Previewing tonight’s big Strikeforce event in San Diego
This weekend’s Strikeforce event marks the first time the big boys of the brand will step into the cage on Showtime under Zuffa ownership.
The four main card fights are reason enough to watch this show. With two title fights, the return of former light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi and a battle between two guys who like to wear multicolored spandex, but it will also be interesting to see if there are any noticeable changes to the broadcast now that people from the UFC are running things behind the scenes.
We’ve already seen some changes, with the removal of amateur fights from the undercard and the use of elbow strikes on the ground, and it’s only a matter of time before we start to see even more improvements. The preliminary card is better than many previous events, highlighted by Japanese star Hiroyuki Takaya returning to the United States for the first time in three years.
While the Strikeforce prelims aren’t quite on par with their UFC counterparts (yet), this main card is completely awesome and sure to pack all kinds of explosive action.
Shinya Aoki (26-5-1) vs. Lyle Beerbohm (16-1-0)
Normally, I want to keep MMA and professional wrestling in opposite corners of the cage, admitting the parallels but drawing distinctions between the two. This, however, is one of those rare times where we need a little WWE influence in an MMA bout.
Both guys love colorful spandex, so the loser should be forced to wear plain black trunks from here on out, a nod to the old gimmick matches from wrasslin’ days of old. Either “Fancy Pants” is forced to wear not so fancy pants or the Japanese submission star known for his rainbow leggings is stuck in straight black; tell me that isn’t awesome?
Stepping out of the squared circle and back into the reality of this bout, both guys are battling to put some shine back on their stars here.
Beerbohm suffered the first loss of his career last time out, dropping a unanimous decision to Pat Healy. It was the first true test of the former meth addict’s career and while he looked good at times, he came up short. His story and unbeaten run made him a minor star, but with the winning streak gone, Beerbohm needs to prove he can hang with top notch talent.
This time last year, Aoki was no worse than third in many lightweight rankings. After B.J. Penn lost to Frankie Edgar (the first time), many wondered if “The Tobikan Judan” was the top 155-pounder in the sport. Then he got steamrolled by Gilbert Melendez.
He’s won three-straight MMA bouts since then, including a victory over the man who will challenge Melendez for his Strikeforce title later in this card, Tatsuya Kawajiri. Unfortunately for Aoki, his last appearance in the ring resulted in a brutal knockout against kickboxer Yuichiro “Jienotsu” Nagashima at Dynamite!! 2010.
To be considered one of the best in the deep lightweight world rankings, Aoki needs to prove he can win against American wrestlers. Melendez ran through him last April, and while Beerbohm isn’t nearly as powerful as the Strikeforce lightweight champ, he’s still a solid wrestler capable of exploiting Aoki’s wrestling deficiencies.
If that happens again, Aoki can kiss his top 10 ranking goodbye.
Gegard Mousasi (30-3-1) vs. Keith Jardine (17-9-1)
“The Dean of Mean” must really be desperate to get back under the Zuffa umbrella, because taking a fight like this on two weeks notice looks like a fast trip to loss #10 if you ask me.
Mousasi, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, remains one of the top emerging stars in the sport, despite his loss to Muhammed Lawal last April. He’s rattled off back-to-back first round submission wins over Jake O’Brien and Tatsuya Mizuno in Japan, and would be a bad matchup for Jardine on a full training camp, so you can only imagine how gruesome this could get with just 14 days to prepare.
I commend Jardine for stepping up and filling the void left by Mike Kyle and his broken hand, but the popular former UFC gatekeeper hasn’t been on the same level as Mousasi in a couple years now. Jardine is only two fights removed from an ugly five-fight losing streak, and beating “Kiko” France and Aron Lofton is a lot different from pulling the upset over a guy like Mousasi.
While Jardine has scored major upsets in the past, we’re three-plus years removed from his split decision win over Chuck Liddell at UFC 76 and more than four years beyond his first round TKO of Forrest Griffin. Since the Liddell win, Jardine is 1-6 against quality opponents, a stat that should tell you all you really need to know about this one.