(The Good, the Bad, and the Leathery.)
Cyborg, Shields, and Mean Mr. Munchies may be M.I.A., but tomorrow night’s EliteXC/Strikeforce show still has some very compelling match-ups going for it, including a main event that will pit the fan-hyped Cung Le against the self-hyped Frank Shamrock in a middleweight championship bout. You can catch the action on Showtime starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Here’s what the televised lineup looks like…
Shamrock vs. Le (for Strikeforce middleweight title)
Frank (24-8-1) has talked his usual trash about how he’s going to spank the relatively inexperienced Le (5-0), but trust us, it’s only for promotional purposes; Shamrock isn’t dumb enough to actually believe he’ll be cruising through an easy one tomorrow, and unlike his brother Ken, he’s not dumb enough to stand and trade with a superior striker. Le has the most devastating kicks in MMA right now, and he ended his last fight — against Sam Morgan last November — via the ultra-rare body-kick KO. But like other fighters who come from a kickboxing background, Le’s long-range kicks often leave him open for single-leg takedowns, and Shamrock could capitalize. He’ll certainly be looking to take the fight to the ground when the moment is right and finish Le by submission, and we think Shammy will succeed in the second or third round. If they really wanted to make this one interesting, the loser would have to accept eternal banishment from San Jose.
Drew Fickett vs. Jae Suk Lim (welterweights)
A.k.a., “The Battle of the Guys Who Were Supposed to Be Fighting Other Guys.” Rage in the Cage/UFC vet Drew Fickett (32-5) has choked out fighters like Josh Koscheck, Kurt Pellegrino, and Carlo Prater, and has generally faced much tougher competition than “The Korean Icepick” (9-3), who spent most of his career in Spirit MC. We’re loving Lim’s nickname, but it’s not going to help him much against the far-more-experienced Arizona native. Both men hadn’t been preparing to face each other, so it’s a bit of a wash, but judging from how Fickett’s done against guys with Lim’s skill level, we’d say a first-round submission victory is nearly inevitable.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Gabe Lemley (for Strikeforce lightweight title)
This is an even bigger mismatch than Fickett/Lim. Melendez (13-1) is one of the top ten lightweights in the world, while Lemley (11-6) is known for jobbing in American regional promotions. He’s got a nice five-fight win streak going, but he simply hasn’t faced anyone with as complete a game as Melendez. Expect a first-round steamrolling, ending in a TKO. Lemley definitely deserves a step up in competition, but this is too much, too soon.
Mike Kyle vs. Wayne Cole (heavyweights)
You may remember Mike Kyle (9-6-1) as the dude who claimed the #2 spot in our “Nastiest Illegal Knockouts” list by soccer kicking Brian Olsen at a WEC event and then punching him in the face repeatedly as the ref tried to drag him off. (Sample comment from the list: “Mike Kyle is a complete scumbag that should be banned from MMA.” For more Kyle-hatred, click here.) This is Kyle’s first fight since that fateful incident in May 2006, and he’ll be facing Oklahoma City’s Wayne Cole (10-6), who scored his last victory just two weeks ago at CCCF Contenders 3, choking out David Tichit in 44 seconds. Our prediction is that Cole will shatter Kyle’s ribs with body kicks, paralyze him with a vicious neck-breaking suplex, then rip Kyle’s balls off and stuff them down his throat. Well, it’s not so much a prediction as a sincere hope.
Joey Villasenor vs. Ryan Jensen (middleweights)
Ryan Jensen (11-3) — who is stepping in as a replacement for Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos — worked his way from obscurity to the UFC, but squandered the opportunity with back-to-back losses to Thales Leites and Demian Maia. He probably won’t have better luck against Villasenor (24-6), a very seasoned veteran of King of the Cage and EliteXC, and a member of Greg Jackson’s Submission Fighting camp in New Mexico. Villasenor’s recent performances have been spotty (he’s 3-3 in his last six), but it’s hard to fault him for losing to Ryo Chonan, Robbie Lawler, and Murilo Rua. Jensen has only been out of the first round once, but with the slight edge that Villasenor has both standing and on the ground, this one could easily go the distance; we’ll say Villasenor in a unanimous decision.
For videos, photos, and articles related to tomorrow night’s event, hit up Showtime Sports.