Give Us Your Thoughts…
As 2006 comes to a close, there are a bunch of big events happening in the MMA world and we like to hear your thoughts on a couple of them. The IFL closes out the year with the World Team Championships at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, we’d like to know which team you think will win and why. We’d also like your picks for who will win in the UFC’s final show of the year, UFC 66: Liddell Vs. Ortiz. The results of the survey and some of the commentary we receive may appear in the upcoming issue of FCF.
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Strikeforce 4 "Triple Threat"
AKA Adds Three Belts to Trophy Case as Buentello, Southworth, and Jackson Pick up Wins
Report by Keith Mills – Photos by Daisy Rosas
San Jose, CA — Putting Strikeforce in context of the current MMA scene in general is increasingly difficult as evidenced by their fourth show "triple threat," named for the three championship belts on the line this night. The inaugural Strikeforce Middleweight Championship title bout featured UFC vets Vernon "Tiger" White and Bobby Southworth, while the welterweight title fight was a rematch between UFC vets Ronald Jhun and Eugene Jackson. The heavyweight championship match was questionable in the sense of being a title fight considering UFC vet Paul Buentello didn’t have a confirmed opponent until Ruben Villareal stepped up with only a couple days’ notice, but the heavyweight title does add legitimacy to the promotion. With Gilbert Melendez holding the lightweight belt, that leaves only a middleweight title not claimed in the standard weight classes.
The reason it is so difficult to put Strikeforce in context is they keep expanding. The first three Strikeforce cards looked like they were vaulting into the top UFC feeder position with more than an average number of UFC vets, mostly from AKA, but this card raised the bar with a total of nine UFC vets, branching out to include UFC vets Ronald Jhun from Hawaii and Tony Frykland of Miletich Fighting Systems in Iowa. At times the card looked like they were going after King of the Cage’s dropped ball from that promotion’s heyday with former KOTC Champion Buentello facing longtime KOTC stalwart Villareal as well as former KOTC vets Jhun, Duane Ludwig, Vernon White and Nam Phan. At still other times, this show in particular looked like a U.S. version of Pride with non-MMA stars such as WWE star Daniel Puder, traditional martial arts star and now movie star Cung Le, and San Jose Sabrecats lineman Rex Richards crossing over to MMA. Throw in a significant women’s fight such as Bodog has picked up where MFC left off and in advance this show looked like it might suffer from going in too many directions at one time. At around four hours, the show was a bit of a marathon even for the fans, but Strikeforce is definitely rising through the ranks and is worthy of national distribution.
On paper, the middleweight title fight with Jhun and Jackson and the light-heavyweight title match between White and Southworth both looked great while Buentello/Villareal didn’t seem like it deserved to be a title bout. It turned out the opposite. In their rematch of SuperBrawl 8 Jackson and Jhun threw simultaneous lefts which resulted in Jhun being knocked down and Jackson pouncing to finish the fight via strikes before reminding fans why he won "submission of the night" back at UFC 35, sinking in a rear choke at 2:01 into the first round – forty-six seconds longer than their first fight lasted. White/Southworth deservedly had the worst fan reaction of any fight this night as both seemed tentative and lackluster, with Southworth edging out a decision victory not likely to be seen on highlight reels. Villareal may not have the technique of others on this card and his performance against Bas Rutten in WFA, as another late replacement, wasn’t impressive, but this guy showed he has guts and a chin that can take serious punishment as he weathered the Buentello storm well into the second round and made Paul earn the belt. Strikeforce can’t be blamed for the way these matches played out as they looked good on paper, but these title fights aren’t likely what the fans will remember about this show.
What fans are likely to remember are the fights like Ludwig/Frykland, Maxwell/Carano, and even Thomson/Phan. Duane Ludwig looked fantastic back at welterweight as he started out counter-attacking Frykland’s early advancements before opening up with combinations midway through the first. Frykland had his scoring moments, but Ludwig was on fire en route to a second-round TKO. Gina Carano vs. Elaina Maxwell was a back-and-forth war with a third round that could be one of the best seen in the women’s 145 division so far, with Gina pouring it on in the third to win the unanimous decision and much deserved cheering. Underdogs Mike Cook and Nam Phan had good first rounds against Daniel Puder and Josh Thomson respectively, while football star Rex Richards was impressive and by no means only a name to sell tickets to crossover fans. Cung Le’s early kick opening a cut on Jason Von Flue and ending the main event at only 0:43 more than made up for the White/Southworth bout. If the next card is anything like this one, don’t be surprised to see the one after it in your living room.
Look for a full report in a future issue of Full Contact Fighter.
Strikeforce 4 "Triple Threat"