. Preux entered 2010 with a losing record and riding a two-fight losing streak, but he’s subsequently earned five-straight victories to propel himself into the discussion in the 205-pound division. After winning a preliminary card meeting with Chris Hawk in his Strikeforce debut, St. Preux knocked out former UFC competitor Jason Day in eight seconds in July before earning a unanimous decision victory over Antwain Britt just two weeks ago.

It was only this past summer that Britt battled current light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in a #1 contender bout, so the convincing win collected by St. Preux at the last Strikeforce Challengers series event should put the now 8-4 Knoxville-based fighter into the title mix for 2011. A win over a respected veteran like Radach will only make his case even stronger.

Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (14-2-0) vs. Mike Kyle (18-7-1)

I never thought I would welcome a last-minute injury replacement, but the injury suffered by Valentijn Overeem has produced an addition-by-subtraction situation as Mike Kyle steps in in his place for a more meaningful and entertaining encounter with Antonio Silva.

Honestly – how did Strikeforce matchmaker Rich Chou figure that Valentijn Overeem was a suitable opponent for one of the lone heavyweight contenders on the roster? Simply being the champion’s big brother shouldn’t get you a main card contest with anyone, especially when you’re 5-7 over the last six years. Sorry about the elbow injury, but Strikeforce (and the fans) dodged a bullet on that one.

Silva is just 1-1 since returning to North America following a steroid-related suspension, but he’s impressed in each of his appearances under the Strikeforce banner. He dropped a close decision to Fabricio Werdum last November, but rebounded by out-striking Andrei Arlovski the last time the organization touched down in “The Show Me State.”

The big Brazilian is able to beat you standing and on the ground, though his Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt hasn’t been on display since signing with Strikeforce. Expect that to change in this meeting with Kyle, as Silva will have a serious edge on the ground.

Bringing Kyle in as a replacement for Overeem was a pleasant surprise. Though he has always alternated between competing in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, his last four fights have come in the lower weight class and they have all been victories. Additionally, Kyle holds a TKO victory over current champ Cavalcante, and his recent run of success looked like a good way to build into a potential rematch.

That being said, I’m much happier to see Kyle competing with Silva than Overeem, and will be interested to see if the top-end ‘tweener will be able to hang in with “Bigfoot,” especially on short notice. He’s got big knockout power and a strong all-around stand-up attack, but whether it will be enough to contend with Silva’s size and power is a question that can only be answered once the cage door closes.