The main event weigh-in produced some pushing and shoving Thursday as Evangelista “Cyborg” and “Smokin” Joey Villasenor squared off a day before their huge Strikeforce Challengers, middleweight fight to take place Friday, June 19, at the ShoWare Center at Kent, Wash., live on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
After Cyborg weighed in for their 185-pound fight at 184 ½ pounds and Villasenor 185 pounds, both fighters met face to face. Things got a little too close for comfort and Cyborg pressed his head hard against Villasenor who then pushed back before words were exchanged. At one point, Cyborg pushed Villasenor by the throat before both fighters had to be separated.
Each of the other eight fighters taking part in the televised portion of the show also made weight and squared off without incident.
(MW) Joey Villasenor (184.5 lbs.) vs. Evangelista Santos (185 lbs.)
(MW) Tim Kennedy (184 lbs.) vs. Nick Thompson (185 lbs.)
(160) Jorge Gurgel (157.5 lbs.) vs. Conor Heun (158.5 lbs.)
(135) Shayna Baszler (134.5 lbs.) vs. Sarah Kaufman (134 lbs.)
(MW) Cory Devela (184 lbs.) vs. Luke Rockhold (183.5 lbs.)
PRELIMINARY CARD (un-televised):
(195) Justin Davis (200 lbs.) vs. Dennis Hallman (191.5 lbs.)
(FW) Brian Caraway (145 lbs.) vs. Alex Zuniga (144 lbs.)
(160) Lyle Beerbohm (160 lbs.) vs. Duane Ludwig (159.5 lbs.)
(196) Travis Doerge (184 lbs.) vs. Landon Showalter (185.5 lbs.)
(156) Len Bentley (155.5 lbs.) vs. Marques Daniels (154.5 lbs.)
(171) Steve Hadsel (170 lbs.) vs. Taylor Roberts (170.5 lbs.)
In the main event on SHOWTIME, Villasenor of Albuquerque, N.M., faces Cyborg of Rondonopolis Mato Grosso, Brazil, in a clash of top-notch middleweights. In another huge middleweight matchup, Nick “the Goat” Thompson takes on highly regarded Tim Kennedy, an Army Ranger and Special Forces sniper.
This is the second edition of the Strikeforce Challengers series from leading MMA promoter Strikeforce and premium television network SHOWTIME. The five-fight telecasts airs at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast). Strikeforce Challengers is a proving ground for up-and-coming MMA fighters. The series is designed to provide today’s top prospects with the opportunity to step-up their level of competition and demonstrate their ability in a nationally televised event.
Other bouts on SHOWTIME: Cory “The One” Devela of Bonney Lake, Wash., faces Luke Rockhold of Santa Cruz, Calif. (middleweights), Sarah Kaufman of Victoria, Canada, takes on Shayna “The Queen Of Spades’’ Baszler of Sioux Falls, S.D., in a 135-pound women’s fight and Jorge Gurgel of Cincinnati, Ohio, will collide with Conor “Hurricane’’ Heun of Boulder, Colo., in a 155-pound scrap.
ShoWare Center doors will open for the Strikeforce Challengers event at 5:30 p.m. PT.
What the fighters said Thursday and their final weights:
“SMOKIN” JOE VILLASENOR – 184 ½ lbs.
“I’m feeling incredible right now. I think this fight will be all about momentum. After this fight everyone will know what I’m capable of.”
EVANGELISTA CYBORG – 185 lbs.
“Come Friday night, I will show that I deserve this: the main event. It’s very cool to be the main event. It’s going to be a good fight and I think everyone will know me when we’re all done. I have respect for my opponent. He has good boxing skill, good wrestling skill … but he’s not great at one thing. He’s good at a lot of things, but not great. I will win.”
TIM KENNEDY – 184 lbs.
“I’ve got a huge Army following and am fighting out of Fort Bragg (Fayetteville, N.C.). I think it was very big of Nick to take this fight. I’ve been away from the game for awhile (he’s currently a Special Forces sniper serving in the Army). I’m sure he isn’t happy seeing me on the other side of the cage. This is fun. This is the good stuff. It beats getting shot at.”
NICK “THE GOAT” THOMPSON – 185 lbs.
“This was the fight they offered me so I’ll take it. I don’t like fighting at 185. I hate it. I want to just do this and go back to 170.
“When you get a guy as technically sound as Tim it’s going to be dangerous.
“A loss here will definitely set me back. They don’t offer title fights to guys coming off a loss.
This is fun. To get paid to fight is so much fun. I like to have fun in the ring. Not that I don’t take it seriously but I like to goof around a bit.”
JORGE GURGEL – 157 ½ lbs.
“I have never felt this good before. I never get nervous. But I never felt this good in UFC. I have put no pressure on myself. I guess I’m a late bloomer. I’ve never felt this great before and my cutting weight has been great. I’m having fun and having a great time out here. He’s a green fighter. I want to keep him standing up.”
CONOR “HURRICAINE” HEUN – 158 ½ lbs.
“I haven’t fought an MMA match since October so I’m hungry. You’re in danger when you step in the cage with me. My cardio is absolutely impeccable. I’ll fight the fight wherever he wants it to go. It’s going to be beautiful. I hope everyone enjoys it.
“Having fun on Friday night would be looking into his (Gurgel’s) eyes and knowing he’s outclassed. I don’t go to church. Going into the cage is like my church.”
“It’s a positive for me that I just fought last month (May 15; a win over Miesha Tate). It’s hard to peak so many times but I’d rather take this fight than not. I think as long as you’re trained and you’re not injured then you should always take the fight.
“I love the five-minute rounds. It’s going to be awesome. I would go10-minute rounds if I could. I get better as the round goes longer. I push the pace and my opponents hate it.”
SHAYNA “THE QUEEN OF SPADES” BASZLER – 134 ½ lbs.
“I learned overtraining didn’t work for me (in a previous loss to Cris Cyborg). I learned mental exhaustion translates into physical exhaustion. At this training camp I had a deal with my roommates that once I got home there was no talking about the fight.
“I think Sarah has a pretty aggressive style and she’s confident that it works. The biggest challenge is we know each other too well. And not because, ‘Oh, I don’t want to fight my friend,’ but just strategically. She knows I’m going to want to take her to the ground and I know she’s going to want to stand and punch me in the face.
“I wish they had a stat on how many times people hit rewind on their DVR. I’d win that one for sure.
“Sarah is very good but she’s very predictable.”
“I get more frustrated with getting all my friends and family tickets than I do training for this fight. I’ll have like 150 to 200 people at the fight.
“I think the ref is going to stop it. I predict middle second round. I couldn’t find much on (Luke) Rockhold but I’m ready for anything.”
LUKE ROCKHOLD – 183 ½ lbs.
“I know Cory’s going to be tough. He’s not the most technical striker but I know he likes to throw.
“It should be an all-around tough fight. I believe all around I have better range and am more fine-tuned than he is.
“I’m long and strong and flexible and not a lot of fighters are like that. So I cause problems for people. I have the strength to do things people don’t expect from me.”
Photos courtesy of Esther Lin / Strikeforce