Strikeforce Challengers 18 Preview

Gurgel vs. Duarte

By Jason Probst Aug 9, 2011
Jorge Gurgel has secured 10 of his 14 wins by submission. | Photo: Dave Mandel

Featuring the always-exciting Jorge Gurgel and Joe Duarte in the main event, Strikeforce Challengers 18 brings some MMA business to a busy August calendar on Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Traditionally used as a springboard to build talent for Strikeforce’s more prominent shows, the latest installment in the Challengers series sees Danillo Villefort meet Nate James in the co-headliner and hard-nosed veteran Pat Healy take on Eric Wisely. The promotional debut of Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey buoys the lineup.

Here is a closer look at the event.

Jorge Gurgel (14-7, 2-2 SF) vs. Joe Duarte (9-2, 1-0 SF)

The Matchup: As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Gurgel has probably spent more time in extended, drawn-out, when-will-it-end violent slugfests than anyone that immediately comes to mind. Perhaps one can point to his years of training with buddy Rich Franklin, because for a long stretch, Gurgel seemed to fight like nobody could hurt him.

It made for exciting matches, but it was not the most tactically sound approach, as Gurgel’s submission game remains solid. It also caught up to him two fights ago, when he suffered the first knockout loss of his career against the hard-hitting K.J. Noons. Since then, he has rebounded, catching journeyman Billy Vaughan in a nice standing guillotine on which Gurgel patiently waited, fine-tuning his grip before dropping to the mat for a slam-bang finishing choke.

Duarte is a huge lightweight, cutting down from 180 pounds, and he reportedly owns a 19-1 mark as a professional muay Thai fighter. His standup seems stout enough, as he strikes with power and aggression, especially with the right uppercut, but his takedown defense looks spotty. Gurgel’s no NCAA wrestler, but a solid jiu-jitsu man can exploit such holes by using basic trip techniques in the clinches.

Duarte has his work cut out for him here: keep Gurgel at arm’s length to use his height and range advantage while denying him angles to tie-up. It seems doubtful Gurgel will hurt him standing, other than enough to help him close the gap, and given the UFC veteran’s iffy commitment to going to the ground in a bang-’em-out standup battle, he may decide to stand and fire. If he does, Duarte can get a late stoppage or a decision, but Gurgel will likely go the other way when tagged, responding by initiating clinches and working to grind away from top position.

This is where a fighter cutting large amounts of weight has that process work against him. It is exhausting to work from the bottom, and Gurgel’s capable enough at punishing his man and threatening submissions.

The Pick: Gurgel has some mileage on him, but he should have enough experience and mojo to pull out a late submission in an entertaining back-and-forth bout.

Continue Reading » Next Fight: Nate James vs. Danillo Villefort
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