Renato "Babalu" Sobral (right) vs. Robbie Lawler: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
LOS ANGELES -- Renato “Babalu” Sobral defeated Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision after three hard-fought rounds in the Strikeforce “Los Angeles” main event on Wednesday at the Nokia Theatre.
Scores were 29-28 across the board.
In a mild upset, Babalu navigated his way to an early lead and held on in the third round. The victory may have put him at the head of a list of contenders to face light heavyweight champion “King” Muhammed Lawal in August. Afterward, however, Sobral called for a rematch with two-time Olympian Dan Henderson, a man who defeated him a decade ago in Japan.
“It would be an honor to fight him again,” Sobral said.
The telling blow for Sobral was a hard right kick to the left side of Lawler’s midsection in the opening exchange of the second round. The impact could be heard throughout the venue, and it clearly angered the former EliteXC champion. Lawler went into hot pursuit, but he could not find the mark with any power punches as Babalu retreated from danger.
A blood red bruise expanded on Lawler’s ribcage, and he slowed down considerably as the round went on. He never really lifted his left arm from his side, as he tried to keep the area protected. His defensive strategy cut down on his offensive output for the remainder of the frame.
Lawler finally came alive in the third round. He badgered Sobral with a quick jab to the cut above his left eye. Babalu wiped the blood away repeatedly, as he circled away from Lawler’s power. His defensive maneuvering helped stave off his desperate opponent and got him to the final bell relatively unscathed.
Lawler looked defeated when the horn sounded ending the fight, and his mood was soon confirmed when scorecards were read.
“I tried to press the pace and finish him in the third. I thought I was possibly behind, but you never know,” Lawler said. “He did really good, didn’t let me catch him with too many big shots.”
‘Cyborg’ Finishes Zaromskis
Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos knocked out heavily favored Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis in the co-main event. The heavily tattooed veteran showed the initial burst for which he has become known early in his fights and overwhelmed his Lithuanian opponent.
The Brazilian landed a booming leg kick, but it was answered with a quick one-two from Zaromskis. Santos then hurt Zaromskis with a nice left hook that wobbled him and followed it up with another in the next exchange.
Zaromskis tried to answer with a flying knee, but he missed and Cyborg sent him cascading to the mat with a beautiful right hand. Santos turned over the punch as his foe was trying to retreat out of range and followed the big blow with punches on the ground until referee Herb Dean stepped in to end the match at 2:38 of the first round.
Kennedy Subs Prangley
Tim Kennedy picked up a solid win over a tough veteran in Trevor Prangley, as he choked the South African wrestler into submission in the first round of their middleweight affair. The former Special Forces sniper marched his way closer to a potential shot at what many see as a soon-to-be-vacant Strikeforce middleweight title.
Prangley got off to a strong start with a powerful throw in the bout’s opening exchange, but he could not hold down Kennedy. Once he got back to his feet, Kennedy went right in for a takedown of his own. Ducking under a Prangley salvo, he plucked him from his feet and planted him on the canvas.
From top position, Kennedy easily snaked his way to mount and then took Prangley’s back when he rolled to his knees. The rising middleweight star snuck in the fight-ending choke as Prangley attempted to ascend from the mat. Kennedy squeezed with all his might and elicited the tapout 3:35 into the first period.
The win elevated Kennedy’s stock in an up-for-grabs 185-pound division should champion Jake Shields bolt for the UFC as expected.
Noons Outpoints Heun
Karl James Noons had a lot more trouble than most people expected with late replacement Conor Heun en route to a close split-decision victory in their 160-pound catchweight bout. Scores were 29-28 and 29-28 for Noons, 30-27 for Heun. Judge Abe Belardo inexplicably sided with Heun.
Noons, the former EliteXC lightweight champion, got off to a good start, peppering Heun with shots from the pocket as the grappler tried in vain to take the fight to the ground. With a little less than two minutes left in the opening frame, Heun wrangled Noons to the mat when he overcommitted on a big right hand. He went right into back control and furiously worked for a rear-naked choke.
Noons defended, and with less than 30 seconds left in the round, he finally escaped Heun’s grasp and returned to his feet. He was visibly weary but found enough strength to land a big right uppercut that dropped Heun at the bell.
The heavily favored Noons was sluggish in the second round but piled up the points with short arm punches, while Heun failed to get close to a takedown in the frame.
Round three was more of the same, as a fading Noons kept Heun at bay before landing a pair of big left hooks late in the period to bank the round and the fight.
Strikeforce L.A. Prelim Results & Play-by-Play