Strikeforce is back on Showtime this weekend with their final event of the year and there are looking to go out with a bang. Unfortunately for them they ran into some injury problems, most notably losing top draw Herschel Walker but they’ve salvaged the card with some excellent replacement fights. On this card we’re getting a rematch between two well-respected MMA veterans that is ten years in the making, an explosive welterweight showdown between two guys known for their knockout power, a classic striker vs. grappler battle, and two more fights that have the potential to steal the show.
Light Heavyweight Fight: Renato Sobral vs. Dan Henderson
This is a rematch ten years in the making. Of course, in reality, it should have never been made. Dan Henderson was brought in to Strikeforce to take the middleweight belt from Jake Shields but failed in his quest. Renato Sobral defeated Robbie Lawler to earn a shot at the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship but Sobral declined the fight, not wanting to fight his friend and champion at the time Muhammed Lawal. Two months later Lawal lost the title to Rafael Cavalcante and now Sobral has to get past Henderson if he wants a title shot.
After losing to Gegard Mousasi a year and a half ago, Sobral bounced back strong against Lawler. He wasn’t afraid to stand with the more powerful striker and he did a good job keeping the distance and avoiding any wild exchanges. He’ll need to do the same thing against Henderson. He’s a better technical striker than Henderson but he lacks power and Henderson is known for his granite chin. Expect Sobral to throw a lot of kicks to the leg and body of Henderson to not only keep the distance but to also slow down and take away some power from his opponent. Sobral is the more accomplished ground fighter but he’s going to have a tough time getting Henderson down. Sobral gets the majority of his takedowns in the clinch, which is where Henderson wouldn’t mind things ending up given his Greco-Roman wrestling background. Just because Shields was able to takedown Henderson almost at will after the first round doesn’t mean Sobral will have the same success. Shields has a great single leg takedown and Henderson was completely gassed in that fight. Given that this fight is three rounds as opposed to five and Henderson won’t have to cut weight, no one should expect him to badly gas like he did against Shields. If Sobral can put Henderson on his back, he could easily control him en route to a decision. Sobral loves going for chokes on top and in scrambles so if Henderson is on his back and trying to get up, he’ll need to protect his neck. Sobral can win this fight on the feet or on the ground but it’ll likely be by decision.
At the age of 40 and over 30 professional fights under his belt, many question whether or not Henderson has hit his fighting wall. While I think he’s still a top fighter, he’s clearly slowing down. He’s never been known for his technical striking but he is one of the hardest hitters in the sport. He keeps his right hand loaded and ready to fire at all times on the feet. While some think he just swings wildly in hopes that he’ll connect, he actually does a good job setting it up with inside leg kicks and jabs. Henderson is a very good wrestler but his takedown defense is a bit suspect. Never mind the fact that Shields was able to take him down once a round, Henderson gives up takedowns to lesser skilled wrestlers because of his tendency to be overaggressive on the feet. Sobral is an underrated wrestler and Henderson won’t have an easy time taking him down or keeping him down. Henderson will likely look to keep this fight standing because he trusts his power and chin and he also believes that not having to cut to 185, not having to fight five rounds, and not taking prescription medication will put his cardio where it needs to be. Henderson can win this fight by knockout or grinding things out on the ground with his superior wrestling and top control but he’ll need to be cautious of Sobral’s submission game on the ground.
This is a tough fight to predict because Henderson is a bit of a wild card at this point in his career. Moving up and down in weight is never a good habit, his cardio is suspect, and he’s now 40 so his reflexes are slower. Even if it doesn’t seem like Sobral’s style matches up well against Henderson, Sobral has been around long enough to fight a smart fight. The majority of the fight will likely take place on the feet with Henderson looking for the big punch and Sobral avoiding any wild exchanges. I’m going to go with Sobral because I think he’ll be able to avoid the big punch on the feet and he’ll be active enough in all positions to win a decision.
Prediction: Renato Sobral to defeat Dan Henderson by Decision
Welterweight Fight: Paul Daley vs. Scott Smith
Upon landing a left hook in the 16th minute of a 15 minute fight, Paul Daley was released by the UFC. He’s fought twice since then, picking up rather unimpressive victories against Jorge Masvidal and Daniel Acacio, and now he’s looking to get back in the spotlight with Strikeforce. Scott Smith is dropping to welterweight after going 1-1 against Cung Le but losing 19 out of 20 minutes during the two fights.
Everyone knows what to expect from Daley by now. He’s a good technical striker who hits really hard but has almost zero takedown defense. Luckily for him, against Smith, he won’t need much takedown defense. Two things Daley does very well on the feet are throw good body shots and a nasty left hook. He likes to jab to the body a lot, probably more than he should in MMA, but he’s always gotten away with it. He also throws a good right hook to the body and then comes up top with a left hook to the head. Daley’s problems on the feet are when his opponents aren’t willing to step into range. He isn’t likely to have that problem against Smith. Daley really needs to push the pace and work the body of Smith. This is Smith’s first foray at 170 so his cardio will take a hit and he’s never handled body shots well. Look for Daley to throw more kicks to the body than usual and rely on his right body hook-left hook bread and butter combo. Daley is going to look for the knockout but we’ve learned that you can’t get too aggressive in trying to finish Smith because he can finish you just as easy.
At this point in his career, Smith is more concerned with exciting fights rather than title shots. Since that’s the case, we all know that Smith will be a willing striking partner for Daley. Even though he could likely takedown Daley given Smith’s size and Daley’s complete lack of takedown defense, that’s just not the way Smith fights. He’s going to stand and trade with Daley and he might be able to get away with it. Smith will need to pump a strong jab to keep Daley at bay, throw inside leg kicks to throw off his timing, and look to set up his big right hand. Daley has one of the best chins in MMA but if anyone can finally crack it, it will be Smith. If Smith fights a smart fight, he puts Daley on his back and grinds out a decision or possibly finishes him with strikes or a submission. When Smith fights an entertaining fight, he’ll slug it out with Daley in hope that his power will overcome Daley’s. He has the power to score a KO but the more likely outcome is that he wins a decision by being more active on the feet.
You can never count Smith out of a fight but he’s never really fared well against really good strikers. Factor in that this will be Smith’s first time cutting to 170 and that he’s been in countless wars over the past couple of years and this looks like a recipe for disaster for him. Daley’s chin is excellent and his power in unquestionable so unless Smith fights smart and not entertaining, he could be in for a short night. I like Daley in this fight and it will likely be a war until someone eventually falls.
Prediction: Paul Daley to defeat Scott Smith by TKO in Round Two
Middleweight Fight: Matt Lindland vs. Robbie Lawler
Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland are MMA veterans who are looking to bounce back after hitting a little bit of a rough patch in their respective careers. Both fighters are 1-2 in their last three fights with Lindland’s winning coming against and inexperienced Kevin Casey and Lawler’s win, a comeback victory where his leg was destroyed against Melvin Manhoef.
Lindland, like his good friend Henderson, is 40 years old and isn’t going to change his style much. He’s an outstanding Greco-Roman wrestler with a smothering ground game. His striking is very basic, his chin is questionable, and he leaves himself open for the left hand. He uses his striking well to set up his takedowns or clinches though, which is what he’ll be looking to do in this fight. Lawler has decent takedown defense but any top level Greco-Roman wrestler like Lindland can put him against the cage, wear him out, and eventually get a trip takedown. On top Lindland stays active enough to not get stood up but he doesn’t have the most overwhelming ground and pound ever. He may not need it against Lawler though, who is more known for getting caught in submissions than getting finished with strikes. Lindland has a solid submission game, especially his guillotine choke. If Lindland is going to win this fight, chances are he’s going to grind it out against the cage and on the ground.
Lawler has been pretty hit and miss as of late and hasn’t fared well against grapplers over the past few years. We know he wants to keep this fight on the feet, where he has a significant advantage in the striking department. He likes to attack the body of his opponents and set up his right hand with his left hook. He likes to dirty box in the clinch and throw hooks to the body but I doubt he wants to spend much of this fight in the clinch, where Lindland has made his entire career. Lawler will look to keep the distance and make Lindland come to him. Lindland throws rather slow punches and leaves himself open for counter punches, especially the counter left hand. If Lawler ends up on his back, he’ll need to quickly get to his feet before Lindland has time to settle in and work his top game. Lawler spent his entire camp training with Matt Hughes, who was training for his recent fight against BJ Penn, so there is no doubt that they worked on a lot of wrestling. Lawler will be looking for the KO on the feet but if it doesn’t come, as long as the majority of the fight stays on the feet he should be able to win a decision.
Even though Lawler has had his problems with grapplers, I fear that the sport has passed Lindland by. Lawler will have a significant speed advantage and he’ll use that to make Lindland look old and slow. It’s possible that Lindland could grind things out in the clinch but I believe Lawler’s speed and power will be too much for “The Law” to uphold.
Prediction: Robbie Lawler to defeat Matt Lindland by TKO in Round One
Heavyweight Fight: Mike Kyle vs. Antonio Silva
Originally scheduled to face Valentijn Overeem, the older brother of Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem, Antonio Silva finds himself instead facing Mike Kyle.
Kyle might not be underrated by people but I do believe that he is overlooked by people who can’t see past his history of dirty tactics. He’s a natural light heavyweight and he’s taking this fight on less than a weeks notice but he has the power in his hands to knockout anyone. He trains at American Kickboxing Academy so you know he’s not half-assing it when he’s in the gym and he has nothing to lose in this fight. People don’t expect him to win and there are really no consequences should he lose. It’s very possible that Silva could be overlooking Kyle because this is a classic “trap fight” for Silva. He just beat Andrei Arlovski, many people thought he would be getting a high profile fight, he’s instead facing a natural light heavyweight taking the fight on short notice, and he could be looking ahead towards a high profile fight with Alistair, Fabricio Werdum or Fedor Emelianenko. If he sleeps on Kyle, he could find himself doing the sleeping. Kyle will likely come out fast, put the pressure on Silva, let him know that he’s in a fight, throw heavy hooks, and hope for the knockout.
Silva is someone who I think is underrated by a lot of people. For some reason he doesn’t get the respect he deserves despite his record and skills. He’s a very good striker who mixes things up well, a decent wrestler, and a good grappler. He’ll have to beware of the power of Kyle and survive an early flurry but once things settle down and he can start to find his range, he’ll likely look to take away some of the speed of Kyle with leg kicks. On top of that, expect Silva to do a lot of clinching and use his size to wear on Kyle, a lot like he did against Arlovski. Kyle’s ground game is the weakest aspect of his skills so Silva, being a black belt in jiu-jitsu, could very well put Kyle on his back and submit him. Silva has a variety of ways to finish Kyle. He has the power to knock Kyle out, he has the jiu-jitsu to tap Kyle out, and he could always win a decision by simply controlling the fight no matter where it takes place.
This is Silva’s fight to lose but don’t write off Kyle. Taking a fight on short notice and being undersized is never a good thing but I still believe that Kyle is better than most people think and he’s on a good roll right now. In the end though, Silva will win this fight. He’ll weather an early storm, find his range, and prove why he should be considered among the heavyweight elite.
Prediction: Antonio Silva to defeat Mike Kyle by Submission in Round One
Light Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St. Preux vs. Benji Radach
This was a late addition to the card with both men taking the fight on short notice. Ovince St. Preux is back in action after competing less than a month ago at Strikeforce Challengers Series 12 while Benji Radach is stepping into the cage for the first time in over a year and a half.
St. Preux looked impressive in his last fight against Antwain Britt. His striking was very sharp and powerful, especially his body kick. His takedown defense was spotty but he stuffed the takedowns when he needed to in the third round. This will be his sixth fight in 2010 and so far he’s won all five of his previous fights. Not only that but he’s a natural light heavyweight unlike Radach, who is a natural middleweight. St. Preux will likely look to use his size and strength to bully Radach around and really attack the body with knees in the clinch. Radach doesn’t have the greatest chin in the world and St. Preux has explosive power with his hands so look for St. Preux to headhunt and set up a head kick after throwing multiple body kicks. St. Preux will look for the finish but given his activity, especially recently, don’t be shocked if he’s content on just controlling things and riding out a decision.
Radach is coming off the dreaded Mir Layoff, which is a year long layoff filled with injuries. On top of that, he’s moving up in weight and fighting on short notice. While St. Preux is also fighting on short, at least he’s been in training camp for the majority of the year while Radach has been out nursing injuries. Radach is a very good technical boxer with power who isn’t afraid to get into a brawl with his opponents. He needs to avoid a brawl in this fight and use his speed to avoid St. Preux. He also needs to try and get this fight to the ground. While Radach isn’t known for his ground game or wrestling, St. Preux doesn’t offer too much off his back and can easily be controlled. Radach needs to make St. Preux pay for throwing so many body kicks by countering with punches or takedowns, if he does that, it could work in his favor in multiple ways whether it be knocking out St. Preux or just getting him to stop throwing so many kicks. Radach has the power to knock St. Preux out or he could try to put St. Preux on his back and pound away on the ground.
This fight has the potential to be very exciting. Both guys like to strike and they’ll both look to finish fast given that they’ll both likely lack cardio in this fight. The injury filled layoff scares me for Radach and the fact that he’ll be very undersized in this fight. I think St. Preux will use his power and aggressiveness to wear out Radach and finish him late in the fight.
Prediction: Ovince St. Preux to defeat Benji Radach by TKO in Round Two