Top MMA News Breaks Down Strikeforce Evolution


Cung LeMy overall MMA prediction record stands at 130-75 (63.4%) and 16-5 (76.2%) in main events. I felt that after having a fairly successful night at UFC 107, where I went 10-1 (90.9%), I should get one more card in for 2009. Of course, that meant choosing between WEC 45 and Strikeforce: Evolution, both of which air on Saturday, December 19th. I went with Strikeforce: Evolution because it is the only card to include a title fight and features the long awaited return of former Strikeforce MW champion Cung Le. Unfortunately, this card will be more difficult for most Canadian MMA fans to watch because, while WEC 45 will air live on TSN, Strikeforce:Evolution is only available to SuperChannel subscribers.

Main event:
Middleweight: Cung Le (-500) vs. Scott Smith (+300)
Undefeated MMA middleweight, former San Shou  World Champion, and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le (6-0) has finally returned from Hollywood movie-making. Le has arguably the flashiest kicks in the sport, employing body kicks with the regularity that most fighters throw the jab. Still, many have accused Le of having a padded record filled with hand-picked opponents. That notion may not be completely squashed by this match, but nobody can deny that Scott “Hands Of Steel” Smith (16-6) is always a threat to finish. In just his last three fights, “Hands of Steel” scored a KO of Terry Martin in under thirty seconds and pulled off arguably the comeback of 2009 when he scored a TKO on Benji Radach in the third round of their Strikeforce bout in April. However, it’s Smith’s most recent fight against Nick Diaz that is the most relevant to this match. Diaz completely picked Smith apart with a high-volume of strikes for two-and-a-half rounds before securing a submission finish. Smith’s natural power and impressive chin were no match for Nick Diaz’ superior technique. I expect a similar story in this fight, with Le conducting a kicks clinic on the over-matched Smith.

Cung Le may have superior technique, but Smith’s power is way too much of a threat to place a bet on Le at these odds.

Prediction: Le by Unanimous Decision

Main card (Televised):
Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson (-120) vs. Gilbert Melendez (-110)
Realistically, this is the best fight on the Strikeforce:Evolution card and should probably be the main event. Then again, given that it has already been delayed multiple times, we should be thankful that it is happening at all. Both these fighters are world-class lightweights and both currently hold a Strikeforce Lightweight Title. Josh Thomson won the official title in June, 2008 via a dominant five-round striking clinic against the very same Gilbert Melendez. Thomson mixed his strikes up well and defended takedowns near-flawlessly in what was an embarrassingly bad performance for the talented wrestler Gilbert Melendez. Since that time though, a few events have conspired to suggest that this fight will be much closer. For starters, Melendez has improved his striking, avenged his only other career loss, and won an interim Strikeforce lightweight championship belt. Over the same span, Thomson has faced only one mediocre opponent, Ashe Bowman, and spent the rest of his time nursing various injuries.

In their last fight, Thomson was definitively superior, but, at this point, he hasn’t fought in over fourteen months, which should give the greatly-improved Melendez the edge he needs to carve out a victory. That said, this fight is extremely competitive and I can’t endorse any bet at these odds.

Prediction: Melendez by Split-Decision

Middleweight: Matt Lindland (+210) vs. Ronaldo Souza (-270)
In an old-school style match up, crafty wrestler Matt “The Law” Lindland (21-6) will look to out-grapple jiu-jitsu specialist Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (10-2) without getting tied up in knots in the process. Lindland is a true legend of MMA who made his octagon debut at UFC 29 and has fought a who’s-who of the sport including Fedor Emelianenko. His striking has never been technically impressive, but Lindland is tough as nails and always game for a scrap. While he is currently much less well-known, “Jacare” has built up his name in Japan’s Dream organization and now looks to introduce his brand of killer-instinct jiu-jitsu to the North American audience. His cage name means “crocodile” in Portuguese, which is fitting since “Jacare” has snapped up submissions in nine of his ten victories. It may not be entirely fair given the level of competition that Lindland has faced recently, but his 3-3 record in his last six fights makes me wonder if the thirty-nine-year-old Lindland’s years of experience are beginning to work against him. The frequency of Lindland’s fights has also decreased. Even if Lindland can take hm down, “Jacare” should be able to manoeuvre into dominant positions. If Lindland tries to dirty box “Jacare” against the cage, the Brazilian should be able to use his underrated judo to take Lindland down. No one could deny that both are stellar grapplers, but my guess is that “Jacare” will serve notice to “The Law” that the future of MMA is now.

Even at these odds, a bet on Souza makes a good deal of sense to me. I’ll definitely take him for my straight-up.

Prediction: Souza by Unanimous Decision

Heavyweight: Muhammed Lawal (-600) vs. Mike Whitehead (+400)
In what stands out as perhaps the night’s most straight-forward pick, red-hot prospect Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (5-0) will face grizzled MMA veteran Mike Whitehead (24-6) in the first main card match. “King Mo” enjoyed a successful amateur wrestling career, but he’s better known for storming the heavyweight competition in Japan’s Sengoku promotion. Lawal utilizes surprisingly effective boxing for a wrestler and exhibits an extremely rare amount of natural athleticism for a heavyweight. He will look to press his strength and speed advantages in his Strikeforce debut against “Iron” Mike Whitehead. To be clear, Mike Whitehead, who is 15-2 since 2006 and is coming off a victory over a similar opponent in Kevin Randleman, is a legitimate threat to hand “King Mo” his first defeat. However, if Whitehead wins this fight it will tell us more about “King Mo” than about “Iron” Mike. At this point, Lawal looks like he might one-day become a serious force in the world heavyweight rankings, while we already know Whitehead never will.

I look for Muhammed Lawal to beat Mike Whitehead anywhere the fight goes, but his relative inexperience makes a bet on “King Mo” at these odds way too risky.

Prediction: Lawal By TKO, Rd. 2

Middleweight: Robbie Lawler vs. Trevor Prangley
Cancelled Due To An Injury To Prangley


* Josh Oliveira also writes for BC MMA Fan

2 Responses to “ Top MMA News Breaks Down Strikeforce Evolution ”

  1. I had an above average night on my overall picks. Even though my main event record took a hit thanks to comeback virtuoso Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (Pictured at left), I still finished up some cash– more on that later. After going 3-1 on the main card of Strikef0rce:Evolution, my record stands at 133-76 (%63.6) and 16-6 (%72.7) in main events.


    Main Event:

    —Scott Smith def. Cung Le via TKO (Strikes), Rd. 3

    Main Card:

    ***Undisputed Lightweight Champ Gilbert Melendez def. Josh Thomson by Unanimous Decision
    ***Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza def. Matt Lindland by Submission (Arm Triangle), Rd. 1
    ***Muhammed “King” Mo Lawal def. Mike Whitehead via KO (Strikes), Rd. 1

    *** Correct Picks — Incorrect Picks

    Up until the very last minute of Strikeforce:Evolution, everything panned out more or less exactly as I had predicted. Of course, not being among the small handful of Canadians TV-obsessed enough to subscribe to SuperChannel, I wasn’t able to watch the card live, but I read the live results as I watched WEC45 (results below) live on TSN. Anyway, it was an alright little night of MMA action to be sure.

    Back to the Strikeforce card, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal started the night off with a literal bang, stopping Mike Whitehead via first-round KO. Yet again, “King Mo’s” natural athleticism made a slow-moving, second-rate heavyweight pretty easy pickings. Still, Lawal’s laughable lack of size deeply concerns me. He weighed in for this fight at a paltry 218 lbs, which is a fairly light walking-around weight even for a LHW. Trading speed for size may have worked so far, but that gambit will land him in a world of hurt against virtually any of the top-25 at HW. Then again, the word is that “King Mo” wants Strikeforce LHW champ and world #7 at LHW Gegard Mousasi for his second Strikeforce fight, which also has bad idea written all over it.

    Speaking of finishing fights early, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza capped of an embarassingly dominant first round over Matt Lindland with a fight-ending arm-triangle. At 39-years-old and coming off two consecutive first-round losses, it might be time for Lindland, an MMA elder-statesman, to consider a less brain-cell-threatening avenue of income. “Jacare” showed improved stand-up and impressively displayed his underrated Judo en route to the early victory. Another fight with Jason “Mayhem” Miller will most likely be next for “Jacare.”

    There’s not much to be said about Melendez vs. Thomson II except that it was a lot closer than their first match, but had the opposite outcome. Considering how thin Strikeforce’s LW division is, a third and deciding match is very likely.

    Then there was the main event. Without hyperbole, it was very likely the absolute greatest comeback in the history of MMA and was perpetrated by the sports ultimate comeback king, Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith. Cung Le nearly finished Smith in the first round and absolutely peppered him throughout the first two-and-a-half. Le landed big kicks, little kicks, push kicks, spinning backs, high kicks, low kicks, body kicks, wheel kicks and everything in between. Smith was rocked, dropped, bloodied and almost beaten multiple times. Then, Smith suddenly caught Le with a BIG left, followed it with another, and finished the San Shou expert, leaving him in a heap. With this victory, Scott Smith capped of a trilogy of epic comeback KOs that will most likely never be touched in terms of their relevance and sheer shock-value. It all started with the infamous hail-mary KO of Pete Sell at The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale in late-2006. Then, Smith scored another out-of-the-blue fight-ender against Benjii Radach this spring. His victory over Le was perhaps the greatest one of all. Rarely in the history of the sport has any fighter caught such a savage one-sided beating for two-plus rounds. I mean, guys have been beaten up before, but Le was just running show on Smith, essentially untouched. Then, lights out.

    On the one hand, Smith dented my prized main-event record with his statistically absurd shenanigans. Then again, he also won me some cash as part of a parlay with “Jacare.”

    What can I say? At +300 I’ll take a flyer on Smith’s hands against almost anybody.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. George Carlos says:

    Great read Josh!! Are you are a mma writer or blogger? Good job!!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Leave a Reply

Some HTML is OK