With 2012 almost upon us I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the last three Strikeforce shows of 2011, a year that many are saying could be their last full year.
We begin on September 23rd, and the Larkin vs. Rossborough Challengers show, which kicked off with welterweight action as Brian Melancon faced Felipe Portela.
This proved to be a very intriguing three rounder. Melancon put on a great display of striking throughout, able to beat the promotional debutant to the punch on more than one occasion, and knocking him down with a big left towards the end of the second round.
He also showed some good work on the ground as well, scoring with a number of take downs, particularly his big crotch slam in the first, as well as some sound defence when Portela tried to take the fight to the ground.
Portela had his moments, but these seemed few and far between, and he wasn’t helped by his inadvertent low blow in the first and the glancing knee strike to Melancon’s head while he was grounded.
So with the fight going the distance it went down to the judges, with Melancon taking the unanimous decision.
The welterweight action continued with Jason High taking on Todd Moore.
High put in a dominating performance in this one, taking control when he used a great combination to set up for the first big take down of many in the first round. From there he looked for a few submissions, using punches to keep his man on the ground.
Moore had one good moment when he managed to reverse the positions, but it wasn’t too long before High regained control.
And that was how the fight played out throughout the three rounds, with high dominating on the ground but unable to find that elusive finish.
No surprise with the judges decision in this one, as all three gave everything to High.
It was down to lightweight for the next fight as Maka Watson took on Ryan Couture.
This was a very interesting and enjoyable fight. The first two rounds followed the same formula where Couture would score with the take down, taking control on the ground and going for a variety of choke submissions.
Watson would then take control late on, unleashing with the ground and pound and causing some damage, particularly in the first when an elbow opened up a nasty cut on Couture’s forehead.
The roles were then reversed in the third as Watson scored with the take down and putting in some good ground work before Couture reversed the positions and dominated on the ground, grinding his opponent down.
But once again neither fighter could get to the finish, so the judges were called into action, with one scoring it as a draw and two giving it to Couture.
It was all the way up to heavyweight next as Lavar Johnson went up against Shawn Jordan.
The only fight on the broadcast not to go the distance saw Jordan unloading with the heavy leather early on, connecting with a big left that swelled Johnson’s right eye, although Johnson complained that he’d been the victim of a poke.
From there both guys enjoyed some good moments on the ground before moving on to the second where Johnson unloaded with some big shots of his own before Jordan took the fight to the ground, where he worked into a position so he could apply a key lock for the submission win.
The main event saw light heavyweight action as Lorenz Larkin faced Nick Rossborough.
There was no feeling out period for these two here as Rossborough, who took the fight at one week’s notice, unloaded with the big guns early on until Larkin came back with a few shots of his own, including an attempted high jumping kick.
As well as some crisp striking exchanges the two engaged in a war of attrition against the cage as they tried to grind each other down.
The fight looked a pretty even affair until the third round when Larkin connected with a knee to the body that sent Rossborough falling backwards. Larkin dominated from that point onward and went on to deliver a sustained period of ground and pound, with a series of elbows opening Rossborough up.
The judges were called into action again one last time, with Larkin taking the unanimous decision.
Show conclusion - we may not have seen any flashy finishes in this show but it was very entertaining, with some good solid performances from the likes of Ryan Couture and Jason High, with the Rossborough/Larkin encounter the fight of the night for me.
Forward to November 18th, and the final ever Challengers show, Britt vs. Sayers, which began with middleweight action as Derek Brunson faced Nate James.
The only fight of the broadcast to go the distance saw Brunson put in a dominating performance on the ground for the first two rounds. James just didn’t seem to have any take down defence, especially when Brunson took him down with a belly to back suplex that wouldn’t have looked out of place in pro wrestling rings.
With two rounds seemingly in the bag Brunson began to showboat a little at the beginning of the third. James failed to capitalize on this, and soon found himself on his backside after a big left. Brunson then upped his game and went back to the tactics that suited him well in the first ten minutes.
So with the fight going the distance the judges came into play Brunson took the unanimous decision.
Then it was on to the light heavyweight division as T.J. Cook went up against Trevor Smith.
This one began with both men swinging and kicking before it settled down a little as Smith took control on the ground. From there he went for a number of submission attempts, a guillotine, a toe hold and a reverse arm bar, before he finally made his man tap out with a second guillotine attempt to get the first round submission win.
What was meant to be a middleweight bout but was later changed to a catchweight fight at 188 pounds followed as Adlan Amagov took on Anthony Smith.
After a brief exchange at the beginning Amagov scored with the take down, having held onto Smith’s leg like a dog with a bone. The Russian tried to work from the closed guard until Smith tied him up, leading to a stand up.
Seconds later it was all over. A combination finished with an overhand right sent Smith crashing down. Amagov followed him to the ground until the referee stepped in to give the Russian the TKO win.
Then it was on to the women’s featherweight division as Ronda Rousey stepped in against Julia Budd.
This one didn’t last long. Rousey went forward immediately, getting the take down into the mount. Seconds later she applied the arm bar, with Budd tapping out after just 39 seconds. And before you ask, yes, I did wince when I saw Budd’s elbow bent in a direction it just shouldn’t be bent in.
The main event featured further middleweight action as Antwain Britt went up against Lumumba Sayers.
This one was even shorter. After a very brief feeling out period it looked like they were about to engage in a clinch against the cage. Then Sayers unloaded with the heavy leather, a big right finishing the job as Britt slumped against the fence, the referee quickly stepping in to give Sayers the knockout win after just 28 seconds.
Show conclusion - they saved the flashy finishes for this show. With only one fight going the distance we got to see some explosive endings here, with my joint fight of the night honours going to Rousey/Budd and Britt/Sayers. That arm bar was just brutal, definitely in Frank Mir territory.
Forward to December 17th and Melendez vs. Masvidal, which began with the lightweight encounter between K.J. Noons and Billy Evangelista.
This was a good way to open the show. Noons began with a take down, but it wasn’t long before Evangelista took control, rolling off some crisp strikes that put his man on the defensive.
But from the second round onwards Noons upped his game with some great striking of his own. Evangelista went for a couple of take downs but nothing came of these.
Evangelista looked like he had a chance when he went for a standing d’arce choke, but Noons managed to escape so he continue with his striking game.
With the fight going the distance the judges were called into action, with Noons taking the unanimous decision.
Then it was up to the light heavyweight division as Gegard Mousasi took on Ovince Saint Preux.
Another entertaining three rounder saw Mousasi putting in a great performance, dominating OSP on the ground for two rounds and looking like he was going to get the submission win at one point, bringing back memories of Frank Mir when he went for a kimura, with OSP rolling out to escape the hold.
Saint Preux had his moments, and looked good in doing so, but these moments were few and far between, although the final moments of the site saw OSP going for a choke, but by then it was far too late.
Once again the judges were called into action, with Mousasi taking the unanimous decision.
The first title fight of the night saw Hiroko Yamanaka challenging Cris Cyborg for the Women’s Featherweight title.
The only fight of the show not to go the distance, and the blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening. Cyborg came out swinging, and it wasn’t long before Yamanaka was on the ground after a big right hand.
The challenger soon got back to her feet, but it wasn’t long before she went back down again under the onslaught, with the referee stepping in after just 16 seconds to give Cyborg the title retaining knockout win.
The main event saw Jorge Masvidal challenge Gilbert Melendez for the Lightweight title.
This proved to be an intriguing five round affair. There wasn’t much ground work to speak off in this one as the two protagonists engaged in an entertaining striking battle.
Melendez was on top throughout, content to keep his challenger at bay with some nice striking, beating his man to the punch and keeping him on the back foot on more than one occasion.
Masvidal just seemed to lack that certain spark and the intensity that he needed to put on a credible challenge. His strikes did cause some damage to Melendez’s right eye, but he was far too one dimensional, and his attack was too easy for the champion to handle.
No finish in this one, so the judges were called into action once more as Melendez took the unanimous decision.
Show conclusion - there were some good fights here, and while the main event saw Melendez putting on a textbook striking display his performance was clearing overshadowed by Cris Cyborg’s demolition job on Hiroko Yamanaka, which leaves me wondering if there is any female fighter out there who could give this woman a run for her money.
So that’s your lot for my Strikeforce reviews for this year. It certainly has been an interesting year for Scott Coker and his crew, and while their cohorts in the UFC continue to strip mine the company of it’s best fighters it will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months.
Many are predicting that it’s only a matter of time before the promotion closes. Personally I’d like to see them take on the role of a development territory, similar to the system used by the big two in professional wrestling, where they groom up and comers for bigger things as well as giving veterans the chance to re-establish their careers. It could happen you know!