Though we’re still two weeks away from UFC 133 in Philadelphia, and eight days from seeing Dan Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko lock horns in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, there are a pair of quality mixed martial arts events on the schedule for this weekend.
Both Bellator and the Strikeforce Challengers series return with solid cards this weekend in brand new locations. The Challengers event takes place at The Palms, the new permanent home of the prospect-rich series, while Bellator heads north of the border for the first time, landing at Casino Rama in Aurora, Ontario.
Each event is available on television and offers some intriguing match-ups and interesting prospects worth checking out.
Here’s your HeavyMMA cheat sheet.
STRIKEFORCE CHALLENGERS 17
Sarah Kaufman (13-1) vs. Liz Carmouche (5-1)
While we’ll have to wait another week to find out who to sit atop the women’s welterweight division, Friday night should produce a new #1 contender.
Former champion Kaufman returns after taking a fight outside the organization to face upstart Carmouche, who burst onto the scene with an impressive showing against champion Marloes Coenen back in March.
Short on options, the winner of this fight should end up being the first to face the winner of next weekend’s championship bout between Coenen and Miesha Tate. Both are aggressive when standing and have dangerous ground-and-pound, and each is eager to get back to a title fight before the year ends.
Ovince St. Preux (10-4, facing Joe Cason)
Perhaps the best Strikeforce prospect many people have never heard of, St. Preux brings a seven fight winning streak into a potential trap fight with talented newcomer Cason (9-1) here.
After back-to-back losses to Nik Fekete and Virgil Zwicker dropped the former Tennessee Volunteer linebacker to 3-4 in his career, St. Preux reassessed and went on a rampage. He won six fights in 2010, climbing the light heavyweight ranks in the process. He earned a unanimous decision win over Abongo Humphrey earlier this year, and looks to take the next step by adding another win in this one.
Roger Bowling (9-1) vs. Bobby Voelker (23-8)
The rubber match of this highly entertaining rivalry serves as the main event of the evening.
Bowling, a talented prospect with first round wins over TUF alums Shamar Bailey and Seth Baczynski, earned a win in the first bout after an unintentional eye injury brought the bout to a close early in the third round.
After Bowling again controlled the action early in the second fight, Voelker claimed victory in the rematch, evening the series at 1-1 and making a trilogy fight both unavoidable and intriguing.
Chris Horodecki (17-3, facing Chris Saunders)
A 2-2 stint with the WEC got him released before the brand could be merged with the UFC, leaving him to try and work his way back into the big leagues on the regional circuit.
Signing with Bellator is a good move and one that could pay immediate dividends. A win could potentially earn Horodecki a place in the next lightweight tournament, and television exposure never hurts. He’ll be fighting in his home province and back in the cage at Casino Rama for the second time, both of which should give him added confidence.
If he ever hopes of returning to the big stage, Horodecki has to win this fight.
Marlon Sandro (18-2) vs. Nazareno Malegarie (20-1)
When the opening round of the Bellator Summer Series Featherweight Tournament was on tap, we told you to tune in. Now that the semifinal round is here, maybe you’ll finally take our advice.
Sandro, the Brazilian star who made his name in Japan, earned a split decision win over Genair “Junior PQD” da Silva in his first round fight. It wasn’t the performance many expected from the noted knockout artist, but he did enough to advance.
He’ll have his hands full here, as Malegarie has quietly racked up 20 wins and continually impressed along the way. The Argentinian BJJ black belt scored a solid submission win over Jacob DeVree in the opening round, and paired with Season 4 finalist Daniel Strauss for one of the best fights of the year thus far.
Pat Curran (14-4) vs. Ronnie Mann (20-2-1)
Curran claimed a first round submission win over Luis Palomino, forcing the Peruvian to submit to an ironic and expertly applied Peruvian necktie 3:49 into the opening stanza.
Briton Mann impressed as well, clocking Adam Schindler with a right uppercut-left hook combination that left him looking up at the lights just passed the four minute mark of the first round in their first round tussle.
You won’t want to miss this one.