Pat Healy (right) won his sixth straight. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Kurt Holobaugh made certain Pat Healy earned his paycheck.
Takedowns, ground-and-pound and airtight takedown defense carried Healy to a unanimous decision over Holobaugh at Strikeforce “Marquardt vs. Saffiedine” on Saturday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. All three cageside judges scored it for Healy (29-16, 7-1 Strikeforce): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
Originally primed to challenge Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight championship in the main event, Healy weathered another opponent change and settled for an undercard date with the previously unbeaten Holobaugh (9-1, 0-1 Strikeforce). Victory did not come as easily as many thought it might.
Holobaugh tagged Healy more than once on the feet, threatened him with a relentless stream of submission attempts from his back and freed himself from an arm-triangle choke late in the match. Ultimately, Healy’s experience, superiority in the scrambles and will to win drove him to his sixth consecutive victory.
Couture Earns Controversial Decision
Ryan Couture, the 30-year-old son of UFC hall of famer Randy Couture, upset former EliteXC lightweight champion K.J. Noons by split decision in a hotly contested preliminary battle at 155 pounds. Two of the three cageside judges -- Nick Atwood and Jim Lambert -- saw it for Couture by identical 29-28 counts; a third, Bobby Higdon, cast a dissenting 30-27 nod for Noons.
Couture (6-1, 6-1 Strikeforce) executed an intelligent game plan against the superior boxer, as he kept Noons off-balance with a variety of kicks from the outside.
Noons (11-6, 3-4 Strikeforce) answered with crisp, effective counterpunches and nearly finished it midway through the second round, when he clipped Couture in close quarters, set him on wobbly legs and swarmed with heavy artillery on the cage. Couture survived the volley, regained his wits and resumed his tactical attack.
Noons delivered the more decisive blows throughout the 15-minute affair, though he was too often caught in between, waiting for Couture to make the first move. In the end, his lack of sustained aggression cost him. Noons has dropped four of his last five bouts.
Kennedy Guillotine Finishes Smith
Two-time middleweight title contender Tim Kennedy coaxed a tapout from Trevor Smith with a third-round guillotine choke in a competitive undercard clash at 185 pounds. Smith (10-3, 2-2 Strikeforce) conceded defeat 96 seconds into round three.
Kennedy (15-4, 6-2 Strikeforce) wore out his opponent with superb defensive grappling, thudding knee strikes from the clinch and the occasional uppercut on the feet. By the time the two middleweights reached the final frame, Smith wore a look of visible fatigue on his face.
Kennedy defended a sloppy single-leg takedown attempt and locked down the choke from a standing position, driving Smith to the ground and leaving him no choice but to tap out.
Gracie Choke Submits Smith
Ten-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Roger Gracie submitted Anthony Smith with a second-round arm-triangle choke in an undercard clash at 185 pounds. Gracie (6-1, 4-1 Strikeforce) coaxed the tapout 3:16 into round two.
After an underwhelming first five minutes in which Smith (17-9, 2-2 Strikeforce) chewed on the Brazilian’s legs with kicks, Gracie found his stride.
The 31-year-old submission grappling savant put his jab to work in the second round, struck for a double leg takedown, passed the Smith guard behind a pair of right hands and ultimately moved to full mount. From there, Gracie opened a horrendous cut above his opponent’s right eye with a short elbow strike and transitioned to the arm-triangle choke for the finish.
Martins Outpoints Gurgel; Surging Payan Stops Bravo
Jungle Fight champion Adriano Martins recorded his 11th win in 12 appearances, as he captured a unanimous verdict from Jorge Gurgel in a preliminary lightweight duel. All three cageside judges scored it for Martins (24-6, 1-0 Strikeforce): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Gurgel (14-9, 2-4 Strikeforce) has lost six of his past eight fights.
Arizona Combat Sports export Estevan Payan stopped Mike Bravo on second-round punches in an undercard matchup at 155 pounds. Bravo (7-4, 0-1 Strikeforce) succumbed to the blows 4:01 into round two, his three-fight winning streak a thing of the past.
Payan (14-3, 2-0 Strikeforce), a 30-year-old Bellator Fighting Championships, veteran has won his last five bouts, four of them finishes.