San Jose, California welcomed Strikeforce to the HP Pavilion this past Saturday, while 13,000 eager fans continued to stream into the venue before the fights commenced.
The card featured a mixed martial arts first, with a bout between two of the best women fighters headlining the card, as Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” Santos battled for the women’s 145 pound belt.
Throughout the fights leading up to the much anticipated main event, the electricity in the stadium began to grow exponentially. With fireworks, knockouts, and just all around great fights, the fans of San Jose cannot complain.
The dust has settled and the results are in. While Gegard Mousasi’s fighter stock soared this weekend, Renato “Babalu” Sobral cannot boast the same accomplishment.
However, neither of the two are alone in their respective categories as another great card has led to recognition and growth in the sport for some, while others are left with serious repercussions and plummeting stock.
Mousasi has spent his entire career fighting outside of North America, leaving him unnoticed by many of the fans in that region of the world. However, those who were aware of his talent believed his fight with Renato Sobral would be exactly the fight to put the young Armenian on the map.
With a brutal and swift first round knockout of the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Mousasi has turned heads and opened eyes in the mixed martial arts community and now looks towards his first title defense of his new belt.
Unfortunately, Strikeforce will be hard pressed to find anyone who can remotely compete with Mousasi with their current roster.
At this point, Strikeforce’s best bet would likely be to sign a fighter currently outside of the organization, seeing that Mousasi will not gain the competition he is looking for with the current division roster.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira would be a solid acquisition for Strikeforce, and it would be difficult to argue that he did not deserve a title shot, especially considering the level of talent the rest of the Strikeforce division holds.
However, if a deal cannot be made to bring in Noguiera, Mousasi will likely fight one of Strikeforce’s own. With Kevin Randleman and Bobby Southworth coming off of losses, it is hard to argue that either deserves a shot at the title, leaving a man who has won 15 of his last 16 fights as arguably the top contender.
Mike Whitehead defeated Randleman at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields, and possibly looks towards a title shot against Mousasi. His last loss came at the hands of Sobral, but so has pretty much everyone else in Strikeforce’s light heavyweight division.
While a Whitehead-Mousasi fight may not be very intriguing, nor will it headline a Strikeforce show, when dealing with the current light heavyweight roster of Strikeforce, Whitehead may just be the next step in Mousasi’s career.
Cris “Cyborg” Santos:
Headlining the main card Saturday night, Cris Santos and Gina Carano put on an exciting, yet short, fight. With Santos finishing Carano in the waning seconds of the first round, she gained the Strikeforce 145 pound women’s belt, catapulting her to a level no other woman mixed martial artist has attained.
Carano entered the fight an underdog, and Santos proved why. Now, she will look to defend her title against another of the world’s best in Marloes Coenen.
Coenen is already being considered as “Cyborg’s” first test as champion, and a tough one at that. Holding a record of 16-3, Coenen has been stopped only one time, having lost two decisions to round out her loss column.
However, 11 or her victories come via submission, and, with the extended rounds of a title fight, her great cardio and submission skills could be the key to defeating the heavy-handed Santos.
While months of speculation lay ahead, it is nearly undeniable the Coenen-Santos is the next big women’s event, as Strikeforce continues to pioneer women’s mixed martial arts.
Hieron was originally set to face Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce welterweight title. However, after Diaz’s failure to attend his drug test, Hieron was put in the octagon against Jesse Taylor. Taylor had stayed busy, having had six fights already in 2009, and Hieron proved Taylor may need a little time off.
After a dominant performance in a fight where Taylor looked gassed early Hieron lands on top of the list to fight Nick Diaz for the title.
The fight, while it is not ideal for a main event, could easily become one simply because of the title that would be on the line, and the fact that Nick Diaz has gained much notoriety in mixed martial arts.
If Diaz can pass his drug test and keep his license to fight, a bout against Hieron is inevitable, likely to occur at the end of 2009.
Melendez looked excellent last Saturday, as he was able to finish Mitsuhiro Ishida in the third and final round of their lightweight bout. With such a great display, Melendez may have catapulted himself into a contest for the lightweight belt.
Melendez once held the Strikeforce 155 pound belt, until a five round decision went Josh Thomson’s way, leaving Melendez without the title, but with an intense yearning to gain it back.
Thomson has not stayed busy since gaining the title, and it seems Melendez’s hard work will make him and Thomson meet as the champion looks to defend his title for the second time.
Although speculation on when this fight will take place is unclear, it will likely occur before the end of the year as a possible main event, or co-main event. Placing this fight on the same card as Diaz-Hieron would be another great move by Strikeforce, and likely make the two bouts co-main events of the evening.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral:
Sobral entered his fight with Mousasi at the age of 33, and perhaps left the octagon feeling every bit of it. The first round knockout left Sobral without a belt, and seemingly a long way away from a rematch with the new champion. Sobral proved helpless against Mousasi and was simply out of his league, which is something he has never felt during his time with Strikeforce.
Unfortunately, that leaves Sobral in quite the bind, seeing that he is going to have a difficult time finding a light heavyweight fighter from Strikeforce that he has not beat, but is still on his level.
The likeliest of scenarios will probably be a bout with Kevin Randleman, who is coming off a disappointing loss to Mike Whitehead. Randleman may be coming off of a loss, but he is still considered one of the best of the organization’s 205 pound division.
Not only will this fight give each fighter a chance at redemption at this point in their careers, but it is also a bout featuring two names that are well known in mixed martial arts. It will be difficult for Strikeforce to find an opponent for Sobral better than Randleman when it comes to gaining the interest of the fan’s.
Carano was the face of women’s mixed martial arts before her fight with Cris Santos. While she remains as one, if not the most notable woman figures in the sport, her devastating loss shows her game needs a lot of tuning up.
After gaining the mount early in the fight, but failing to do any damage, Carano displayed that she was still far off from the skill set her opponent entered the fight with. Now, Carano will look to show why she is so prominent in the sport as she is ready for her next step back to a title bout.
Erin Toughill has gained victories in her last four fights and is the likely candidate to face Carano next. She has never won a fight via submission, which would likely lead to a stand-up war, and another exciting event featuring Carano.
However, Toughill is ruled out as an option, top featherweights Yoko Takahashi and Kelly Kobold step in as the possible opponents, and stepping stones for Carano to once again step into the octagon with a title on the line.
It is difficult to bash the young fighter, but Taylor’s return to a prominent organization once again left him empty handed. After Jay Hieron proved too much for the former “Ultimate Fighter” hopeful, Taylor once again takes a step back in his career.
With his ability to step up and take a fight on such short notice, however, Taylor should remain with Strikeforce. However, even though his loss with Hieron is another step back for Taylor, his next opponent could put him right back into contention.
After pulling out of his fight with Nick Diaz, Joe Riggs is undoubtedly looking to make a run for the title. With Taylor’s ability to fight whenever he is needed, a fight between Taylor and Riggs may come to pass in the near future, depending on Riggs’ condition and his recovery.
This fight would give Riggs the opportunity to jump to the top of title contention, while a win for Taylor would likely put him one fight out of a fight for the welterweight belt.
However, whether or not Taylor fights Riggs, his ability to fight on extremely short notice has made Taylor a solid acquisition for Strikeforce. Basically taking the opposite role as Nick Diaz, Taylor’s constant availability may someday be rewarded within Strikeforce.