Last night’s Strikeforce Evolution event provided plenty of action, and even a potential ‘fight of the year’ candidate.
In the main event of the evening Cung Le showed some of the flashy, eye-catching kicks that are usually only seen in the kind of movies that he has spent much of the last two years starring in.
For two and a half rounds everything was going to plan as he knocked his opponent to the ground several times, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Scott Smith’s past fights, it’s that he’s only ever one punch away from reversing his fortunes.
Le threw caution to the wind by looking to exchange leather with the heavy handed striker at close range, and paid the price when Smith faked a right hook and then slammed home a left, spelling the beginning of the end for his opponent.
Le was gracious in defeat but the result is undoubtedly a major disappointment, and it will be interesting to see how his first loss affects both his fighting career and his future as an actor.
The real jewel of the evening’s fights, including the WEC 45 card which aired at the same time, however was the bout that on paper had promised to be the weekends best – the rematch between Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez.
As we had predicted in the pre-fight preview, Melendez had learned from his mistakes in the first fight, and looked much improved this time around. Instead of chasing down his opponent and falling victim to Thomson’s counter-striking, on this occasion he did the opposite, and it proved to be a winning strategy.
Hats off to Josh Thomson, who has been out for some considerable time due to injury, but didn’t show any signs of tiring or ring rust in this five round thriller that becomes a late contender for fight of the year.
The fight was punctuated on numerous occasions by both fighters slugging it out, blow for blow. Though both men landed, it was Melendez who was causing the most damage, and twice in the bout he felled his opponent, who showed his toughness by fighting on regardless.
Melendez went on to claim a unanimous decision and the lightweight title. The good news is that with the fighters now 1-1, it’s inevitable that we’ll be enjoying a third showdown between the two in the future.
Jacare marked his debut in Strikeforce with a dominant win over Matt Lindland. His class showed throughout the four minutes and 18 seconds it took him to claim victory as he forced Lindland to defend numerous submission attempts, before finally catching him in a arm triangle choke that forced him to tap out.
The calm and clinical performance confirms Jacare as a major force in the middleweight division, and the prospect of him fighting either Jake Shields or Dan Henderson is certainly an exciting prospect.
Also making a big impression in his first appearance in Strikeforce was Muhammed Lowal. With the same confident swagger that marked his entrance to the cage, ‘King Mo’ toyed with Mike Whitehead in the early standing exchanges with his hands held low.
Suddenly erupting with a one-two combination, Lowal managed to drop his significantly heavier opponent. Continuing to demonstrate the power in his hands Lowal then let fly with a series of punches from the top which succeeded in KO’ing Whitehead.
After making short work of a veteran opponent who had won 15 of his past 16 bouts, Lowal has lived up to the hype, and Strikeforce may well have a genuine star on their hands. The question now is how long it will now be before he is put in against the best the promotion has to offer.
Overall this was an excellent way for Strikeforce to round off a successful year. While one of the fighters that helped to get them where they are today – Cung Le – was defeated for the first time, big wins for new stars like Jacare and King Mo have indicated that the future is looking bright for the promotion.