Two weeks ago in Chicago, CM Punk and John Cena put on one of the best WWE matches of the year. This past Saturday night in Chicago, two MMA legends put on what Scott Coker is calling the best Strikeforce fight ever. Now if only the Chicago Cubs could make Chicago fans care about them like wrestling and MMA have these past couple of weekends. If Strikeforce really wanted to please Chicago fans though, they would hire Brittany Hall as a ring girl.
Dan Henderson defeated Fedor Emelianenko by TKO (Punches) at 4:12 in Round One
The battle of legends didn’t disappoint, as Dan Henderson became the first man to stop Fedor Emelianenko with punches in the first round.
Fight Recap: Both men came out guns blazing. Fedor was swinging for the fences early and seemed to have Henderson on the ropes but then Henderson stunned him with a left hook that stopped Fedor in his tracks. Things slowed down a bit after that as they went into a clinch, where Henderson controlled Fedor against the cage. When they finally broke, things picked up again. Fedor stunned and dropped Henderson with a short uppercut and then went in for the kill on the ground. Henderson not only survived though, he escaped out the back, and hit Fedor with a right hand undercut that put him limp on his stomach. Henderson continued to pound on Fedor and it looked like he was out cold but Fedor did roll to his back and looked like he was starting to defend himself when the referee stopped the fight. Was the stoppage early? I actually thought it was late because Fedor looked out cold and then came to from more punches. Had the fight gone on, Henderson would have continued to pound on Fedor and probably put him out cold again. It’s all moot anyway because officially, Henderson picked up his third straight win and handed Fedor his third straight loss.
Fedor Fight Assessment: I actually thought it was a mistake for Fedor to come out so aggressive and he nearly paid for it courtesy of Henderson’s left hook. If Fedor did anything wrong, it’s that he didn’t use his size enough. He allowed Henderson to control him against the cage for an extended period of time, and I know Henderson has great clinch control, but Fedor is a sambo champion and should have had a strength advantage. It was also a little discouraging to see him once again get over-aggressive in looking for the finish, not controlling Henderson on the ground, and allowing him to slip behind him, which led to the finish.
Henderson Fight Assessment: Usually getting into a firefight with Fedor leads to disaster, but Henderson lived to tell about it. I thought Henderson fought a strong fight, albeit one that nearly got him beat. He trusted his chin and power, and when Fedor wanted to clinch, Henderson obliged and controlled him. The best thing Henderson did in the fight was throw some good leg kicks to help set up his right hand.
Fedor Future: Before the fight, if you had told me that Fedor would lose, I figured that he would retire. After the fight, I’m not so sure. He thought the fight was stopped early, which is a little telling because he’s such a humble guy. That said, he may not retire, but I don’t know where he fights next. He’s making too much money for Zuffa to justify giving him another fight unless he’s willing to take a huge pay cut. And even if he is willing to take a pay cut, there’s the whole M-1 issue of co-promoting, which we know Zuffa won’t balk on. In a lot of ways, Fedor’s performance reminded me of Chuck Liddell’s UFC 115 performance. He’s a big star who had lost two straight, he got into the best shape in recent memory, he came out firing, he nearly had his opponent finished, and then he got too aggressive and ended up losing late in the round. If Fedor doesn’t retire, I don’t know what’s next for him. I guess he could fight on the M-1 shows since they do have TV on Showtime but is that how he wants to go out? He can still be a competitive heavyweight but he seems done as a top guy. I truly believe this is the last time we’ve seen Fedor on a big stage. Maybe he won’t retire but as long as he’s stuck under M-1 management, he won’t fight for Zuffa. And if he does fight again, he needs to change things up. He’s not improving by training with his current crop of sparring partners because they’re all a level below him. If you’re tested hard in training, the fight will come easier.
Henderson Future: What can you say about Henderson? His right hand and chin should be preserved for history. Until his power goes or his chin finally cracks, Henderson is going to be competitive against anyone. I know he wants to defend the Strikeforce light heavyweight title but can Zuffa really afford to sort of waste him at his age against the Strikeforce light heavyweight crop? Henderson is extremely hot right now and Zuffa needs to capitalize. Move him back to the UFC and let him fight Lyoto Machida. Dana White has had problems with both guys so at least he gets some leverage over the loser and gets a title challenger. I’m not sure it’ll happen but tell me that idea isn’t better than Henderson fighting the winner of Muhammed Lawal and Roger Gracie.
Predicted Next Fights: Fedor vs. Retirement – Henderson vs. Machida
Miesha Tate defeated Marloes Coenen by Submission (Arm Triangle) at 3:03 in Round Four to win the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title
Miesha Tate shocked the world and captured the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight belt by submitting the previously untappable Marloes Coenen.
Fight Recap: This was a great back and forth fight. In the first round, Tate lived up to her nickname by scoring a takedown after fighting off a guillotine choke. Tate did a great job of passing to side control and controlling Coenen, even if she didn’t do too much damage. Just the fact that she was able to stay out of the guard of Coenen and neutralize the jiu-jitsu ace was a feather in the cap of Tate. The second round was all Coenen. She got the back of Tate in a scramble and held the position for the majority of the round. Coenen worked hard to sink in the rear naked choke but Tate showed very good defense, doing a nice job hand fighting with the champion in order to remain conscious. After two rounds, the fight was tied at two with momentum favoring Coenen. Tate came back strong in the third round though, scoring more takedowns while also avoiding the submission attempts of Coenen. Once again, Tate didn’t do much damage but her control on top was very good, until the closing moments of the round when Coenen was able to sweep her over and end up on top. In the fourth round, Tate was once again able to score a takedown and fend off the submission attempts of Coenen. Tate got to side control, but was eating elbows from the bottom. As Coenen continued to throw elbows, Tate passed over to that side and locked up an arm triangle. Coenen tried to escape but couldn’t and was eventually forced to tap out. A very emotional Tate celebrated her victory and her first Strikeforce title.
Coenen Fight Assessment: Coenen didn’t fight a particularly bad fight. Everyone knew that Tate would be going for takedowns, and even though she got the majority of them, Coenen made her work and defend submissions. On the feet, Coenen was definitely getting the better of things with her superior striking. Maybe she wanted to punish Tate too much from the bottom, which left her open for the submission but I’m sure she was confident that she wasn’t going to get caught. She even admitted as much after the fight. Maybe she could have thrown less leg kicks as they left her open to takedown attempts but they were effective and I’m sure Coenen thought they would pay dividends in the late rounds.
Tate Fight Assessment: Tate did everything she needed to do. She didn’t stand with Coenen for too long and she was aggressive in finishing her takedowns. Her control on top was outstanding, especially from the side control position. You can tell she worked a ton on her submission defense at Team Alpha Male because she stifled everything Coenen threw at her and survived some bad positions. She was very patient on top and waited for her opening. And when it finally came, she capitalized and made the most of it.
Coenen Future: Because the women’s bantamweight division is relatively thin, Coenen is still in the mix. I still think she’s the most talented fighter, she just got a little too cocky and paid for it. In the undercard portion of the show, Alexis Davis defeated Julie Kedzie, so I’d have to say that Davis vs. Coenen makes sense as the next fight and the winner could find themselves fighting for the title.
Tate Future: While I’m still not sold on Tate’s striking, her grappling remains her strong suit and it’s only improved in the past year. She’s going to need to improve her striking though prior to her next fight against Sarah Kaufman, whose boxing is just as good as some of the guys and has better takedown defense than Coenen. I expect to see a highly motivated Tate though as she’ll be looking to avenge her only Strikeforce loss and keep the title that she’s worked so hard for.
Predicted Next Fights: Coenen vs. Davis – Tate vs. Kaufman
Tim Kennedy defeated Robbie Lawler by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Tim Kennedy took one step closer to Strikeforce middleweight gold by out-working Robbie Lawler and picking up a unanimous decision.
Fight Recap: Kennedy’s game plan was clear from the get go. He wanted to get the fight to the ground and he was relentless with his takedown attempts. Lawler did his best to fend off the takedown attempts, which led to some exciting scrambles, but more often than not Kennedy was able to muscle Lawler to the ground. Kennedy had a couple of dominant positions throughout the fight, including getting the back of Lawler, but he couldn’t put him away. Lawler’s best strike came when he was able to clip Kennedy on the nose with an uppercut as Kennedy shot in. The punch busted Kennedy’s nose and had him leaking blood the rest of the round. Down two rounds, one would have expected Lawler to turn things up in the final round but he did no such thing. Instead he just danced around on his feet and was unwilling to engage, deciding to play a counter game instead. Kennedy sealed the deal in the third round with a late takedown, giving him every round on the judges scorecards.
Lawler Fight Assessment: Lawler’s takedown defense and ability to scramble was good in this fight but he did nothing on the feet, especially in the third round when he had to know that he was losing the fight. Lawler is a very good counter puncher but it’s tough to counter someone who wasn’t engaging all that much. Lawler should have turned up the aggression in the final round and at least went out on his shield.
Kennedy Fight Assessment: Kennedy fought a very good fight. He was absolutely relentless with his takedowns and never got frustrated, even when Lawler didn’t go down as easy as some may have expected him to. He got tagged a lot on the feet, especially with the uppercut but he just kept moving forward and just wanted it more than Lawler. It was a little discouraging that he couldn’t finish Lawler despite having his back at one point but I’ll credit Lawler’s unwillingness to be controlled rather than discrediting Kennedy, who is known as someone who finishes fights.
Lawler Future: I really don’t know what to make of Lawler. He has a lot of raw talent but he’s now lost four of his last six fights. His punching power keeps him in every fight but he’s got to know when to turn it up. He lost this fight because he wasn’t willing to get aggressive in the final round and he lost the Renato Sobral fight because he wasn’t aggressive enough.
Kennedy Future: With the victory, Kennedy will now get another crack the middleweight belt. He might not be the most talented fighter in the world, but his heart, desire, and work ethic is second to none. Should he fight “Jacare” Souza again, I expect to see a much more aggressive Kennedy, one who will be more willing to go for takedowns and spend less time on the feet.
Predicted Next Fights: Lawler vs. Benji Radach – Kennedy vs. Souza/Rockhold winner
Tyron Woodley defeated Paul Daley by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
The wrestler defeated the striker as Tyron Woodley grinded his way to a unanimous decision victory over Paul Daley.
Fight Recap: In the first round of the fight, Woodley did what everyone expected him to do and that’s come out and look to take the fight to the ground. Daley was well aware he would be looking for the takedowns, and showed much improved takedown defense. He managed to stay on his feet the entire round and make Woodley pay for shooting in with uppercuts and knees. The only problem for Daley was that he spent the majority of the round stuck against the cage and controlled by Woodley. The second round was all Woodley. He got an early takedown and was able to control and partially damage Daley from the guard position. Daley landed some good strikes off his back but obviously punching from your back isn’t going to win you many fights. It was a very exciting round but it was a big round for Woodley. It looked like the third round was going to be more of the same as Woodley got an early takedown but Daley managed to get to his feet, stuff the takedowns, and punish Woodley from the sprawl position. At the end of the round, Daley rolled for an omoplata, which may have actually been a mistake because he found himself on his back as the round ended. It was a close fight but Woodley picked up the decision and justifiably so, despite the protests of the crowd.
Daley Fight Assessment: Daley tried his best, and even though his takedown defense has gotten a lot better, he’s still not good at getting off his back, which really cost him round two. I thought throwing so many knees as Woodley came in was a mistake and that he should have stuck with the uppercut but he got away with it for the most part. Woodley was a bad match up for Daley and yet he hung with him and nearly won the fight.
Woodley Fight Assessment: It wasn’t pretty, but Woodley got the job done. He managed to score enough takedowns and have enough control that the judges awarded him the fight, even though he didn’t do a ton of damage to Daley. It was a bit worrisome that Woodley failed on so many takedown attempts but give him credit for continuing to press forward and make Daley work on defending the takedowns.
Daley Future: Now that Daley has really improved his takedown defense, he needs to learn how to get up and off his back. He’s still way to content on just lying on his back and hoping for a stand up, which is a sure way to lose fights. If he could work in some offensive wrestling as well, that would really throw his opponents off and open up his striking even more.
Woodley Future: With the win, it appears that Woodley will challenge Tarec Saffiedine for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title in a rematch of their fight from earlier this year. Even though Woodley won that fight, he’s going to have to fight an even better fight the second time around because I feel that Saffiedine has improved while Woodley is still the same wrestler with the same cardio problems.
Predicted Next Fights: Daley vs. Evangelista Santos – Woodley vs. Saffiedine
Tarec Saffiedine defeated Scott Smith by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Tarec Saffiedine avoided another classic Scott Smith comeback and picked him apart on the feet en route to dominating unanimous decision win.
Fight Recap: This fight was all Saffiedine, all the time. For 15 minutes, Saffiedine picked apart Smith with straight punches and kicks while Smith had a hard time pulling the trigger until the final minute of the fight. Saffiedine worked over Smith, not only from a distance, but also in the clinch with some vicious knees to the body. Saffiedine had Smith badly hurt a couple of times but stayed patient in trying to finish him rather than rushing in and becoming another Smith hail mary victim. Even though the fight did go all three rights, because it was so incredibly one-sided, there just isn’t much to say about it. Saffiedine cruised to a decision and a shot at the vacant belt.
Smith Fight Assessment: Smith showed almost nothing in this fight. He never got going until the final minute, when he had no choice but to pick things up and by this it was too little too late. He had success with the inside leg kick at one point in the fight but completely abandoned them soon after. He should have been more aggressive and less afraid to pull the trigger from the opening bell.
Saffiedine Fight Assessment: Saffiedine fought a near flawless fight. I didn’t think it would be smart to stand too long with Smith because of his power and Saffiedine’s clear ground advantage but Saffiedine stood with him the entire fight and barely had a scratch on him. I really liked how he mixed things up, finished combos with leg kicks, and got inside on Smith to really work the body in the clinch.
Smith Future: Smith is who he is, and that’s a fighter who is always going to have the reputation for pulling off comebacks and never being out of fights but when it comes down to it, he’s just not a great fighter. He’s taken so much punishment in his career that he just looks shot when he’s in cage. He’ll have exciting fights against strikers but he’s going to lose more often than not.
Saffiedine Future: With the victory, Saffiedine will get a rematch against Woodley and this time they’ll fight for five rounds. I’m a big fan of Saffiedine and I think he has the potential to be a top fighter at welterweight. His striking is very technical, his wrestling is improving, and his ground game is very good as well. He’s this good at 24, just imagine how good he’ll be in five years when he hits his physical prime.
Predicted Next Fights: Smith vs. Roger Bowling – Saffiedine vs. Woodley
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE