(OK, Julia watch for the le-. Never mind. VidProps: ProMMANow.)
What’s this? A fairly solid Strikeforce Challengers card that (for once) accomplishes its stated mission of showcasing a bevy of the promotion’s up-and-coming fighters? Believe it, people. Strikeforce managed to prolong some of the momentum it established late in 2010 and took advantage of the Showtime channel’s free preview weekend on Friday night with a decent card that saw a number of its more favored prospects pull off victories. Granted, things dragged a little bit down the stretch with Daniel Cormier, Ovince St. Preux and Tyron Woodley grappling their way to consecutive unanimous decisions, but on the whole this show has to be considered something of a success, at least as far as the often maligned Challengers series goes.
For the more punch-hungry fans out there, Amanda Nunes’ lightning quick 14-second knockout of Julia Budd certainly broke the monotony of the wrestling clinic, too. Video of that at top. After the jump, further musings on what it all means …
Obviously, Strikeforce still has miles to go before it can be considered in the same universe as the UFC and to suggest differently is ridiculous. But with its almost impossibly ambitious heavyweight tournament on the horizon and guys like Cormier, OSP, Woodley and even newcomer Rhadi Ferguson adding just a hint of depth to the skin-deep roster, this Saturday morning has things looking cautiously hopeful for Scott Coker and Co.
Cormier is no doubt the bluechipper of this bunch. At just 5-foot-10, 250-ish, he doesn’t possess the gargantuan size of the modern heavyweight or the action figure body of a Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin, but his Olympic-caliber wrestling helps make for all that. Cormier is also at least trying to become a better-rounded fighter, as he displayed in tagging opponent Devin Cole with some nice shots on the feet last night. Cole, who’d gone 6-2-1 since getting himself in some legal trouble of the, uh, rape-y kind back in 2008, was game but outmatched in nearly every facet. In the end, Cormier’s far superior wrestling won the day.
Same with Woodley, who made a point of sticking like glue to talented striker Tarec Saffiedine en route to his own UD. It was Woodley’s sixth straight win in Strikeforce and his fifth on the Challengers series. If, at long last, company brass sees fit to promote him to the main card of one of its A-list broadcasts it will mark the first time in Strikeforce history that the Challengers series essentially worked as it is supposed to, elevating young, lesser-known talents onto the big stage. At this point, Woodley certainly deserves it.
St. Preux meanwhile could probably use a few more Challengers appearances. The former University of Tennessee linebacker nabbed his third win in seven weeks against Ron “Abongo” Humprhey on Friday, but continued to appear by turns stellar and frustratingly green while doing it. There are times when you look at OSP and think, “This dude could be very, very good” and then 20 seconds later end up thinking “This kid has no idea what he’s doing in there.” St. Preux gassed out a bit in the latter stages, too, which looks to be something of a troubling trend for him.
In the evening’s opening bout, Dr. Ferguson — seriously, you guys, his Wikipedia page purports the former Olympic judoka is a doctor of education. That counts, we guess. – weathered some early bluster from stripped down heavyweight John Richard before locking on a second-round knee bar submission. Ferguson is now 3-0 in MMA, with three stoppages. Fun fact: Ferguson is also reported to be cousins with Kimbo Slice. If only those two guys could get together and combine their skills, we’d have something special on our hands.
Nunes’ KO of Budd was already mentioned, but bears repeating: Fourteen seconds. Damn. This after Budd looked fairly beastly in defeating Shana Olsen on Showtime last October. Good for the 145-pound women’s division, which sorely needs challengers for Cris “Cyborg” Santos.