(Higgins enjoying the bright lights of Showtime)
Dropping the “Cage Potato” name may not impress the ladies, but it’s good enough to get you a little action from the folks at Strikeforce. Yours truly was sipping a Rockstar tallboy cageside at last night’s Challengers event, and for those of you who missed it I’m coming correct with a recap of the action. Sure, the Challengers series lacks the big-name fighters and forbidden psychological technologies of its big brother, but that doesn’t mean a it’s low on action.
The turnout at the Cedar Park Arena, just outside of Austin, TX, looked more like that of a regional show than an event being broadcast on Showtime. Tickets went on sale 2-for-1 on Thursday, which is never a good sign. The fans that did turn out seemed largely there to support local fighters and drink some beer, but that’s to be expected for a Challengers card that doesn’t pack a lot of names that the casual fan would recognize aside from “Couture”.
Beerbohm vs. Healy: The main event of the evening featured Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm facing off against the very experienced Pat “Bam Bam” Healy. Beerbohm entered this bout with an impressive 15-0 record and an engrossing back story of time in prison and a serious meth addiction, the latter of which no doubt inspired his shorts. He faced a serious challenge in Healy, who notched up wins over big names like Daley, Condit, and Hardy earlier in his career. Both men looked to employ a similar game plan of taking their opponent down and dictating the fight on the ground, and that battle for control did not disappoint. Round one was a great back and forth battle with Beerbohm working tirelessly for a takedown off the fence but Healy more than holding his own. Both men were able to bring their opponent to the mat, if only for a moment, and Fancy Pants lit up the crowd with a Hughes-inspired slam. Round two saw Beerbohm force Healy against the cage again, steadily working for the takedown. Two wild scrambles ended with Fancy Pants in an inverted triangle, Healy wrenching his arm behind his back on the second go-round. After a pretty even first round, Healy clearly controlled round 2. At the start of Round 3 Healy seemed to be the fresher of the two, pushing Beerbohm against the cage and scooping him to the ground. Healy threatened with a side-naked choke, but Fancy Pants refused to give in, reversing the position and kicking off an extended series of sweeps and switches. Neither man rested for a second, hoping to steal the victory up until the bell. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Healy, handing Fancy Pants his first defeat. We’ve learned that no fighter will go undefeated if they continue to climb into the cage long enough, and Beerbohm should hold his head high after a hard fought battle and an entertaining bout.
Couture vs. Higgins: Everyone here is openly exploiting a name, but at least they’re putting their cards on the table. Showtime isn’t trying to market Couture as a world-beater, clearly stating that he is the novice 1-0 son of legendary fighter Randy Couture. Couture himself acknowledges that he’s been given a spot on Showtime simply because of his surname, adding that he’d be stupid to pass up the opportunity to fight under the bright lights. It’s also why I’m writing about this fight and you’re reading about it. Well, that and boredom. The opening round provided few fireworks as neither fighter looked to be the aggressor on the feet, but the restless crowd was treated to a near finish once the fighters hit the mat in the last minute of the round. Couture sunk in a D’Arce and looked to put Higgins out, but time expired before he drew the tap. That was kind of the story of this fight. Neither fighter did much damage on the feet and Couture held a clear advantage on the ground, transitioning through submission attempts while Higgins gamely defended. Couture finally found a home for his rear naked choke in Round three and forced the tap.
This fight showed Couture to be a young fighter with middling standup and a decent ground game, which is exactly where he should be at this point in his career. Does that warrant a cushy spot on Showtime? Nope, but this is a Challengers event which by design is meant to showcase up and coming talent, and no one’s really getting hurt here. That being said, a fighter’s progression can be slow and awkward, and I’m not sure I want to be around for every step of that journey. No matter how evenly matched his opponents may be on paper, at this stage of the game he holds the distinct advantage of receiving world class training at Extreme Couture while his opponents are training at the gym closest to their house. Couture did show potential tonight, but for now it’s all about the level of competition.
Prater vs. Travers: In other main card action, Carlo Prater needed only 36 seconds to secure his first stoppage victory in three years. After a brief exchange, Prater landed a trip takedown from the clinch and immediately secured a D’Arce. Travers didn’t have time to defend as Prater locked it in and rolled him over. By the time he’d landed on his back, Travers was already out. Referee Jon Schorle asked the unconscious and twitching Travers if he was done. Let’s hope he’s not the ref for Hamill’s next fight.
Larson vs. Apple: Apple looked confident on his feet from the onset, aggressively going after Larson, but once Larson secured the takedown he looked to be in trouble. Larson pinned Apple to the mat, trapping his arms in a crucifix from side mount. Larson dropped hammerfists from the top before trying to lock up a kimura, but Apple scrambled out of trouble and launched an attack on Larson’s legs, coming close to a heel hook and a knee bar. Larson would defend and work his way to mount at the closing bell. Round 2 opened with Larson scoring the takedown and working from half guard against the fence. Larson again scored full mount and took Apple’s back. After looking for a rear naked choke, Larson opened up with some heavy blows from on top. With Apple on his back, Larson isolates his right arm, pinning it with his knee. In a very smooth transition, Larson snuck his leg behind Apple’s head and locked in a triangle choke, drawing the tap with 1:48 left in the round.
Douglas vs. Gonzalez: Jesus Christ, Douglas is sporting a rack that would Arianny blush. “Tarzan” was all over Gonzales from the onset, landing a barrage of powerful punches as he chased the retreating “Ghost”. After a right-left combo sent Gonzalez face first into the canvas, Douglas swarmed with ground and pound, forcing Gonzalez to give up his back. Without hesitation, “Tarzan” wrapped up the rear naked choke and put Gonzalez to sleep only two minutes into the bout.
All in all this was another entertaining round of fights from the Challengers series. It was a nice introduction to some new talent and we’re sure to see more of Prater, Couture, Beerbohm, and Healy who all put on entertaining performances.
- Chris Colemon