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“Strikeforce: Evolution” fight card preview and betting odds

This Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, Strikeforce proves just how much they have grown as an organization with their “Evolution” card, taking place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. If you are planning to attend the event, you can still get good seats, and if you plan to watch on TV, the event airs free on Showtime beginning at 10PM ET/PT.

The main card for this event is absolutely stacked (was even more stacked) from top to bottom. In the lone championship bout on the card, Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson (16-2) is finally getting back in the cage after a disappointing year ridden with injuries and fight cancellations, to face Gilbert Melendez (16-2), who currently holds Strikeforce’s Interim Lightweight Title.

The two will be looking to unify their titles for the undisputed lightweight championship, and Melendez will be looking for revenge for his June 2008 unanimous decision loss to Thomson.

The big question is, how will Thomson perform after being out for over a year and suffering multiple fractures of the same leg? How much of an issue will ring rust play, and how tentative will he be with that leg? Will the leg become a distraction during the fight? Will Melendez target the leg and try to damage it again?

Melendez has looked very impressive this year so far, ending both his fights by knockout; first, over Rodrigo Damm in May, and then over Mitsuhiro Ishida in August. Because of Thomson’s inactivity, and Melendez’s continual improvement, one has to give the edge to Melendez going into this fight.

For some reason none of the online bookmakers seem to be taking any action on this card, so I decided to come up with my own odds. Remember, these are totally subjective and are just to show you who I see as the favorite. Here are my odds for the lightweight title fight: G. Melendez -150 / J. Thomson +110.

Next on the card we have a middleweight match-up between UFC and Affliction veteran Matt Lindland (22-6) and Dream veteran Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (10-2).

This is an interesting match-up. My initial thoughts are… okay, Lindland turns 40 this year, he’s getting old, and on top of that, any time a man starts going into politics, you have to wonder how serious he is about being a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Right?

But then you have to remember, Lindland is not the dude at your local bar who decided to enter a tough man contest, he’s an Olympic silver medalist and co-founder of Team Quest. He’s been in there with the best of the best, and since 2004 he is 10-3, with his only losses coming to Quinton Jackson, Fedor Emelianenko (at heavyweight), and most recently, Vitor Belfort.

Jacare is nine years younger than Lindland. He is a jiu-jitsu champion with all but one of his wins coming by way of submission. He is coming of a no-contest at Dream 9 back in May against Jason Miller due to a cut from an illegal kick. And prior to that, he was knocked out at Dream 6 with an up-kick from Gegard Mousasi.

Lindland has the experience, Jacare has the youth and speed. This is a difficult fight to judge however, here are my completely arbitrary odds: M. Lindland -115 / R. Souza  -110.

The next fight on the main card we will look at is Scott Smith (16-6) vs. Cung Le (6-0). Le recently relinquished his Strikeforce Middleweight Title (which Jake Shields picked up against Robbie Lawler) – because of a budding movie career, he did not feel it fair to hold the title when he would not be able to defend the belt on a regular basis.

Le is undefeated with his most recent win being a TKO over Frank Shamrock in May of 2008. He’s a striking expert with other notable wins over Tony Fryklund and Sam Morgan. Scott Smith will be another decent test for Le to see if he can maintain two simultaneous careers.

Smith is a brawler who will be looking to take Le’s head off. 13 of his 16 victories have come by way of (T)KO. He has been susceptible to submissions in the past but will not have to worry about that with Le. Smith is coming off a rear-naked choke loss to Nick Diaz back in June.

Smith has notable knockout victories over Benji Radach, Terry Martin, Pete Sell, Tait Fletcher, and Tim Kennedy. Something tells me the fight between Smith and Le is not going the distance. My odds on this fight look something like this: Scott Smith +185 Cung Le -110.

Finally, since the Robbie Lawler vs. Trevor Prangley fight has been scrapped, and they will not be replacing it with a preliminary bout, the final main card fight is a heavyweight fight between Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (5-0) and “Iorn” Mike Whitehead (24-6).

King Mo is making his Strikeforce debut. His last bout was the 35 second total destruction of an over the hill Mark Kerr. Although Rampage Jackson will say Mo has not fought anyone yet, the guy has only been training MMA for hardly a year, and defeated, in addition to Kerr, Travis Wiuff, Fabio Silva, Ryo Kawamura, and Yukikya Naito. Not a bad run at all for the one time number one ranked wrestler in the world.

Although Whitehead also comes from a wrestling background, Mo is on a whole different level. One advantage Whitehead will have, is a weight advantage. He will be out-weighing Mo by probably close to 20 pounds come fight day (at least).

Mo did state he’s at about 220 lbs. right now, but he could be posturing. He also said Whitehead did not want to make the cut to light heavyweight and that’s why this fight is at heavyweight.

You have to give Mo props for being willing to meet Whitehead at his weight, and being willing to take whatever they give him. The dude has balls, that’s for sure.

While Mo has a wrestling background, four of his five wins have come via (T)KO, so he tends to rely on striking to finish fights, whereas Whitehead relies more on submissions. Out of 24 wins, 13 of those were by submission for Whitehead.

Whitehead is coming off a unanimous decision win over Kevin Randleman at “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” back in June.

Personally, because of Mo’s speed and explosiveness, I could see him ending this fight fairly easily in the first round. Because of that my odds look something like this: M. Lawal -200 / M. Whitehead +350.

Be sure to meet us right here at ProMMA.info this Saturday night, Dec. 19, 2009, as we will be providing live play-by-play commentary on all the fights, as well as exclusive coverage and photos from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

Strikeforce Lightweight Championship

  • Josh Thomson vs. Gilbert Melendez

Main Card

  • Matt Lindland vs. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
  • Scott Smith vs. Cung Le
  • Muhammed Lawal vs. Mike Whitehead

Preliminary Card

  • Antwain Britt vs. Scott Lighty
  • Daisuke Nakamura vs. Bryan Travers
  • Juan Nunez vs. Luis Mendoza
  • Bobby Stack vs. Alexander Trevino
  • Alexander Crispim vs. AJ Fonseca
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