NEW YORK (April 22, 2009) –Unbeaten Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu sensation Roger Gracie (2-0) will make his long-awaited STRIKEFORCE and United States Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) debut when he squares off with two-time NCAA National Wrestling Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin “The Monster” Randleman (17-14) in a featured light heavyweight (205 pound) contest at STRIKEFORCE St. Louis: Heavy Artillery at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. on Saturday, May 15.
Middleweight (185 pound) superstar and 2008 DREAM Grand Prix tournament runner up “Jacare” Souza (11-2) will collide with hard-hitting sensation Joey Villasenor (27-6) in another featured bout.
The winner of the coveted ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship in 2005, the 28-year-old Gracie, a second degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Carlos Gracie, Jr., made history by submitting all eight of his opponents during the tournament, a feat that had never previously been achieved.
The 6-foot-4 Gracie’s submission skills have, thus far, proven their worth in MMA competition. In his pro debut on Dec. 2, 2006, he forced Ron “H20” Waterman to tap from an armbar and, on May 18, 2008, he submitted Japan’s Yuki Kondo with a rear naked choke.
A native of Brazil, Gracie resides in West London, England, where he owns and operates The Roger Gracie Academy.
At age 38, Randleman of Columbus, Ohio will attempt to re-enter the win column after two consecutive defeats and reclaim the glory he achieved more than a decade ago when he was crowned UFC heavyweight champion after scoring a knockout over Pete Williams at UFC 23 on November 19, 1999.
A tremendous athlete with explosive power, Randleman captured back-to-back NCAA Division I national wrestling titles in 1992 and 1993 while attending Ohio State University. His stellar collegiate career gained him entry into the school’s Hall Of Fame in 2004.
On Oct. 22, 1996, Randleman made his professional MMA debut in Brazil where he stopped Luiz Carlos Macial in the first round. After amassing a 6-2 record, he entered the octagon for the first time at UFC 19 on March 5, 1999, and pulled off a stunning upset of MMA and kickboxing legend Maurice Smith.
Randleman enjoyed a lengthy career with Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships, winning his first three fights with the now-defunct promotion and stopping superstar Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in one round on April 25, 2004.
The 6 foot Souza, a 30-year-old submission wizard from Brazil, made a splash debut with STRIKEFORCE on Dec.19, 2009 when he forced former Olympic wrestling silver medalist Matt “The Law” Lindland to tap out from an arm triangle choke in the first round (4:18).
Two years ago, Souza made a brilliant run to the championship round of DREAM’s single-elimination middleweight tournament in Japan. After submitting Ian Murphy on April 29, 2008 with a rear naked choke in the first round (3:38) of their opening tournament round matchup, Souza went on to earn a unanimous decision over American star Jason “Mayhem” Miller on June 15, 2008 and, then, submitted Zelg Galesic with an armbar on Sept. 23, 2008.
The 35-year-old Villasenor, a seasoned striker and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player who hails from Albuquerque, N.M., and is a member of the fearsome fight team led by Greg Jackson, is riding a four-fight win streak. He produced his last victory, a split decision over Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, in his STRIKEFORCE debut at ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. on June 19, 2009.
During the first live, primetime telecast of an MMA event on network television (CBS) on May 31, 2008, Villasenor came out of the gates with guns blazing and overwhelmed notorious brawler, Phil “The New York Badass” Baroni, crushing Baroni with a barrage of punches in the first round (1:11).
Tickets for STRIKEFORCE St. Louis: Heavy Artillery are on sale at the Scottrade Center ticket office, all Ticketmaster locations (800) 745-3000, Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) and STRIKEFORCE’S official website (www.strikeforce.com).
In the main event, STRIKEFORCE World Heavyweight Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (32-11) will put his title on the line against heavy-handed knockout artist Brett “The Grim” Rogers (10-1).
In another heavyweight confrontation, former world champions Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (15-7) and Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (13-2) will collide.
Doors at Scottrade Center will open for STRIKEFORCE St. Louis: Heavy Artillery at 6:15 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 15. The first non-televised preliminary bout will begin at 7 p.m.
The event will be televised live on SHOWTIME® at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Shamrock Promotions is assisting STRIKEFORCE with local marketing for the event.