The incredible mutating card, the irony is that the headling fight, the fight that had the biggest potential to fall apart or be a disaster, is the only one that’s really remained secure. While broadcasting on showtime (and the fact that management wasted all their time rebuilding fights instead of pushing the card) is going to limit the audience, you can also watch an internet pay-per-view at a reasonable price.
Gina Carano (+200) vs. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (-200) (for Strikeforce women’s 145-pound title)
Well, this is going to be ugly. Not just because we could see the re-arrangement of the face of women’s MMA, but because the style matchup here is geared towards a rough fight with a messy finish. Both of these ladies are bullies, well used to just pouring on offense against smaller fighters, and both rely far more on bashing up these overmatched opponents to stop incoming offense than on defensive skills to protect themselves.
While much has been made about Cyborg’s bruising power because she’s cut up and has a massive six-pack, Carano is just as big and strong. This fight is going to be won by the fighter that can either land cleaner first or wear down the other with wrestling. Neither one of these women has shown great conditioning fighting three-minute sprint rounds, so the winner could very well be decided by who did more roadwork if the fight goes long. It will be interesting to see if Carano tries to employ a smart gameplan of takedowns and wearing Cyborg down with some ground-and-pound, as both fighters have historically struggled on the ground.
While the fight is so evenly matched the outcome will probably be decided by who trained harder, fights smarter, and gets luckier, Cyborg has an edge in that she strikes a little quicker, with less hesitation, and hits a bit harder. If Carano is getting beaten to the punch and coming out on the losing end of punch-for-punch exchanges, this will be tough for teen boys everywhere to watch. Either way, we’ll see how big the heart of the losing fighter is and how tough their chin. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos by TKO round 2.
Nick Diaz vs. Joe Riggs features a compelling matchup of Jay Hieron vs. Jesse Taylor. Taylor has shown improved focus in his fighting and is a big 170, although he is a one-dimensional wrestling machine. Hieron is a well-rounded fighter, with his biggest strength being quick, accurate hands and big KO power. Classic striker vs. wrestler stuff. Taylor will struggle to achieve anything but takedowns, and he’ll have to shoot in for those from far outside and probably eat uppercuts to the grill as he does so. Eventually Taylor will wear down and get desperate, and Hieron will dispatch him. Jay Hieron by TKO round 2.
One of the more likable of MMA’s badboys, Babalu takes on the sport’s foremost dreamer in Gegard Mousasi. This is a very well-matched fight, both as a test for Mousasi and for Babalu to prove he’s still a top fighter. Mousasi is a phenom, shocking everyone with his complete demolition of his Japanese homophone Musashi in K-1 and storming through the Dream GP. That’s bad news for Babalu, whose biggest downfall has always been sloppy striking and very poor defense on the feet. Babalu has also struggled with his gas in the past, but Mousasi very rarely goes long in his fights and has now packed on more weight, so we don’t know what will happen if this fight goes into the championship rounds. Mousasi could batter Babalu if he keeps it standing, but Babalu does have the finishing skills to submit Mousasi if he can get on top of him.
Because of his phenom status, significant striking advantage, and very quick starts (as compared to Babalu, who takes a while to get warmed up) I expect Mousasi’s star to continue to rise. Gegard Mousasi by TKO round 3.
Babalu is being a bit undervalued at +195, because he really can submit Mousasi if he gets on top.
This rematch has three primary differences from the first fight: It will be fought in a cage, Melendez has improved his striking, and it will be a five-round fight. Ishida, taking the fight on possibly short notice (with Melendez spreading some kind of conspiracy theory that Ishida knew four or more weeks out, rather than two), will have to be a truly endless fighter to have five rounds of high-octane gas, but if anyone can do it, Ishida can. Melendez has improved his striking, but he’s still not Anderson Silva, being a one-armed puncher and not having a lot of power, which he’ll need to put Ishida down before Ishida closes the distance and takes him down.
This fight will go the same as the first one. Ishida will work for takedowns, Melendez will flail around, trying to use his versatility and dexterity to reverse takedowns and escape, which will fail against one of the most technical wrestling talents in the game. Ishida, of course, won’t finish Melendez, but if he can force Melendez to scramble endlessly, Gilbert won’t have much power left to be a threat by the 4th or 5th round. Mitsuhiro Ishida by decision.
Ishida opened at a ridiculous +225, which I immediately jumped on (follow my twitter) I’d take him at +180.
Mike Kyle is a vile, unlikable person. (If you didn’t know, he capped on a career full of shady behavior and fouls by soccer-kicking Brian Olson’s face into oblivion, requiring surgery and effectively ending Olson’s career). That said, he did beat a hot prospect not too long ago and is a threat to the standup-challenged Werdum. Werdum weighed in for this fight 28lbs lighter than his disastrous appearance at UFC 90, so he should be in much better shape and much more prepared for a dangerous striker. He’s going to take Kyle down and submit him very shortly after the fight hits the mat. Fabricio Werdum by submission round 1.
On the undercard, keep an eye on Scott Lighty, who had a pretty good career in K-1, so brings some legitimate striking chops to MMA, and David Douglas, who fights like a complete wildman.
2u on Ishida at (+225) to win 4.5u
.5u on Babalu at (+195) to win .975u