Few would argue that Strikeforce Evolution is the more star-studded of the two major events taking place on Saturday night, and perhaps the most significant bout in Donald Cerrone Vs Gilbert Melendez.
It still remains to be seen whether it is the most entertaining though. Let’s take a closer look at the main card.
Cung Le Vs Scott Smith
Cung Le returns to Strikeforce only months after vacating his middleweight title due to a long spell out working on movies. Now, with a brief break in his busy filming schedule, he returns to face the heavy handed Scott Smith.
Neither man is going to be in a hurry to take this fight to the ground. Le (6-0) has a tremendous arsenal of kicks which he’ll be more than happy to demonstrate on Smith (16-6 1nc) who in turn will be add to his tally of 13 knockout victories in 23 professional fights.
One of the main questions in this fight is whether Le is mentally and physically ready for this fight having spent close to two years out of the cage working on movies. The other question is whether Smith can find an opening to counter Le’s leg kicks in order to land a knockout blow to his chin.
An interesting fact about the fight is that Smith has only went the distance once in his career, and Le has never heard the final bell. I think that may chance though. I expect Le’s cardio to be tested after a long spell out, and Smith will be tough to finish, but in the end Le will do enough to have his hand raised at the end.
I’m going for Cung Le by decision.
Josh Thomson Vs Gilbert Melendez
This is a rematch that’s been anticipated for quite some time – particularly by Gilbert Melendez who is desperate to avenge the convincing defeat he suffered on their first meeting.
Since then he has bounced back strongly with two convincing victories, while Thomson has spent much of the past year on the treatment table with a recurring ankle injury amongst other ailments.
The two main questions here are whether Melendez has improved enough in his stand-up in particular to prevent a repeat of the last fight, and whether Thomson will suffer from a lack of time in the cage in the past year.
It’s a gamble, but I’m going with Melendez here. His stand-up has visibly improved, and I think he can use that to better set-up his takedowns if and when necessary. I think he’s coming into this bout as the hungrier fighter, and having learned from his past mistakes I see him having more success this time round.
I’m sticking my neck out and going for Gilbert Melendez by decision.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza VS Matt Lindland
In this intriguing match-up we get to see a decorated veteran wrestler,Matt Lindland, battling it out with a formidable submission expert, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza.
Lindland (21-6), now 39 years old, has competed less frequently in recent years, fighting just four times in just under three years. He last fought in the early months of this year when he suffered a particularly brutal knockout at the hands of Vitor Belfort that saw him lying unconscious for what felt like an eternity.
Jacare on the other hand fought four times in 2008 alone, and has compiled a record of 10-2. He also has one no contest on his resume which came about in his last fight at Dream 9 earlier this year when Jason Miller delivered an illegal soccer kick to the Brazilian while he was on the ground.
An interesting fact about this fight is that the two have competed against one another before at the prestigious ADCC grappling tournament in 2003. On that occasion Jacare came out on top, and I believe he may well do so again here.
I expect Jacare to take this fight to the mat pretty quickly where his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will have the edge over Lindland’s wrestling. Lindland is a veteran and won’t be easily submitted, but he has been in the past, and Jacare is one of the very best in this regard.
I predict Jacare to claim a submission victory over Lindland in the 3rd round.
Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal VS Mike Whitehead
Considering he has a record of just 5-0, Mo Lawal has done well to already make a name for himself in the sport, and he’s now set to make his Strikeforce debut against the experienced Mike Whitehead (24-7).
Lawal is perhaps one of the best wrestlers currently competing in mixed martial arts, and quick wins over veterans Travis Wiuff and Mark Kerr (both at heavyweight) have shown that he has successfully made the transition to mixed martial arts.
Meanwhile Whitehead, who has a background in wrestling himself, is coming of a decision victory over Kevin Randlemann which leaves him with only one loss – to Renato Sobral – in his last 16 fights.
This is certainly not an automatic win for Lawal, who Strikeforce will no doubt have high hopes for. Whitehead is decent in a number of areas, with serviceable striking, solid wrestling, and he also poses a threat with submissions.
I believe Lowal is a class above in his wrestling in particular though, and is ever improving in the other aspects of his game. If he can get this fight down and secure top position then Whitehead will be in real trouble.
I don’t think Whitehead will be able to keep Lawal from taking him down. From their, if he remains alert to potential submission attempts, then he should eventually be able to grind down Whitehead with strikes from the top.
I’m going for Mo Lawal by TKO (ground and pound) in Round 3.
Robbie Lawler Vs Trevor Prangley
This fight has been canceled due to an injury to Trevor Prangley. Robbie Lawler has now been taken off the card entirely due to difficulties finding a suitable replacement at short notice. Lawler is now expected to fight on the January 30th card instead.