Fedor in November, Cyborg-Coenen Likely Next

By Loretta Hunt Aug 16, 2009
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fabricio Werdum and Brett Rogers have emerged as the frontrunners to face Fedor Emelianenko at a Strikeforce event sometime in November.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said both fighters were under consideration to meet the world’s No. 1 heavyweight, during the post-fight press conference for the promotion’s “Carano vs. Cyborg” event, which drew 13,524 spectators and an estimated gate of $750,000.

The bout, which would mark the first of three fights the Russian has signed on for and his debut foray into a cage, still awaits a date and venue, said Coker. However, Coker did say the event would not be held in the promotion’s homebase of San Jose.

Coker had previously announced that Emelianenko would not challenge champion Alistair Overeem for the promotion’s title out of the gate. Coker also dispelled a report that suggested former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez might be in line for the slot as well.

Rogers was in attendance Saturday, while Werdum quickly neutralized striker Mike Kyle on the ground to nab a swift first-round submission in their featured bout.

“Fabricio looked great tonight,” said Coker. “On any given day, he could do his thing.”

Werdum, who was once in line for a UFC title shot, survived any early punch from Kyle, before opting for a takedown.

“When a heavyweight hits it’s a pretty good hit,” said Werdum, who wore Kyle’s handiwork in the form of a cut under his right eye, but seemed unharmed otherwise.

Werdum seemed amicable to either a bout with Emelianenko or a championship go against Overeem.

“Of course I want to fight Fedor because everybody knows Fedor is the best, but if I need to go for the title, then I’ll go for the title,” said Werdum.

The men delivered decisive performances from top to bottom, but the woman of the hour was Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, who dismantled the sport’s most popular female fighter in one round to win Strikeforce’s first women’s lightweight title at 145 pounds.

Utilizing a strategy that kept her in the pocket and in constant forward motion, Santos said she’d also prepared to attack Carano with kneebars and heel hooks –- like the one she chased after in the opening minute –- should she be taken down.

“I knew anything could have happened,” said Coker of the main event. “I think if Gina could have gotten past the first two rounds maybe, then I think the tide would have changed. Gina hit her with some good jabs and had some escapes. I was surprised Gina was trying to grapple with her a little bit.”

Gilbert Melendez, who blasted past Mitsuhiro Ishida in an interim title bout earlier that night, applauded the womens’ efforts.

“I think we got a whole lot of people that have never seen MMA in their lives, tune in just to watch the two ladies and I think we got great exposure because of that,” said Melendez. “Cyborg’s bad, man. She’s bad.”

Carano did not attend the conference, though Coker said she did not require medical attention following the bout.

On tap for Santos next could be a bout with Marloes Coenen, who Coker introduced to the press as a likely challenger. A veteran of the women’s movement overseas, the well-rounded Coenen won Japan’s Remix tournament in 2000 and has been a regular component of that scene ever since.

Santos was also asked to give her thoughts on Erin Toughill, who Coker had also acknowledged as a potential opponent for Saturday’s winner. Santos seemed less concerned with whom she was going to meet next and more with how she would handle them.

“I’m going to be the same in every fight. I go for the knockout in every fight,” said Santos through her translator. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. I will fight the same way.”

Santos also didn’t seem eager to inherit at least a portion of the fame that has followed Carano around in the last year.

“She can keep the face of MMA, because I have this title here,” said Santos.

Also on the women’s horizon, Coker said Showtime has agreed to broadcast 135- and 145-pound eight-fighter tournaments as early as November. The winner of the 145-pound tournament -- which the promotion aims to hold over two nights like in Japan -- will face Santos or any subsequent champion for the title, said Coker.

Coker was undecided if Carano would join the tournament or remain as a featured fighter outside of it.

“She would have to want to be in the tournament as well,” said Coker.

In the evening’s third championship bout, Gegard Mousasi made it look easy, though the former Dream middleweight champion said he had weight issues and the added pressure of making a strong showing in his U.S. debut against Renato "Babalu" Sobral.

“Two weeks ago, I have to fight (for Affliction),” said Mousasi. “I was waiting (at) 210 pounds, and somehow I lost a lot of weight. I (made) 205, but it was weird for me.”

Though Strikeforce’s new light heavyweight champion planned to stand with Sobral, he said he knew he’d fair well against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt if he were able to capture top position.

“This is not jiu-jitsu. This is MMA,” said Mousasi.

Mousasi, 24, returns to Dream for the semifinals of its “Super Hulk” tournament on Oct. 6 in Japan.

In other notes:

Nick Diaz appears back on track to square off against Jay Hieron for the newly formed welterweight title. Last week, Diaz did not take a pre-fight drug test to ensure his re-licensure in the state before his scheduled bout with Hieron, forcing the promotion to scramble for last-minute opponent Jesse Taylor.

“We had a conversation with Cesar Gracie about the Nick Diaz situation, so I feel very comfortable that Nick will be back shortly,” said Coker. “Jay Hieron came here to fight Nick Diaz, so we’ll put that fight together.”

• Strikeforce plans to hold two events in October –- one will be a Challenger Series installment.

• With an alliance in place with Dream, Strikeforce could hold an event in Japan before the end of the year, said Coker.

• Coker said the promotion will up its ante to 18-20 events in 2010. At least 16 of those events will be held on Showtime, said Coker, fueling rumors that an option to broadcast events on CBS could be activated by the end of the year.

“In the next couple of weeks, (CBS and Strikeforce) will be having that conversation,” said Coker.
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