Continuing in Zuffa’s new social media trend of announcing newly-signed bouts before the MMA media gets wind of them, Strikeforce announced today via Twitter that a middleweight bout between Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler has been added to its July 30 Fedor vs. Henderson card in Chicago.
Add the Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Championship to the list of MMA’s Great Curses. When Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante fell victim to Dan Henderson‘s mythical “H-Bomb” right hand last night in Columbus, he became the fourth-consecutive Strikeforce LHW champ to lose the belt without making a single successful defense. (Quick refresher: Babalu Sobral lost it to Gegard Mousasi, who lost it to King Mo, who lost it to Feijao, who lost it Hendo.)
Time will tell if Dan Henderson suffers the same fate. In the meantime, the decorated vet’s arrival as champion helps bolster the 205′ers as a marquee division in Strikeforce. Besides Dan and all the former champions previously mentioned, SF’s light-heavyweight roster now includes guys like Roger Gracie, Mike Kyle, Rhadi Ferguson — tell Fedor Emelianenko to drop 20 pounds, and you’ve got the makings of another great World Grand Prix, especially if their heavyweight tournament continues to run into delays.
Manhoef has one of the most impressive finishing percentages in MMA, with 23 of his 24 career victories coming by way of KO/TKO. However, he’s lost four of his last six fights — three by way of submission, and one by Hail Mary KO at the hands of Robbie Lawler. Manhoef last competed at Dream.15 in July, when he lost to Tatsuya Mizuno by kimura. Kennedy’s keys to victory are very simple: Slow the pace down, check (or dodge) Melvin’s brutal leg kicks, and get the fight to the ground as soon as possible. Let’s hope this is the last opponent swap for Kennedy, because we’re actually kind of psyched to see this one go down.
Give the DREAM bosses some credit, these guys sure know how to build suspense into what otherwise might be a fairly straightforward and pleasing night of MMA fights. As it turned out, there was no surprise run-in from Alistair Overeem and the Japanese promotion with the fly-by-the-seat-of-its pants matchmaking style never found a fight for Ricco Rodriguez. We hope it paid for the flight and the sushi, at least. On the bright side, DREAM finally did manage to convince Gegard Mousasi to put in the 31 seconds of work it took to defeat an overweight Jake O’Brien and Shinya Aoki likewise bounced back from an embarrassing loss in Strikeforce a few months ago to put a quick and typically stoic beating on Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Like “Sweet and Sassy,” Aoki called it an early night, withstanding some heel kicks to the face as he locked up an Achilles lock that secured the tap and appeared to damage his Kawajiri’s leg in just one minute, 53 seconds. A couple of days after possibly declaring his bi-sexuality at the event’s weigh-in (we assume he was being ironical), Aoki ditched his trademark colorful tights for relatively conservative board shorts and rushed from the ring following his win to get some lovin’ from his (possibly female) fiancé.
After the jump, O’Brien vs. Mousasi, where it will take you all of the first 15 seconds to see why the American had a little trouble making weight …
Strippers, the government, our immediate family – we expect them to lie to us. We’ve gotten so used to it that we barely even notice it anymore. We just give them our money and try not to think about what it’s really being spent on. But Robbie Lawler? Him, we thought we could trust. When he told us that he wanted to stand and bang with Melvin Manhoef, when he laughed off the idea of taking down an opponent for the first time in recent memory, we believed him. It seemed like a bad idea, but at least it seemed like a sincere bad idea. Only after the fight do we learn that it was all a ruse. That lying son of a bitch.
As Lawler admits in this video, he didn’t really want any part of Manhoef’s vicious stand-up. The only reason the fight stayed on the feet at all was because Lawler couldn’t find an opportunity to get it to the mat. Instead he got his leg kicked to pieces and his head rattled a little bit before he managed to land that totally pre-planned, super technical right hand. It worked out for him in the end, but at what cost? With this trust now broken, his relationship with the MMA world may never be the same.
("Nice flower-tattoo, cupcake. I just got a tattoo of the Virgin Mary being ripped apart by pitbulls, directly on my asshole." / Photo courtesy of Strikeforce. More pics are below, including one of an alarmingly fat Wes Sims.)
Tonight’s Strikeforce event at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida (aka "Miami") has such a fantastic mix of high-level MMA and can’t-look-away freak shows. On the top of the card you’ve got Nick Diaz battling for Strikeforce’s vacant welterweight title against head-kickin’ rising star Marius Zaromskis, while 145-pound lady-champ Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos makes her first belt defense against Dutch submission artist Marloes Coenen. On the other end of the card, 47-year-old former football star Herschel Walker will kick off his cage-fighting career against Greg Nagy, while Wes Sims — who owns the physique of a 47-year-old — will do his best to avoid getting squashed by pro-wrestler Bobby Lashley. And somewhere in-between, Robbie "Brawler" Lawler and Melvin "Man-Hoof" Manhoef will launch leather at each other until one of them can no longer intelligently defend himself. If you’re not excited for this card, then you probably don’t use words like "excited" in general. Live results from the Showtime broadcast will be piling up after the jump, starting at 10 p.m. ET. Refresh the page every few minutes for all the latest.
Of Robbie Lawler‘s 18 wins, 15 have come via KO/TKO; of Melvin Manhoef‘s 24 wins, 23 have come via KO/TKO. We may not agree with Lawler’s strategy going into tomorrow night’s fight, but sometimes you just have to say "fuck it, this is going to be a slugfest, and it’s going to be awesome." Genghis Con‘s preview compilation for the middleweight battle captures that spirit perfectly. Lawler vs. Manhoef is going to end with somebody staring at the ceiling, the owner of a brand-new concussion. The only questions are: Who will it be, and how long will it last?
Earlier this week we speculated that oddsmakers were only giving Melvin Manhoef the slight edge over Robbie Lawler because they thought Lawler was foolhardy enough to stand and strike with Manhoef rather than take it to the ground, where he would enjoy a distinct advantage. Unless Lawler is doing a great big fake-out in this video interview with Ariel Helwani, the oddsmakers know Lawler better than he knows himself. Yes, he realizes that he’s probably much better on the ground than Manhoef, and he probably also realizes that he could get it there if he wanted to. But that’s not how Lawler likes to party. He wants to go toe-to-toe with a man who’s known for having vicious stand-up and very little else. He wants to play to his opponent’s one strength rather than exploit his easily exploitable weaknesses. So he says, anyway.
Honestly? As much fun as it would be to watch Lawler and Manhoef play Rock-em, Sock-em Robots on Saturday night, a part of me hopes that Lawler is smarter than that. He needs a win more than he needs to prove what a stone cold bad-ass he is. Knocking out Manhoef in a stand-up war would be entertaining and impressive, but that’s like investing your savings in lottery tickets. A 401k might not be as thrilling, but it is a lot less likely to leave you crying in the parking lot.
After the jump, part two of RawVegas.tv‘s series with Goran Reljic. In this episode, Reljic spars with Forrest Griffin and shares a candid conversation about the challenges both of them are facing in the near future.
In fact, Manhoef was asked about the possibility of facing Lawler at his post-fight press conference in Tokyo, and he seemed game even if he didn’t appear to know too much about Lawler. Said the Dutch striker: