Strikeforce will make history this weekend in San Jose, California when Gina Carano collides with Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in the first female fight to headline a major MMA card over their male counterparts.
The scrap, a 145-pound title fight, will also feature five five-minute rounds, not three, another first in woman’s mixed martial arts.
The fight card seemed doomed at one point, as fighter after fighter had to drop out for various reasons. Despite the disorder, the fight card lives on, featuring a Light Heavyweight title fight between current champ Renato "Babalu" Sobral and Gegard Mousasi, as well as an interim Lightweight title tilt between Gilbert Melendez and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
Let's take a look some of the questions that fans can expect to be answered.
IS GINA CARANO, THE FACE OF WOMEN’S MMA, ABOUT TO GET SHATTERED?
Much has been made of Gina Carano being the “face” of woman’s mixed martial arts, however not many in the media are speculating on who they think will actually win this fight. Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, whose raw power is unparalleled in women's MMA, is a 2 to 1 favorite on some betting lines.
Cyborg is a ruthless assailant who has won most of her fights by overwhelming her victims. If she corners Carano and unleashes a barrage of blows, the fight could end in a quick beat down.
Carano, the more versatile striker, may consider grounding her opponent if she gets besieged in a stand up fight. Carano’s more complete technical game could offer her the tactical advantage she needs to score a victory over “The Muay Thai Machine.”
Even in a loss, Carano’s personality and appearance will keep her as the cover model for Woman’s MMA, but her cybernetic counterpart will look to rearrange that pretty mug of hers given the chance.
WILL STRIKEFORCE EVER CROWN A WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION?
It’s the only division in Strikeforce short a title holder, and when Nick Diaz refused to submit to a drug test, a title fight with Jay Hieron went up in smoke. Enter former TUF bad boy Jesse Taylor, who was overjoyed at the opportunity to fight in a reputable organization again.
Taylor has been on an MMA odyssey since being cut from the UFC following a submission loss to C.B. Dollaway at UFC: Silva vs. Irvin last July. In that span, he’s gone 7-0 while fighting throughout the United States, while most recently securing a win at DREAM 10 in Saitama, Japan over Dong Sik Yoon. Finally, he will get a long-awaited chance to once again prove himself to the MMA world.
Taylor and Hieron come into this fight in very different situations.
For the veteran Hieron, this fight marks the culmination of a strange couple of weeks. Originally slated to fight on Affliction’s cancelled Trilogy card, Strikeforce quickly secured the services of the former IFL Welterweight Champion as a replacement to Joe Riggs, filling the opening opposite Diaz for the organization’s inaugural Welterweight title.
With Diaz refusing to submit to CSAC drug testing earlier in the week, Hieron now finds himself squaring off against a last minute substitute riding a hot streak, without a championship on the line.
As for Taylor, this will be his third fight in less than 30 days and the seventh in 2009 for the Team Quest fighter.
Consider this welterweight scrap an unofficial interim title fight. The victor likely faces Nick Diaz at some point…unless he continues to refuse to pee in a cup or shifts his focus to his recently announced foray into boxing.
WHO IS THE FINEST 205 POUND FIGHTER NOT COMPETING IN THE UFC?
It is slim pickings when trying to crown the light heavyweight “Chosen One” outside of the Octagon. The UFC has eight of the top 10 fighters under contract; the two remaining rogues are Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Renato “Babalu” Sobral.
Gegard Mousasi will look to add his name to that list when he makes his U.S debut against Sobral, the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, a crafty former UFC veteran with more than 40 fights under his belt. Most fighters would choose a less formidable foe in their first scrap in a heavier division.
But the 24-year-old is no rookie when it comes to the fight game. Mousasi is a former DREAM Middleweight Champ and is considered extremely dangerous both standing and on the ground. He enters the fight, originally slated for Affliction: Trilogy, on a 12-fight winning streak and widely considered one of the top young talents in the sport today.
Look for Sobral to try and take the fight to the ground, where he will want to out grapple and just maybe submit his younger foe. Mousasi, a former kick boxer, will do his part to keep the fight standing and out strike his way to capturing Sobral’s light heavyweight strap.
IS REVENGE A DISH BEST SERVED…IN AN INTERIM TITLE FIGHT?
It was not exactly the rematch interim lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez was hoping for.
Melendez was looking to accomplish two tasks this weekend: unify the lightweight title and exact his revenge by beating current champ Josh Thomson. But Thomson would not receive medical clearance, as the same ankle injury that wiped out the original rematch in April had not yet healed properly.
Instead Melendez will have to settle his score with Mitsuhiro Ishida, the first fighter to defeat him. Both have their base in wrestling, but Melendez would prefer to keep this fight on its feet and knock out his Japanese opponent. For Ishida, grinding out a second unanimous decision over “El Nino” would be just fine.
If Melendez can avoid that decision, he gets to exact the revenge he really wanted later in the year once Thomson’s ankle is finally healed.
FIGHTING FOR A FUTURE DATE WITH FEDOR?
Fabricio Werdum, like others on this card, suffered the misfortune of his fight being downgraded. Werdum went from a heavyweight title fight with current champ Alistair Overeem on the main card to a spot on the preliminary card against an opponent who last fought at light heavyweight, Mike Kyle.
If Werdum wants to keep his hopes of a title fight alive, he can’t overlook the hard-hitting Kyle, who will undoubtedly come out with both guns blazin’ and look to land a finishing shot on the Brazilian.
Werdum will need to avoid a repeat of his final UFC fight with Junior Dos Santos, where he was on the wrong end of one of most devastating knockouts of 2008. To that end, look for Werdum to bring this fight to the ground, nullifying Kyle’s primary weapons and giving him an opportunity to earn another submission victory.
The winner gets one step closer to a title shot, but they might just have to go through Fedor Emelianenko to get there.