Referee Josh Roshenthal and his evil, goateed twin declare Voelker the winner. (Pic: Strikeforce.com)
It’s been clear in recent months that Strikeforce is losing its grip on its top talent, but last night its Challengers series continued to plug away in its mission to develop the MMA stars of tomorrow. The action yielded a few decisions, a couple of exciting stoppages, and some much needed direction for Strikeforce’s female fighters.
For the third time in fourteen months, Bobby Voelker and Roger Bowling locked horns under the Strikeforce banner, and the rubber match did not disappoint. Bowling was the energetic aggressor from the onset, mixing up his strikes and throwing numerous hard body kicks in the first round. Voelker landed a few shots of his own, but he was too passive and flat-footed to answer most of Bowling’s attacks. A first round eye-poke bent Bowling over, bringing fears of a second early stoppage via inadvertent foul in this series, but “Relentless” was able to continue. Round two saw Bowling pushing the action again as he worked tirelessly for the takedown, but Voelker landed a big knee with his back against the cage that rocked Bowling backward. A few follow-up punches dropped Bowling and a few more on the ground sealed the deal, earning Voelker the win and the tie breaker by TKO.
With 145lb Champion Cristiane Santos sitting on the shelf for over a year (and nearly getting cut), “the face of female MMA” mysteriously delaying her comeback, and Zuffa’s reluctance to jump into the WMMA biz, Strikeforce needed a bout to propel their female divisions forward. Liz Carmouche and former champion Sarah Kaufman squared off in a battle with potential title implications, both women having dropped their sole losses to 135lb Champ Marloes Coenen. Our girl Liz brought it for three rounds, but after a close first frame that saw much of the fight take place in the clinch against the cage, Kaufman was able to dictate the fight. “Girl-Rilla” was relentless with her takedown attmepts, but Kaufman stuffed her shots and forced a stand up battle that was clearly in her favor. Her clean, straight punches and combinations found their home in the second round, bloodying Carmouche. Unable to bring the fight to the mat, Carmouche looked to counter Kaufman’s experience with a bit of unorthodoxy—thank you, Mauro, for the “Lois Lane” comment—but it wasn’t enough. Kaufman took home the unanimous decision.
Taking a fight on short notice can cause a fighter to shell up, whether they’re mentally unprepared to squab or physically unprepared to let it all hang out. That was not the case with Shawn Jordan. The former LSU fullback had Devin Cole in trouble early, following up a successful throw by taking his back and threatening a rear naked choke. Cole would escape and keep the round competitive, but he ate a few punches and was tripped to the ground off of a caught kick as the first bell rang. In subsequent rounds, Cole avoided being bullied around by the powerful Jordan, fighting outside and putting the big man on his back in round two where’d he work him over with knees to the body. The final round would see Cole landing more knees to the body in the stand up before finding himself on top of Jordan following an errant guillotine attempt. It was an entertaining bout and a much needed decision victory for Cole, who had dropped his two prior bouts. Though it’s a loss on paper, Jordan stepping up to make his promotional debut on three days notice will likely pay off in the long run.
Ovince St. Preux took the shortest road to victory with a quick bludgeoning of his undefeated challenger Joe Cason. Both men engaged early, with St. Preux landing a nice combo, but only 45-seconds into the match Cason walked down St. Preux only to eat a big knee that sent him staggering back. Smelling blood, St. Preux pounced, forcing him to the mat and unleashing fierce ground and pound. Cason had no answer to the blows and tapped out just over a minute into the fight. This marks St. Preux’s eighth straight victory and fourth in the promotion.
Adlan Amagov dusted off The Kicker’s Almanac in his bout against Ron Stallings. The first round saw a series of unorthodox, often spinning kicks that found their mark on Stalling’s body and legs. Several solid punches and a pair of takedowns tallied up an offensive shutout for the Chechen. Round two started off much the same until Stallings crowded Amagov against the fence and worked some dirty boxing and knees to the body. Amagov would separate and a trio of trips and tosses would end with the Russian on top and scoring some ground and pound. Amagov unleashed a torrent of wild strikes to end the round, but they largely failed to connect and reflected a large drop in the fighter’s stamina. Taking advantage of the fatigue, Stallings landed several knees in the clinch and took Amagov down in the opening minute of round three. Stallings worked for a straight armbar and kimura from side mount, eventually working his way into mount, but he failed to put Amagov away. Numerous fence grabs, which only drew warnings from Steve Mazzagatti, helped Amagov keep Stallings pinned to the fence, and in the end he’d done enough to take home the split decision. Call me a sucker for wild kicks, but I’m hoping Amagov works on his cardio and climbs back in the cage soon.