It’s time again for ProMMAnow.com’s Staff Picks. First of all we would like to publicly welcome our newest staff member, Mr. John Buhl… He’s been pumping out some good work for us so all you Pro MMA Now readers make him feel welcome by leaving him nasty comments and ridiculing his every opinion so he will feel right at home. Okay that’s a joke. We have nice readers. They are kind and polite and slow to anger.
Seriously though, welcome John, now let’s get on with it…
“Strikeforce: Houston” takes place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, Saturday night and airs live on Showtime starting at 10:00 p.m. ET. As always, ProMMAnow.com will provide live results and play-by-play commentary during the event.
“Strikeforce: Houston” features undefeated light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (7-0) defending his title for the first time since defeating Gegard Mousasi in April. Lawal will face heavy-handed Brazilian and Team Nogueira product, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (9-2) in the main event.
In the co-main event, submission wizard Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (12-2, 1 NC) and three-time Army Combatives light heavyweight champion Tim Kennedy (12-2) will fight for the Strikeforce middleweight title vacated by former champion Jake Shields when he left the organization for the UFC earlier this year.
The other fights we will be looking at are the rest of the televised card, which include K.J. Noons (9-2) vs. Jorge Gurgel (13-6), Bobby Lashley (5-0) vs. Chad Griggs (8-1), and Daniel Cormier (4-0) vs. Jason Riley (9-3).
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante
BRIAN FURBY: Two hard-hitting guys, and a title on the line. Mo’s wrestling background could play a big role in the fight if it hits the ground or if he finds Feijao’s power too much to handle. However, it likely won’t come to that as Mo’s power should overwhelm Feijao early. King Mo wins by TKO in Round 1.
RICHARD MANN: “Feijao” does not have any way to avoid ending up flat on his back. If Lawal chooses to, he can take his opponent down at will and repeat his performance against Gegard Mousasi. If he decides to stand a bit, “Feijao” might be able to tag him, but that will be the extent of his offense. Also, if you read my column this week you would realize that the experience Lawal gained in his five-round win is invaluable. Let’s hope Strikeforce gets their light heavyweight division rocking and rolling, because Lawal will get to the bottom of their talent pool quickly. Lawal by TKO.
JOHN BUHL: Might be the toughest to pick of the bunch. I won’t be surprised if Feijao pulls off the upset, perhaps with a KO in the third or fourth round, and I have to think he’ll look more prepared to fend off takedowns than Lawal’s last opponent, Gegard Mousasi. But Feijao’s boxing isn’t overly impressive — I personally think Antwain Britt was winning the boxing exchanges before Feijao finished the fight — and his Muay Thai is dangerous but plays more into the hands of Lawal’s incredible wrestling. Lawal by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: I think that this fight will be a lot like the King Mo/Mousasi fight.. “King Mo” will use his wrestling to put “Feijao” on his back early and often to negate the danger that “Feijao” will pose while the fight is on the feet. “King Mo” will extend his reign by unanimous decision.
JACK BRATCHER: King Mo will feel out “Feijao” on the feet. We will get to see how much Mo has progressed with his stand up. He could possibly knock “Feijao” out. It’s certainly a possibility. However, my feeling is sooner or later Mo is going to shoot in on “Feijao”, put him on his back and either get a ground and pound TKO or a decision. Mo wins it fairly easily.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Tim Kennedy
BRIAN FURBY: Kennedy continues his rise up the Strikeforce MW ladder with this title bout against submission specialist Jacare. If Kennedy’s submission defense is up to par, he should be able to catch Jacare off guard with his power and end the fight about halfway through. Kennedy wins by TKO in Round 3.
RICHARD MANN: This fight should be an open and shut case. Kennedy makes his money by being the better grappler, and there is no way he can out grapple “Jacare.” However, it is a five-round fight and “Jacare” seriously slowed down in his longer fights. Also, his chin has been a serious issue in both of his losses. Don’t be surprised if Kennedy plunked him late in the fight. “Jacare” by decision.
JOHN BUHL: On the other end of the spectrum, I’m pretty confident which way this fight will go. No disrespect to Mr. Kennedy, but Jacare is a beast. His stand up is improving quickly, and he has pretty solid takedowns to go with his world-class BJJ. Jacare by 2nd Round TKO.
DENNY HODGE: Souza has shown dramatic improvements in his stand up, but Kennedy is going to bring the pressure non-stop. Kennedy will be able to get the fight to the ground at will, but that could prove to be very dangerous. I’m still going to go with Kennedy with the upset in this one by grinding out a decision victory, due to his work ethic and endurance over a five round fight.
JACK BRATCHER: This could be fight of the night if Noons vs. Gurgel wasn’t on the card. Tim Kennedy seems to keep getting better and has been looking really good. Having said that, I think the odds are going to favor Jacare. Kennedy is very good on the ground but I still think Jacare may end up submitting him. Jacare will either submit him early in round one or two or Kennedy’s conditioning will pay off in the end. I’ll go with Jacare.
K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Gurgel
BRIAN FURBY: Like I said when I interviewed Gurgel, on paper this looks like a classic striker vs. grappler match. But as many people know, Gurgel’s black belt in BJJ often succumbs to his desire to have exciting fights. This fight is absolutely an early contender for fight of the night, and Gurgel and Noons will bang it out on the feet. However, with a revamped training camp run out of his own gym, I see the (near) impossible happening and Gurgel returning to his roots and submitting Noons late in the fight. Gurgel wins by submission in Round 3.
RICHARD MANN: The book on Gurgel is that he is an amazing black belt, who chooses to stand and bang. However, if you think about it, when is the last time you saw him score a clean takedown? If he tries to take Noons to the ground, he will not succeed. On the feet Noons will pick him apart and take the decision. It will be another exciting fight, but still a loss for Gurgel. Noons by decision.
JOHN BUHL: Gurgel’s tendency to stand and trade with guys, despite his submission skills, baffles and entertains fans around the world. Against a guy who hits as hard as Noons, that’s a bad idea. Noons will likely win the exchanges and Gurgel won’t get the fight on the mat often enough. But Gurgel is tough as hell, so it should go the distance. Noons by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: Gurgel has shown numerous times in the cage that he will stand and trade even if he is at a disadvantage on the feet. He will be over matched in the striking department in this one, but can he stick with his game plan and actually make this bout a grappling match? I think the temptation to entertain will make him throw his game plan right out the window, and Noons will take full advantage of a boxing match. Noons by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: As much as I like Gurgel, K.J. is the more powerful striker. He’s going to want to stand and trade with Noons and that will be his downfall. The pro boxer will eat him up on the feet and probably get a TKO in the second or third.
Bobby Lashley vs. Chad Griggs
BRIAN FURBY: Seven of Griggs’ eight wins come by TKO and some see his KO power as causing a problem to the relative newbie Lashley. Simply put, they’re wrong. Lashley has plenty of power of his own, and his wrestling is leaps and bounds above Griggs. Even if Griggs manages to beat Lashley on the feet, Lashley will take him down and ground and pound out a win to stay undefeated. Lashley by TKO in Round 1.
RICHARD MANN: I am a firm believer in Strikeforce’s ability to find ways to get their marquee fighters wins. This fight should be another example of that. Griggs might be Lashley’s toughest test yet, but there is no reason why he can’t get top position and win a decision. With his professional wrestling career in the rear-view mirror, let’s hope that Lashley dedicates himself to the sport and works his way up the Strikeforce heavyweight ladder. Lashley by decision.
JOHN BUHL: Griggs hasn’t fought anyone of any note outside of John Marsh. (Remember the guy that lost to Mike Van Arsdale way back at UFC 52? Yeah, me neither.) And that’s good, because Lashley hasn’t exactly been given a serious test yet either. Based on an interview with Griggs on Strikeforce.com, I’m feeling pretty confident Lashley can impose his will. Griggs didn’t wrestle in high school and has about a 30 pound weight disadvantage. Good luck with that! On a side note, check out the nifty profile pic of Mr. Griggs. These guys should have a flexing competition instead. I’m swooning as I type this. Lashley by Unanimous Decision.
DENNY HODGE: Lashley has called out the best, but has yet to face any top level competition up to this point. Griggs may be 8-1 but he has only had one fight since 2007. Lashley will need to put on a show to stifle the criticism that most of the MMA community has been throwing his way. This fight really won’t be an indicator of how good Lashley is, or is not, but he will get the win by TKO.
JACK BRATCHER: I really want to pick Griggs. I really do. If it stays on the feet, Griggs will knock him out. But that’s the problem… and the reason Lashley took this fight. I asked Griggs about how he matches up with Lashley’s wrestling in a recent interview. Griggs said:
There is no question that when it comes to his wrestling skills he is very strong, but then again, we’re not just wrestling, are we? My team is well aware of Bobby’s strengths and weaknesses and we’ll be looking to take from his strengths and capitalize on his weaknesses. I have been working a lot with top notch wrestlers and know he’s coming in for that takedown sooner or later.
So what do you think? Will those “top notch wrestlers” be enough for him to stop the takedown and do what needs to be done? Ah what the hell… I’ll go with Griggs via TKO.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jason Riley
BRIAN FURBY: I almost envision this fight as a precursor to Lashley vs. Griggs. Riley has some KO power, but Cormier has plenty of power of his own and his wrestling is far above Riley’s. If Cormier can’t win on the feet, he’ll take Riley down and pound him out picking up his fifth win in as many fights. Daniel Cormier wins by TKO in Round 1.
RICHARD MANN: If Riley gets any offense going, he is going to end up on his back. Cormier has been fighting every weekend for the last three weeks. Look for Cormier to get on top and put some hard punches on the fighter best known for losing to Tim Sylvia. Cormier by TKO.
JOHN BUHL: I’ll take Cormier for two simple reasons…he trains with a formidable team (American Kickboxing Academy) and has worked his way up through the Strikeforce Challengers series. Riley, on the other hand, has primarily fought on the local circuit in Ohio. The two times he stepped up against slightly tougher competition — IFL vet Devin Cole and a post-Ray-Mercer-beatdown Tim Sylvia — he lost without escaping the first round. Cormier by 2nd Round TKO.
DENNY HODGE: Cormier just had a fight about a week ago moving to 4-0 and will be facing “The Juggernaut” who is 9-3 with 7 TKO’s. Riley was TKO’d in the first by Tim Sylvia back in 2009, and I see Cormier, who has finished all of his fights, taking Riley down and pounding him out in this one.
JACK BRATCHER: King Mo swears Cormier is the best wrestler in MMA, so who am I to argue? Although this will be Cormier’s third fight in just as many weeks (He’s only 4-0 — think about that 3 fights in 3 weeks), I think that’s a good thing in his case, as he’s ended both of the previous fights in round one. The momentum train is rolling and will roll right over Jason Riley. (Trivia Fact: Riley is the guy who lost to Tim Sylvia last year in Sylvia’s first fight back after getting KO’d by Ray Mercer.) Riley has won his last two fights via TKO. Cormier has 3 wins via (T)KO and one submission. Look for another sub here possibly.