Paul Daley, KJ Noons, Sarah Kaufman on card
Strikeforce will return to Columbus, Ohio, for a Showtime-broadcast card on March 3. The promotion and premium cable channel announced the card, and four fights for it, during the broadcast of Saturday’s show in Las Vegas.
A women’s bantamweight title fight – and newly brewed grudge match – between champion Miesha Tate (12-2, 5-1 Strikeforce) and Ronda Rousey (4-0, 2-0 Strikeforce) is likely to serve as the card’s co-main event – if Strikeforce gets what it is hoping for. The promotion has targeted that date for its heavyweight grand prix finals between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier. But that fight can only take place if Cormier’s broken hand has sufficiently healed to get clearance for the fight. If that happens, that fight would be the card’s main event.
Former welterweight title challenger and former EliteXC lightweight champ KJ Noons (11-4, 3-2 Strikeforce) will face Josh Thomson (18-4, 1 NC, 9-2 Strikef0rce) in a lightweight bout on the main card. Former welterweight title challenger and UFC outcast Paul Daley (29-11-2, 2-2 Strikeforce) returns to Strikeforce after two fights outside the promotion to face Kazuo Misaki (24-11-2, 1-0 Strikef0rce), who will fight for the promotion for the first time in two and a half years. And a women’s bout between Sarah Kaufman (14-1, 5-1 Strikeforce) and Alexis Davis (11-4, 2-0 Strikef0rce) rounds out the main card.
Noons snapped the first losing streak of his career last month with a unanimous decision victory over Billy Evangelista in San Diego. Prior to that, Noons lost a unanimous decision welterweight title fight to then-champ Nick Diaz in October 2010 and a unanimous decision to Jorge Masvidal in a lightweight title eliminator fight in June. The loss to Diaz ended a six-fight winning streak that included a victory over Diaz. Noons remains the last fighter to beat the now-UFC welterweight title challenger.
Thomson has won 10 of his last 12 fights, but will be fighting for the first time in more than a year when he meets Noons. Thomson last fought on New Year’s Eve 2010, losing a unanimous decision to Tatsuya Kawajiri in Japan. Before that, the 10-year veteran had a pair of Strikeforce wins over JZ Cavalcante and Pat Healy in 2010 to ease the pain of a lightweight title fight loss to Gilbert Melendez, losing the belt he beat Melendez for 18 months prior.
Daley has won two straight after a two-fight skid in Strikeforce. After a title bout loss to Diaz, which was one of the most exciting one-round fights of the year, Daley dropped a unanimous decision to Tyron Woodley in July. But he rebounded with a win over Jordan Radev for BAMMA in England and beat fellow UFC veteran Luigi Fioravanti last fall in Montreal. After going 2-1 in the UFC, Daley was released by the promotion after sucker-punching Josh Koscheck after their fight at UFC 113 in Montreal.
Misaki has fought a who’s-who of MMA over his decade in MMA, including a victory over Dan Henderson in Pride. He has two straight TKO wins for World Victory Road and Deep. He last fought for Strikeforce in 2009, earning a TKO victory over Joe Riggs.
Kaufman has lobbied for a title shot against Tate, but instead will fight Davis in what likely will be a No. 1 contenders fight with the winner moving on to face the Tate-Rousey winner later in 2012. She has won two straight since losing the bantamweight title to Marloes Coenen in October 2010. Davis has won three straight, including her first two Strikeforce fights since debuting with the promotion last year. The Kaufman-Davis fight will be a rematch from a 2007 fight, which Kaufman won with a third-round TKO. Davis was making her pro debut in that bout.
The event will take place at the Nationwide Arena in the Ohio capital city and will coincide with the annual Arnold Sports Festival, which takes place the first weekend of March each year. The UFC and WEC held events in conjunction with The Arnold between 2007-2010. When the UFC elected to not return to Columbus in March 2011, Strikeforce, not yet owned by Zuffa, stepped in and took the slot. The Strikeforce event last year in Columbus drew just over 7,000 fans to watch Dan Henderson win the light heavyweight title against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. The WEC event in Columbus in March 2010 drew 8,345 fans. But the three UFC events at Nationwide Arena drew 19,079 (2007), 16,431 (2008) and 17,033 (2009). Those events remain three of the UFC’s top six attendance marks for events in the United States.