Tonight’s Strikeforce event features two title fights, plus a couple of compelling matchups without a title on the line, to boot. Dan Henderson will try to win his first major championship since winning two titles simultaneously in Pride as he takes on Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, while Marloes Coenen will make her first women’s welterweight title defense against Liz Carmouche.
Billy Evangelista vs. Jorge Masvidal
MMA 101: Win-loss records can be very deceiving.
In a sport where two of the greatest fighters ever (Randy Couture and BJ Penn) sport utterly pedestrian records of 19-10 and 16-7-2, respectively, it should be a given by now. Yet, it’s still the temptation to discount veterans like Masvidal against relatively unproven prospects like Evangelista who have sparkling records (in Evangelista’s case, 11-0).
Look closer, though. Evangelista’s biggest wins are against Nam Phan (by split decision) and Jorge Gurgel (in a “good enough, but not great” performance). Then there’s Masvidal, who has fought Paul Daley, Yves Edwards, Joe Lauzon and Raphael Assuncao, among others. Also, while Masvidal has the edge in experience, he’s only 26 years old. Who’s the prospect here, again?
I kid, but seriously, Evangelista has his hands full here. Masvidal is definitely a better striker and is good everywhere else, too. One of the biggest problems I foresee in this fight for Evangelista is that he will likely be content to have an extended standup battle with Masvidal, which is a horrible idea. I think Masvidal takes this one and Evangelista takes a step back as a result.
Prediction: Masvidal by KO/TKO
Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef
The last time we saw Manhoef, he was absolutely lighting up Robbie Lawler with leg kicks before being KO’ed out of nowhere by a big right hand and a follow-up shot on the mat from his hard-hitting opponent. Kennedy, meanwhile, fared better but still lost in his bid to unseat middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza from his throne.
Clearly, Manhoef wants to keep his distance. This is especially true because he could quickly change the complexion of the whole fight with his punishing leg kicks while at range. While many fighters stay away from leg kicks against fighters who want to take them down, nearly everyone Manhoef has fought in his MMA career has wanted to take him down, so it’s nothing new for him. He sets up and times his kicks well enough to avoid having them caught or getting taken down after attempting them, and his very fast with the technique, to boot.
If Kennedy is able to close the distance, this is a crystal clear instance where grinding out the first round or two makes perfect sense. Manhoef tends to tire quickly when grappling and often comes out with guns blazing, only to fade if he doesn’t connect early on. Kennedy needs to stay out of trouble in the first round and start going to work after that. I think that’s what he’ll do, surviving a scary moment or two in order to wear down and eventually submit Manhoef.
Prediction: Kennedy by submission
Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Championship Bout
Marloes Coenen (champion) vs. Liz Carmouche
Carmouche is a late substitution for original challenger Miesha Tate, who is unable to participate due to a knee injury. However, it won’t be a huge adjustment for Coenen, as Carmouche figures to fight very similarly to how Tate would have- aggressively with with a penchant for takedowns.
Who wins the striking battle is anyone’s guess and could be a real adventure in and of itself, but I’m banking on this fight hitting the mat early and often. That’s where the real action will take place, as Carmouche will try to stay active and do damage while avoiding the considerable danger of Coenen’s ground game.
In a three-round fight, I may be more likely to give Carmouche a shot, since she could stay active and push the action for a close decision victory. However, In a five-rounder, I don’t see Carmouche’s cardio holding up well (even if she insists that she’s always in shape, which is probably fairly accurate). Furthermore, if she is in Coenen’s guard for the better part of 25 minutes, Coenen is going to exploit an opportunity at some point.
Carmouche may do some damage and may have her moments standing, but her best chance for victory (a KO or TKO stoppage) is unlikely, in my view. Coenen is too crafty and too good to allow a costly mistake or lapse of defense on the mat to cost her the title she worked so hard to earn.
Prediction: Coenen by submission
Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship Bout
Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (champion) vs. Dan Henderson
Feijao won the title in an upset victory over the talented MMA newbie “King Mo” Lawal, and is finally making his first defense just over six months later. While Feijao doesn’t do any one thing in amazing fashion, he’s a solid fighter with the tenacity to expose any moments of indecision or mistakes that his opponents may commit. Will that be enough to defeat someone like Dan Henderson?
The first problem you’ll notice is that Henderson is just plain better. Like, at everything. He’s a good enough striker, though he’s prone to getting into slugfests, and he has explosive power, particularly in his right hand. He has excellent offensive and defensive wrestling, and his jiu jitsu is capable enough should he end up in a bad spot or have to fend off submission attempts from an opponent’s guard. On top of that, his cardio is usually very good, particularly when he fights at 205 pounds, which is a better weight class for him as he continues to age.
Against Jake Shields, he may have lost but he showcased some very good scrambling and wrestling earlier, while also face-planting Shields with a right hand that I’m still amazed didn’t knock the champ out. Against Feijao, he’ll have the edge throughout the bout, and it’s hard to imagine Feijao finishing him or out-performing him in a five-round fight. Henderson is just too good, and he’ll be back on top after this one.
Prediction: Henderson by KO/TKO