Strikeforce ‘Los Angeles’ Analysis: The Main Card

By Tim Leidecker Jun 18, 2010
Strikeforce’s lineup Wednesday in Los Angeles featured four main card bouts, including the return of K.J. Noons to U.S. soil, a battle of hard-hitting sluggers in Dream ace Marius Zaromskis and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, another win for Tim Kennedy and a quality performance by “Babalu.” takes a look at the fallout and what could be next for the main card participants.

K.J. Noons def. Conor Heun -- Decision (Split)

What happened: Heun jumped at the chance of facing former EXC champ Noons on two weeks’ notice when “Krazy Horse” Bennett dropped out. Noons started out in a counter-boxing style and had to survive a big scare when Heun had him mounted and took his back in the first round. In the second and third stanzas, Noons had more success with his combinations, landing some heavy leather and knocking Heun down. By the end of round three, Heun’s face looked like Schwarzenegger’s in “Terminator.” Two judges scored the bout 29-28 in favor of Noons, which is a realistic rendering of the action inside the cage, while the third gave all three rounds to Heun.

Forecast for Noons: KJ is somewhat tough to match up, as he is sitting between the lightweight and welterweight divisions. He is fortunate that Strikeforce is willing to continue giving him bouts at his preferred 160-pound catchweight. Eventually the promotion would likely want to see him rematch Nick Diaz, but Diaz has not fought at such a low weight in almost three years. As a result, Noons will have to make do with possibly another crack at “Krazy Horse” or someone like Billy Evangelista or Justin Wilcox.

Forecast for Heun: The 30-year-old “Hurricane” showed a lot of heart and fortitude to step up against the proven knockout artist Noons on short notice. After putting on the type of fight he did, he deserves to be brought back for another Challengers card.

Tim Kennedy def. Trevor Prangley -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:35 R1

What happened: Kennedy, previously only known to most fans for splitting a pair of bouts with “Mayhem” Miller a couple of years ago, became only the second fighter to submit accomplished grappler Prangley in his almost 30-fight career. Prangley came out of the gates well and put Kennedy on the mat with two nice throws. Kennedy got up, though, and then took Prangley down. He briefly worked from half guard before mounting, taking Prangley’s back and submitting him with an uncommon rear-naked choke in mid-air.

Forecast for Kennedy: At 30 years old and with a couple of solid wins and “EA Sports MMA” fame behind him, expect Kennedy to be promoted into a bigger fight in the fall or winter. Karl Amoussou, Scott Smith or Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza could be standing across the cage from Kennedy next time.

Forecast for Prangley: For only the second time in his 10-year career, Prangley has not rebounded from a non-win straight away (he drew in his last fight with Karl Amoussou when the Frenchman received an accidental thumb to the eye). Even though he turns 38 in August, we have not seen the last of the well-rounded South African. With 29 fights under his belt, Prangley presents a legit challenge for opponents like Matt Lindland, Jason Miller or Joey Villasenor.

Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos def. Marius Zaromskis -- TKO (Punches) 2:38 R1

What happened: Lithuania’s Zaromskis went from winning the Dream welterweight grand prix to suffering back-to-back defeats under the Strikeforce banner in just an eight-month period. Cyborg has suffered his fair share of losses in his career, but he had more experience in the “kill-or-get-killed” atmosphere that was present in this bout. Cyborg worked a counterattacking style and was successful, rocking Zaromskis several times. Zaromskis got crazy midway in the first round, attempting a flying knee. Santos clocked him mid-air Fedor-Arlovski style and finished the fight via ground-and-pound.

Forecast for Cyborg: After starting his career as a light heavyweight, the Brazilian moved to middleweight in 2008 and has now made the drop to welterweight. While he isn’t ready to face 170-pound champion Nick Diaz just yet, Jesse Finney, Nate Moore and James Terry are the type of fighters under contract with Strikeforce who could make an exciting fight if paired with Cyborg.

Forecast for Zaromskis: The Lithuanian needs to go back to Japan where he is still undefeated. Under the Dream banner he could take on the likes of Ryo Chonan, Katsuya Inoue or Hidetaka Monma.

Renato "Babalu" Sobral def. Robbie Lawler -- Decision (Unanimous)

What happened: Brazilian veteran Renato “Babalu” Sobral outworked Robbie Lawler to win a unanimous decision. The 34-year-old Rio de Janeiro native rebounded nicely from a devastating first-round knockout at the hands of former light heavyweight champ Gegard Mousasi in August of last year. For 15 minutes, Sobral fought a tactically mature fight, mixing up his wrestling, clinch game and striking very well. Lawler pressed the action in the second round, but went AWOL for large portions of the third, where he only came to life in the final minute. Even though Sobral was ravaged by Lawler’s punches with cuts under both eyes, he controlled the cage and used his experience to bring home the win.

Forecast for Babalu: Uninterested in a title shot against current light heavyweight champion and training partner King Mo, Babalu challenged former Pride welterweight champion Dan Henderson (who beat Sobral via a close decision in the 2000 Rings “King of Kings” tournament final). As both men have been well promoted by the UFC in various title fights, it may make sense for Strikeforce to put the fight together. Alternatives for Babalu include Hendo’s teammate, Matt Lindland, and Dutch heavy hitter Melvin Manhoef.

Forecast for Lawler: Although Lawler could benefit from a return to the UFC -- where exciting matchups would include Michael Bisping, Patrick Cote and Wanderlei Silva -- he’ll likely remain a contender in Strikeforce’s middleweight division. The promotion’s middleweight tournament may be next for him.
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