StrikeForce Evolution is a pretty good event on paper. Interesting match-ups between veterans and up-n-comers. Here's few previews of main card fights.
Cung Le (6-0) vs. Scott Smith (16-6): I really don’t care for this fight, especially as a main event. A local celeb meets a predictable journeyman.
Cung Le has been away from the fight game for a long time now. His latest fight was the Frank Shamrock fight almost two years ago, that gathered pretty much attention and was one of those fights that really gave StrikeForce a much needed boost. During this lay off Le has focused on his movie career. As a former wrestler Le has the tools to keep the fight on the feet where he can use his best weapon: strong kicks. Le’s boxing isn’t anything to brag about and no knows if he has a ground game or not.
Smith is a trustworthy journeyman in the MW division. He had a few good performances in the UFC, but didn’t quite make it there, so lately he’s been fighting in StrikeForce. Smith is probably best known for his amazing ability to come back to win the fight after getting seriously hurt. Who could forget his epic KO of Pete Sell? Smith has heavy hands (13 KO’s in 16 wins) with below average head movement and footwork, which explains why he gets a KO or gets hurt himself.
Prediction: Smith definitely has the skills and the ability to beat Cung Le to Bolivia, but he also has a habit of getting hurt against respectable opponents. I don’t think Le will be at his best form, but he can still put Smith away with kicks to the body. If Smith can drag this fight past the midway, I’ll believe rusty Le will gas and Smith will take over. Smith by UD R3.
Josh Thompson (16-2) vs. Gilbert Melendez (16-2): originally scheduled for August, this fight is a rematch between the Punk and El Nino.
Josh Thompson has been plagued with injuries for the last few years and his broken tibia was the reason also why this fight was postponed from August to December. A serious fracture that needed surgery kept Thompson out of the gym for months. I amazed if the injury and the long pause from training doesn’t have any effect to Thompson performance in this fight. Thompson is an all-round fighter, who strongest point is excellent kickboxing coupled with solid wrestling.
If Thompson might come a bit rusty in this fight, things are quite the opposite for the El Nino. Melendez is coming off a two impressive wins. First he KO’ed a very tough Rodrigo Damm and then in his latest fight he avenged a loss to Ishida. Melendez showed excellent takedown defense and improved striking in the Ishida fight. Melendez’s best qualities are his wrestling and everlasting gas tank.
Prediction: Josh Thompson completely dominated Melendez when they fought the first time, but things will be very different this time for two reasons. One: almost certainly Thompson will not be at his best. Two: Melendez striking, the main reason he lost the last time, has improved a lot. I expect this fight to be somewhat even early on, but Melendez will apply non-stop pressure on Thompson, who coming off serious injuries and a long lay-off, can’t take it. Melendez by TKO strikes R3.
Matt Lindland (21-6) vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (10-2): a stylistically interesting match-up between Lindland, a gritty veteran, and Jacare, one of the very best grapplers in the world.
Unlike many MMA fans, I for some reason actually like the Law. This straight-shooting veteran has been fighting the best guys in the world for years and many times he has also moved up in weight to get an interesting fight. However for this fight things don’t look too good for Lindland. He is 39 years old and for a fighter that’s a lot if you’re not Randy Couture. We’ve seen what age and hard fought battles has done to guys like Chuck and Wandy. Aging has the most effect on your striking. First thing you’ll lose is your speed. Thus your strikes will connect less while you’ll eat more strikes. And there goes the chin. Lindland has also been busy with politics, which means he has not been busy with fighting. Lindland may be a little rusty in this fight, but his protégés like Sonnen have been fighting recently, so I guess Lindland will come in decent shape. Lindland’s success in the cages and rings has based on the same things as Couture’s: control the clinch, dirty box, greco takedown and GnP.
Jacare is the second most promising BJJ fighter in the MMA (the most promising is of course Maia) in my slightly biased opinion. Besides the lethal ground game Jacare is very athletic and has very strong takedowns for a BJJ player. He has been fighting tough guys in his recent fights. With wins over Miller and Galesic and a good showing against the phenomenal Gerard Mousasi, Jacara has launched himself to the top prospects of MW division. Unfortunate things happened in his latest fight, a rematch with Miller, as Miller’s illegal kick cut Jacare’s forehead and forced the fight to be stopped in the second round.
Prediction: this doesn’t look too good for Lindland. Other than getting a flash KO, I don’t see him beating Jacare. Last time Lindland has looked impressive was against Rampage in the former WFA promotion and that was four long years ago. Lindland’s striking isn’t anything special, which means he’ll clinch with Jacare at some point and that will lead to this fight ending up on the ground. I really don’t believe Lindland, even though he is a very good grappler of his own, can hang on the ground with Jacare for too long. If he tries to GnP Jacare, he will have to open up and that will create openings for Jacare. Jacare has said himself “the ground is an ocean, I’m the shark!” and that’s the truth. Jacare by RNC R2.
Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (5-0) vs. Mike Whitehead (24-6): A quality HW clash between two wrestlers.
Mike Whitehead has been busy the last few years fighting 3 or 4 times a year and amazing nine times back in ’06. During this time Whitehead has gathered some notable wins and also some notable loses. Mike’s best wins are from the former IFL promotion, where he beat Soszynski, Kerr and Vernon White. Relevant loses came to Jardine in the UFC 57 back in 2006 and to Babalu in the Affliction Banned event in 2008. Whitehead has a record of 14-1 in his last 15 fights, which tells you that this young man has not been fighting against the best of the best. Whitehead’s best weapon is his all-roundness, which is still a rare quality in the HW division. Xtreme Couture’s pupil’s strongest point is his wrestling, but Whitehead can also bang on the feet and has a mean kimura from the top too.
Like Whitehead, Lawal’s base is wrestling. Mo uses his superb wrestling skills for two things: to take his opponent down and also to create openings for his strikes. Mo has been fighting just for a year, but has managed to secure a position as one of the most promising up-n-comers P4P. Mo made waves in his MMA debut when de destroyed and KO’ed much bigger Travis Wiuff, a respected veteran of the sport. While Mo undeniably has some weakness in his MMA skill set, his has also the qualities that allow him to keep winning. He is basically always the superior athlete compared to his opponent, which means his quicker, stronger, more explosive etc. These are all very useful attributes to have when you’re fighting 250 lbs guys that are pretty stiff and slow. Obviously Mo lives on his nearly unstoppable takedowns and a crushing top control, that he combines with GnP.
Prediction: It will be very interesting to see how these guys match up in the wrestling department. While I think Lawal will be the better wrestler in this bout, I don’t think he can ragdoll larger Whitehead around like he has done with his previous opponents. Beforehand this is a definitely the toughest fight that Mo has had so far, but I still think he will ride out a decision win. Mo’s amazing wrestling will have an effect on Whitehead’s striking as he has to be careful not to over commit on his strikes. Whitehead is a tough cookie, who hasn’t been finished in his last 20 fights, and he serves as a very good test for the promising up-n-comer. Mo by UD in a surprisingly boring takedown contest.