This Saturday night, Dec. 17, Strikeforce will close out their 2011 season LIVE on Showtime with “Melendez vs. Masvidal” from Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif., starting at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The event is headlined with Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez defending his title against American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal. Also, Strikeforce women’s 145 pound champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos puts her title on the line against Japan’s Hiroko Yamanaka in the co-main event.
ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) will be looking at each of the main card bouts leading up to Saturday night starting with this light heavyweight match-up between former University of Tennessee linebacker, Ovince Saint Preux and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ and current DREAM champ, Gegard Mousasi.
Ovince Saint Preux (11-4, 5-0 SF)
After winning six straight fights in 2010, four by knockout, this will only be 28-year-old Ovince Saint Preux’s third fight of 2011, and it is a more natural pace for a fighter who is on the verge of stardom. This is a fight, if he wins, will make folk take notice that Saint Preux is a legitimate threat at light heavyweight. It is also the toughest match of his career on paper.
In January 2011, Saint Preux faced knockout artist and former heavyweight Abongo Humphrey. Many wondered how Saint Preux would hold up against the heavy hands, size and experience of Humphrey, but he stood toe-to-toe with him, took his best shots and gave back more than got to win a unanimous decision.
In July of this year, Saint Preux returned to the Strikeforce Challengers cage against the relatively unknown Joe Cason. It seemed an odd choice for an opponent considering Saint Preux had just defeated well-known veterans Jason Day, Antwain Britt, Benji Radach and Humphrey.
It also seemed odd that Strikeforce still had Saint Preux fighting on the Challengers Series after winning twice already on the regular Strikeforce cards. But Saint Preux did not complain and did the work set before him, sending Cason home via submission due to punches in just 1:12 of the first round.
Gegard Mousasi (31-3-2, 2-1-1 SF)
After losing the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in April 2010 to Muhammed Lawal, Gegard Mousasi went back to Japan. Lawal had dominated the bout with his wrestling, takedown after takedown, making Mousasi look completely inadequate in the wrestling department.
In July 2010 Mousasi fought another wrestler, Jake O’Brien, at DREAM 15. This time Mousasi was able to use his submission game and tapped out O’Brien with a guillotine choke just 31 seconds into the bout. It was Mousasi’s ninth win by submission.
Two-and-a-half months later Mousasi won via submission again, choking out Tatsuya Mizuno at DREAM 16 to take home the DREAM light heavyweight title.
Mousasi returned to Strikeforce in April of this year, fighting to a draw with UFC veteran Keith Jardine. Mousasi likely would have won the decision but was deducted a point after landing an illegal up kick.
In Mousasi’s most recent bout, in July of this year, he defended his DREAM light heavyweight title by knocking out Japanese Olympic judo gold medalist Hiroshi Izumi in the first round at DREAM: Japan GP Final in Tokyo.
Odds: Saint Preux +325, Mousasi -450
Mousasi has a lot to lose in this fight and it would be a significant setback for the 26-year-old Armenian if Saint Preux were to win. For Saint Preux, he has been the underdog time and again ever since he started fighting in Strikeforce, and each time he has risen to the challenge.
Technically Mousasi is the better striker and submission artist. You have to give Saint Preux the wrestling, size, strength and athleticism advantage. Saint Preux also hits hard, has strong kicks and has one heck of a chin.
After his last fight, Saint Preux actually called out Mousasi (and Babalu). Now he will find out if he is truly ready to face the top tier talent or if he has bitten off more than he can chew.
See ProMMAnow.com’s (www.prommanow.com) other “Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal” fight card previews.