At Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Fedor Vs Silva event, Gina Carano announced that she would be returning to the cage soon to fight for the first time since her loss to Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos in August of 2009.
According to Scott Coker, Carano Could be set to fight in June, so who is she likely to face first?
It’s not an easy decision for Strikeforce to make. Carano is still a major star for the promotion, and in fact up until Saturday’s show, her fight with Cyborg held the record for the promotion’s most watched event on Showtime.
Bearing that in mind, and considering that she’s also only recently returned to training after spending much of the last year and a half filming her starring role in Stephen Soderbergh’s movie ‘Haywire,’ it may be in the promotion’s best interests to avoid handing her too tough an opponent at this stage.
That means a rematch with ‘Cyborg’ would certainly appear to be out of the question. Carano was soundly beaten in their first encounter and would need several fights under her belt before taking a second bite at the current dominant force in woman’s mixed martial arts.
The trouble is that finding other opponents at 145lb’s isn’t easy as the division is thin on fighters which is why Cyborg herself has been under-utilized since winning the title.
There are some fighters on the roster who could fit the bill though.
Amanda Nunes is one option. After her first round KO of Julia Budd in her Strikeforce debut earlier in the year Nunes stated her interest in fighting Carano.
Nunes, who’s on a 5 fight winning streak, looks like she could be a real force in the division though, so Strikeforce may be keen to keep them apart at this stage.
Julia Budd is another who could step in despite her recent loss. In fact she actually holds a previous Muay Thai win over Carano some years ago, so there would be a useful storyline their to help promote the fight.
For my money Jan ‘Cuddles’ Finney seems like a decent reintroduction fight for Carano. She’s tough enough to give her a fight, but she’s a little small for the division (something she holds in common with a number of Carano’s previous opponents), and on paper it looks like a winnable fight for Carano to get her back on track.
The 4-1 Shana Olsen is another fighter in a similar vein to Finney. She lost in her debut to Budd, but she’s no pushover.
Meanwhile ex-135lb champ Sarah Kaufman has thrown her hat into the ring and suggested she’d be happy to move up in weight to welcome Carano back to the cage.
That’s another tough fight for Carano after a long absence though, particularly given Kaufman’s wrestling prowess, and is therefore another one that Strikeforce are likely to side-step for the time being.
As you can see in the picture at the top of this article, Carano was photographed talking to Tara LaRosa at Saturday’s event.
At one time the two ladies were tipped to fight as a rivalry brewed between them. While it’s not out of the question they could now fight, LaRosa appears committed to fighting at 125lbs for the time being, so don’t count on it.
Strikeforce have a tendency to nurse along their biggest drawing stars, steering them clear of their most challenging opponents they can for as long as possible.
With that in mind I expect them to throw Carano as much of a softball as they can on her return. From those mentioned above I’d say Jan Finney or Shana Olsen sounds about right, with Julia Budd being a solid outside bet (and probably the most competitive of the three).