On the heels of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s third trip to Australia comes Strikeforce “Tate vs. Rousey,” which features arguably the most-hyped women’s confrontation since Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos smashed Gina Carano in 2009.
This is not the case by accident. Ronda Rousey is one of the most exciting prospects in all of MMA, male or female, and her world-class judo is complimented by her rapidly improving skills on the microphone. When it is all said and done, the “Rowdy” one might just live up to her namesake and become the best interview in the sport.
In the other corner stands Miesha Tate, the woman who deftly navigated the slick submission skills of Marloes Coenen to capture the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight crown with a submission of her own. A well-rounded athlete with a solid wrestling base, Tate figures to be Rousey’s toughest test to date.
The headliner is not all this card has to offer on Saturday at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, however. The main draw also features a pivotal lightweight pairing between former champions Josh Thomson and K.J. Noons, plus a welterweight showdown pitting hard-hitting Brit Paul Daley against former Pride Fighting Championships standout Kazuo Misaki.
The undercard also hosts a collection of important matchups, one of which will decide whether Sarah Kaufman or Alexis Davis receives first crack at the winner of Tate-Rousey.
For Kaufman, a victory would further cement her claim as the most deserving title challenger in the division. A stocky, hard-punching 26-year-old from British Columbia, Canada, Kaufman originally won the women’s bantamweight championship in 2010 with a victory over Takayo Hashi. Following a devastating slam knockout of Roxanne Modafferi later that year, Kaufman was submitted by Coenen at Strikeforce “San Jose,” relinquishing her title to the Dutch fighter and returning to the contender’s list.
Since losing her belt, Kaufman has reentered the title picture with back-to-back wins over Megumi Yabushita and Liz Carmouche. In Davis, she faces a foe she has already bested once prior. Five years is a long time between meetings. Can Kaufman repeat the trick and earn another crack at the gold she desperately wishes to recapture, or will she suffer another setback and once again slide down the rungs of the bantamweight ladder?
Kaufman’s quest to reclaim her belt is only one reason to care about the Strikeforce “Tate vs. Rousey” prelims. Here are four more:
Opportunity at Revenge
As for Davis, it has been nearly half a decade since she was finished by Kaufman in her professional debut. Fourteen fights later, she finds herself coming full circle, only one step away from securing a title shot and avenging her first career defeat.
Davis’ in-cage path has been a successful one, compiling a career mark of 11-4 and losing only to Tara LaRosa, Shayna Baszler and Elaina Maxwell along the way. Joining Strikeforce in July, she earned a unanimous nod over Julie Kedzie before knocking out surging Brazilian prospect Amanda Nunes two months later.
If Davis can exact revenge on her countrywoman, it will likely be the most important win of her career. Additionally, a victory for Davis would shake up Strikeforce’s 135-pound women’s division, driving it ever closer to the well-populated, competitive entity for which fans of women’s MMA have longed.
Future of ‘The Future’
Let us not mince words. So far, Caros Fodor has looked like a million bucks.
Fans of the Strikeforce Challengers series will recall that the AMC Pankration ace made a killing in the feeder show, posting wins over Ousmane Thomas Diagne, Derek Getzel, David Douglas and James Terry before knocking out Justin Wilcox in his most recent outing.
At 28 years old, “The Future” appears to have what it takes to enter the upper echelon of the lightweight ranks. Possessing legitimate skills both standing and on the mat, the lone question facing Fodor is less about his talent and more about his mental merits.
In other words, what will happen when he climbs into that cage against a big old grizzly bear of a lightweight who has 42 professional fights under his belt? That is exactly what he will do next.
The Man They Call ‘Bam Bam’
Pat Healy might just be the man to derail Fodor’s climb to the top.
A rugged wrestler and submission fighter, the Team Quest representative has won six of his last seven bouts, with only a defeat to the aforementioned Thomson blemishing his five-fight Strikeforce stint.
Following his loss to “The Punk,” Healy, 28, handed Lyle Beerbohm his first pro defeat before outpointing the undersized Eric Wisely in August. Most recently, “Bam Bam” was seen submitting highly regarded Venezuelan import Maximo Blanco with a second-round rear-naked choke.
Healy has been around the block more than once, and he has put a lot of miles on his body during his decade-long career. Ever-cognizant of his veteran status, Healy likely understands the importance of this upcoming clash with Fodor. Can the Oregonian seize the moment and make his move, or will his neighbor to the north prove he is ready for primetime by earning a win over his respected opponent?
I have no idea if Ryan Couture will ever be an elite competitor, but I know this: it is fun to watch that guy fight. His standup is still a serious work in progress, but it is improving. As most know by now, the ground game is where the son of “The Natural” makes his real money.
Well-schooled in the art of jiu-jitsu, Couture, 29, earned a pair of submission wins to begin his Strikeforce career before coming up short against fellow prospect Matt Ricehouse in June. Couture rebounded from the defeat, however, earning a hard-fought majority decision over Maka Watson on Sept. 23.
Currently standing in Couture’s way is Conor Heun, a resilient and well-rounded lightweight who has never been stopped. Some may recall Heun’s last outing, when he had his elbow dislocated by a Magno Almeida armbar attempt. It is no mystery why Heun is entertaining: he comes forward and he comes to fight.
Couture has appeared wise beyond his years in the short time he has competed as a pro, but it is currently unknown if he is ready for the inherent challenges of facing such an opponent as savvy as Heun, who looks to stifle Couture’s rise and take a small step toward the spotlight in the process.