The Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis, Missouri is playing host tonight to the much anticipated Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields event. The crowd has begun to file in and the undercard fights are currently underway.
Will the man in the picture (Robbie Lawler) be raising his hand in victory or will jiu-jitsu ace Jake Shields be able to submit the hard hitting former champion?
As the night wears on I will post results in real time as they happen, along with my immediate thoughts and impressions on how the night is unfolding.
Check back periodically to see live event updates.
7:55 pm: The featured undercard fight between Mike "MAK" Kyle and Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante just concluded in dramatic fashion. Kyle may have secured upset of the night by knocking the Brazillian phenom unconscious. He put Cavalcante on the mat with some vicious strikes, followed him to the ground, and secured the win via TKO stoppage.
UFC superstars Anderson Silva and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira came into the cage to console their wounded teammate who laid motionless for over a minute. For those that recall, Cavalcante was supposed to fight current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Renato Sobral, but Sobral had to pull out of the fight after his wife gave birth to their new child. Perhaps the 7-1 Brazilian was not ready for primetime after all.
8:01pm: Fedor has enterered the building. He is sitting in between Affliction VP Tom Atencio and former UFC Heavyweight champion Josh Barnett. Fedor and Barnett will finally fight at Affliction: Trilogy scheduled for August 1. In an interview with Tom Atencio at the NYC press conference, Atencio said that Affliction and Strikeforce will be working more closely together, which should lead to some interesting cross-promotional fights.
8:09 pm: Local MMA hero Jesse Finney submits his opponent at 1:55 of the first round and the St. Louis crowd goes crazy. The undercard is over and the stadium staff is setting up for the main card. I am going to roam around the arena with my camera and see what celebrities or other fighters in attendance I can spot. This should be fun.
8:15 pm: I am still looking for Gina Carano. If you don't hear back from me in the next 30 minutes it's because her and I have developed a deep friendship.
8:19 pm: I spotted Mike Kyle talking his beautifal girlfriend sitting in the stands. She was very proud. I cautiously approached Mike Kyle and said I should interview him, coming off his huge upset win. He graciously agreed and I handed my business card to his girlfriend.
8:22 pm: I just spotted former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia hugging it out with Fedor. For those who recall, Fedor submitted Tim Sylvia in 36 seconds back at Affliction's first show. There are obviously no hard feelings between the two which is great to see. Sylvia will be back in action when he takes on Pual Buentello at Affliction: Trilogy. Still looking for Gina Carano...I have a feeling she won't show up until the main card starts.
8:50 pm: I just shook hands with Affliction VP Tom Atencio. He seems like a pretty approachable and decent guy. Affliction's young light heavyweight stud Gegard Mousasi is now sitting in between Fedor and Josh Barnett. He will take on the aforementioned Sobral on August 1.
8:53 pm: Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" blares over the speakers on the arena as the main card is officially announced to the anxious crowd who appears to have filled in the entire arena. This has to be close to a sellout if it isn't one.
8:58 pm: The ring announcer acknowledges all the celebrities in the crowd including those previously mentioned along with former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champion Frank Shamrock and former UFC welterweight champion Pat Miletich.
Miletich was once Robbie Lawler's head trainer at Miletich Fighting Systems in Davenport, Iowa before Lawler and Matt Hughes opened their gym in Granite City, IL. Granite City is just 7 miles from the Scottrade Center so it is virtually home turf for Lawler.
9:03 pm: Big John McCarthy enters the octagon to handle referee duties and the first fighter Mike Whitehead is announced. His opponent will be former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman.
9:28 pm: For virtually two rounds the crowd grew wrestless with the activity inside the cage. Even Fedor had to be wondering if Randleman was the same man that dumped him on his head back in PRIDE.
It is quickly evident that both men have very poor cardio and a decision seems likely. That was until Randleman landed a huge overhand right on Whitehead's chin that dropped him early in the third round. The only problem was that Randleman couldn't finish him on the ground. He seemed to have backed off a little for no apparent reason. The third round ends and it will go to the judges. Whitehead wins a unanimous decision, 29-28, 29-28, and 29-28.
For Whitehead this means another shot at a decent opponent in the future. Randleman, on the other hand, now has an uncertain future. At the age of 37 he may not have much more to give to the sport.
9:40 pm: Riggs and Baroni enter the octagon. Baroni is predictable wearing sunglasses and posing for the crowd on his way in. He then refuses to look Riggs in the eye during the staredown. This fight has no chance of going to a decision.
9:59 pm: Riggs landed some nice punches and flying knees basically at will against Baroni. "New York Bad Ass" is extremely tired throughout this fight. He is constantly leaving his hands down and walking away from exchanges. Late into the third round it looks like one clean punch from Riggs will end it. The horn sounds. Riggs wins a unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27.
During the post fight interview with Gus Johnson, Riggs reveals he feels he broke both of his hands during the fight. He also expresses interest in fighting Jake Shields in the future, which was a matchup that was originally planned by Strikeforce. If he indeed broke both of his hands, what a gutsy and phenomenal performance from Riggs.
Riggs has now run his Strikeforce record to 3 - 2, which isn't likely to result in a fight with Shields assuming he is also victorious tonight.
10:08 pm: Showtime has officially announced that an August 15th event will feature Gina Carano vs. Cyborg Santos, Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson, and Alistair Overeem against an opponent to be named later. His likely opponent will be the winner of Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers later in the evening.
10:25 pm: The crowd is chanting ... Diaz! Diaz! Diaz! Nick is landing a flurry of punches to the head of Smith in the second round. "Hands of Steel" is taking a lot of punishment but showing great toughness while continuing to stand in the pocket.
10:30 pm: Smith literally crawls to his stool after the second round. He looks like he might have a broken rib courtesy of a Diaz body shot from early. The third round is more of the same. Smith is showing incredible heart and still swinging wildly but Diaz is too much to handle. Diaz appears to have had played around enough. The fight goes to the ground and Smith is quickly submitted via rear naked choke. Diaz wins via submission in the third round.
It is almost inevitable now that Diaz will face the Shields/Lawler main event winner. This will crown an Interim Strikeforce Middleweight Champion. Once current Middleweight Champion Cung Le steps off a movie set and back into the cage he will defend against whoever winds up being the interim champ.
10:47 pm: Before Brett Rogers and Andrei Arlovski can settle in Rogers lands a flurry of punches on the chin of Arlovski and Big John McCarthy has to pull him off "The Pitbull." This is the crown jewel of Rogers' young career so far and it likely earns him a title shot against Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem on August 15.
For Arlovski, he has now been on the receiving end of two vicious knockouts in a row at the hands of Rogers and Fedor Emelianenko. It will interesting to see if he will be cleared for his boxing match that was slated for June 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA.
11:02 pm: The main event is upon us. It's former EliteXC welterweight champ Jake Shields vs. former EliteXC middleweight champ Robbie Lawler. It is a classic striker vs. grappler matchup. The key to this fight will be whether or not Shields can get this fight on the ground. If he can he is likely to get a submission victory. If the fight is standing for a significant amount of time expect Lawler to end it via TKO or KO.
11:14 pm: The first round starts and Shields has a great game plan. He is using kicks to keep Lawler away and his standup looks much improved as he is able to avoid any real damage from Lawler's powerful hands. Shields is able to wrap his legs around Lawler's body and sink in a guillotine choke. Lawler is forced to tap. It is a disappointing loss for Lawler in front of his hometown fans.
As Lawler says in the post fight interview it will be back to the drawing board for him. Shields, on the other hand, is much deserving of a title shot against Cung Le. The problem is that his teammate Nick Diaz also deserves one. I highly doubt those two would ever agree to fight each other, however, it wouldn't be the first time it has ever happened.
The night is now complete. It was a successful trip to St. Louis for Strikeforce for a company, along with its growing partnership with Affliction, that is here to stay. They are not only here to stay, but this double headed monster is now poised to take direct aim at the UFC.
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