Scott Smith (17-8) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (10-3)
This is a pivotal fight for both fighters, as the loser is in danger of being given a pink slip.
Saffiedine is still young enough that he could be returned to Challengers events for more seasoning. He’s had moderate success there to date, earning victories over James Terry and Nate Moore, as well as a decision win over Brock Larson outside of the organization in September. He dropped a one-sided decision to Tyron Woodley in his latest.
The situation is much more dire for Smith, a tough veteran has been around the block a time or two. A loss here would leave him at 1-4 over his last five and seemingly out of options. He’s always capable of ending a fight with one well-placed punch, but he’s been out-quicked in each of his last four outings.
Smith’s ability to catch Saffiedine is what will determine the outcome of this fight. Smith needs to close the distance. The 24-year-old Team Quest product will be looking to pick and pop all night long, so the onus is on Smith to disrupt his rhythm and make this a gritty affair.
If he can do that, he can win the fight and stave off questions about his future for a couple months, but Saffiedine will not make it easy.
Paul Daley (27-10-2) vs. Tyron Woodley (8-0)
The book on Daley was written a long time ago and is well-studied by everyone in the welterweight division. “Semtex” has lights out power in both hands and throws compact hooks with crazy speed.
Daley was a couple punches away from finishing off Nick Diaz last time out, clipping the champion and dropping him twice, but failed to find the finish. Diaz bounced back and later put Daley away in what was the most exciting round of the year.
Historically speaking, this is a horrible match-up for Daley. The ground has been his kryptonite over his career and Woodley is a former All-American wrestler. It’s impressive how quickly Woodley has climbed up the ladder. His game keeps improving each time out, and he’s shown the ability to gut out tough fights, as he did against Nathan Coy.
This is his chance to show he belongs in the upper echelon of the welterweight division, not just in Strikeforce, but in the sport as a whole. If he can avoid Daley’s power, he has the potential to earn the biggest win of his career and propel himself to bigger and better things.
Robbie Lawler (18-7) vs. Tim Kennedy (13-3)
I love this fight, but it shows both everything that is great and god awful about Strikeforce all in one.
This is a fun fight. What’s crazy is that the winner is probably right back in the thick of the title chase, which is the down side of the depth situation in Strikeforce right now.
Lawler is a counter-punching veteran who has eschewed every other element of the sport in order to throw bombs and knock people out. When he connects, it’s awesome. He has alternated wins over Melvin Manhoef and Matt Lindland with losses to Renato Sobral and Jacare Souza in his last four outings.
Kennedy is a well-rounded talent whose only loss over his last six fights was a close fight with Souza for the middleweight belt. He also beat Manhoef, submitting him quickly, and now he gets Lawler after asking for him by name.
There are all kinds of ways this fight could go and it might all depend on Kennedy’s takedowns. Lawler is tough to bring down — he’s dedicated himself to being able to stuff the shot — but once he’s off his feet, he’s out of his element. Kennedy likes to engage and won’t spend the night dancing around on the outside picking his spots, so Lawler will have his opportunities.