Strikeforce definitely went out with a bang on Saturday, January 12th with a fight card that had some of the organizations best fighting in the finale. Strikeforce saw a new Welterweight champion in Tarec Saffedine after he took Nate Marquardt’s legs away in a great 5 round title fight. Strikeforce also got to say goodbye to some of their best fighters under contract like Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett and Gegard Mousasi. It will be interesting to see where all these fighters end up whether it’s in the UFC, Bellator or another MMA organization.
155lbs – Michael Bravo (7-3) vs. Estevan Payan (13-3) – Payan via TKO round 2
Payan used his leg kicks in the first round to slow Bravo down, but Bravo showed a lot of heart by going for the finish only to get caught by a huge right hand from Payan.
155lbs – Jorge Gurgel (14-8) vs. Adriano Martins (23-6) – Martins via U. decision
Gurgel showed a lot of heart in this fight, but it was clear that Martins was having no trouble with the kicks of Gurgel and that if Martins had better cardio he might have gotten the finish.
185lbs – Roger Gracie (5-1) vs. Anthony Smith (17-8) – Gracie via submission round 2
Smith got the better of Gracie in the first round by using good footwork and strikes, but an eye poke turned the tides as Gracie took advantage by getting a takedown and securing an arm triangle choke.
155lbs – Pat Healy (28-16) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (9-0) – Healy via U. decision
Healy and Holobaugh showed off their skills and toughness in this fight. It was back and forth on the feet, but Healy was able to get takedowns and kept top control while also working for submissions.
185lbs – Tim Kennedy (14-4) vs. Trevor Smith (10-2) – Kennedy via submission round 3
Smith was able to out wrestle Kennedy in round 1, but Kennedy won round 2 with wrestling of his own. Round 3 was even
until Kennedy stuffed a takedown attempt and secured a guillotine choke.
155lbs – Ryan Couture (5-1) vs. K.J. Noons (11-5) – Couture via S. decision
Couture was able to land a lot of great kicks and some punches but Noons worked his boxing and had great takedown defense. This was truly a close fight and one that deserves a rematch.
Catchweight 194lbs – Ed Herman (20-8-1) vs. Ronaldo Souza (16-3-1) – Souza via submission round 1
Souza was able to show off his takedowns, striking, and submissions in this fight. Herman came ready to fight but Souza was the better man and showed it by locking in a kimura 3 minutes into round 1.
205lbs – Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2) vs. Mike Kyle (19-8-1) – Mousasi via submission round 1
Mousasi came out swinging and worked Kyle over in the clinch before taking him down, moving to mount, and then taking Kyle’s back and sinking in a rear naked choke with 1 minute left in round 1.
265lbs – Josh Barnett (31-6) vs. Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1) – Barnett via submission round 1
Guelmino didn’t show much of anything in this fight as Barnett was able to quickly take him down and after working for a leg lock he secured an arm triangle choke just 2 minutes in the fight.
265lbs – Daniel Cormier (10-0) vs. Dion Staring (28-7) – Cormier via TKO round 2
Staring showed some heart in this fight but it was clear he was no match for Cormier on the ground and Cormier was able to land strong ground and pound for the stoppage late in round 2.
170lbs – Nate Marquardt (32-10-2) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (13-3) – Saffiedine via U. decision
Saffiedine did a great job of landing leg kicks early in this fight to slow Marquardt down enough so that his strikes and takedowns became ineffective. Marquardt was able to win the 2nd round but Saffiedine’s leg kicks were the difference in this fight and set up every other technique he used on Marquardt.
This fight was originally scheduled for the cancelled Melendez vs Healy card and I made the prediction then and just reposted it. These odds are a little closer then expected and I think there is some value in Payan as he is the battle tested veteran and Bravo is making is first real step up to the big stage. That being said, Bravo has looked pretty good in in the footage I have seen of him. This fight won’t be televised which is too bad as it has the potential to be an entertaining scrap. Not being able to watch the fight is a little bit off-putting and even though I have watched a fair bit off footage on both guys I think I am going to limit my financial investment. I do like Payan to win the fight and he does have the best value on the entire card as a favourite so I would put a small bet down on him and most likely include him in a parlay or two but nothing too extensive.
The second non-televised bout on the card and again it is a shame. Gurgel hasn’t fought in a while and I expected that he had hung them up to focus more on coaching.At Melendez vs Healy, Gurgel was paired with Mizuto Hirota and Martins with Isaac Vallie-Flagg and both of those guys are now booked in the UFC. I think that the promotion is looking at this fight as a test for Martins as I really don’t think Gurgel gets back to the UFC even with a win. If Martins looks good he will most likely get the call and if not I would expect he is headed back to Brazil to continue fighting there until summoned again. I really like Martins in this fight and at $1.57 he pays much better then most favourites on this card. Gurgel hardly ever uses his best skills, his Jiu-Jitsu, in favour of standing and banging which should be just fine with Martins. Adriano will most likely sit back and let Gurgel come forward and look to counter strike. My suggestion here is a moderate size single bet on Martins, he is making the set up to the big stage which can bring complications but I just don’t seem him dropping this fight to Jorge. I will also be working Adriano into my parlays while leaving Gurgel out all together.
For facing a late and relatively unknown replacement these odds are not that bad for Healy. I know that $1.22 is nothing to get excited about, but with the odds on guys like Cormier and Barnett, it could be worse that bad. We don’t know a lot about Holobaugh, but if you type his name into youtube there is a tonne of footage on him which is nice. He looks decent, but his level of competition is pretty questionable and the type of fight that Bam Bam brings is a tough one for a young guy. With Holobaugh being undefeated he really hasn’t faced a tonne of adversity in his career, and the manner in which Healy breaks guys down and smothers them tends to overwhelm even veteran fighters. I would say bet this fight, but with caution. On a normal night Healy @ $1.22 would probably be the biggest fav on a card, but on this one he is the third biggest so in slightly increase his value. He will drop in price and probably already has on most sites, so I would say work him into your parlays at anything over $1.20. Don’t go overboard, no single bets, too little return and the pressure is all on Healy here no to slip up on the cusp of a UFC return.
This is my first upset of the card and it is all predicated on Couture being able to implement his grappling game. He doesn’t need to dominate Noons on the ground, but do enough to get the edge on the scorecards. I have never been a fan of Noons and I think he is overrated as both an fighter in general and a striker. He is a decent boxer but because he doesn’t throw a lot of kicks it really takes away from his arsenal and puts him at a significant disadvantage against anyone who does kick. Jorge Masvidal (an upset I picked) showed that when you mix things up vs Noons- boxing, kicks, and takedowns KJ can’t keep up. If you go back and watch Noons/ Evangelista if Billy could have scored a takedown here or there and held any type of top control he most likely wins that fight. Conor Heun (who Couture just stopped) almost beat Noons and he is far from a good striker, but because KJ was so concerned with being taken down he wasn’t nearly as effective on his feet. Additionally, Noons has stagnated as a fighter- he boxes and that is it while Couture is still developing, improving, and adding to his fight game. At nearly $3.00, I think Ryan has some solid value but I have a trio of underdog picks that I plan to spread out my total single bet cash on so I suggest a medium size investment. For Noons he is desperate for a win and knows he might not get a UFC contract if he gets defeated. I think that regardless of the outcome Noons will get a chance to fight in the UFC because he is a name that a rising prospect could build their resume on and he would be a nice addition to a Bellator LW tournament which gives the UFC added incentive to keep him away from their competition. That being said I haven’t been impressed with KJ in quite a while and don’t have any intentions to put a bet on him as a favourite. See the ** section in the Kennedy vs Smith breakdown.
Upset #2, This was one of my last predictions I did and honestly I held it off until the end because like most people out there I was expecting to pick Tim Kennedy in a blow out. That may still happen, but after I watched footage on both I really do think that Smith has the skills to pull off the upset and at $3.40 that is a great number for a capable underdog. Kennedy either looks really good against guys with a history of getting beaten by grapplers or mediocre against guys with equal to or great grappling skills. Kennedy’s recent wins over Prangley, Manhoef, and Lawler were all impressive but outside of Manhoef or Lawler landing a big shot, Kennedy was expected to win those fight. My opinion is that Kennedy was being built as one of Strikeforce’s stars and as a result he was given some favourable matchups against guys that were similar in size and could be exploited on the ground. Kennedy is an undersized MW, but against Lawler, Manhoef, and Jacare that really did appear to be the case because none of those fighters are big men either. When Kennedy did get in the cage with a large MW (Rockhold) with decent grappling skills and capable of striking he looked pedestrian at best. If I had seen more of Smith’s striking skills then I would feel better about this pick, but for the most part I think that Smith’s size (6’3″ former LHW vs 5’10″ undersized MW) and impressive grappling skills will be enough to get the job done here. At the very least, if the grappling skills are a wash and both fighters are forced to stand and trade then Kennedy should not be as big of a favourite and as a result you are getting some serious value on Smith. My play here is a medium sized single bet on Smith and **I like to rotate my strong favourite plays combining them with one of the big dogs. These are larger parlays but I have had success with this in the past. I would suggest playing Marquardt, Mousasi, Jacare, Healy, and Martins together (or a smaller combo that you feel comfortable with) and then attaching one of T. Smith, Couture, or A. Smith to the end to create three separate bets. I really like this strategy as you only need one dog to cash to make some money, and anything after that is gravy.
Upset #3. I took Smith over Lumumba Sayers in a $3.00+ upset and he looked impressive. He is a well rounded fighter that can beat his opponent anywhere, but his focus in this fight is defensive grappling and big offensive striking. Gracie is an elite level grappler but as was the case in the King Mo fight he needs to get the fight into a position to use those skills or else he is just a below average striker with a questionable ability to take a punch. Gracie is world class on the ground, but if you look at the list of guys he has beaten they are far from top level competition and none of them had the tools to exploit Roger’s one dimensional style. He is a tall man which is a nice advantage to have because a) it forces his opponent to try and close the distance in order to hit him and as was the case in the Jardine fight this can lead to the clinch where Gracie can attempt to drag the fight to the ground and b) when they do tie up Roger’s height and long limbs gives him added leverage and control again aiding him in getting the fight to the ground. At LHW or MW being as tall as Roger is helps to make up for what he lacks in athleticism, but he won’t have that advantage here as Smith is equal in height and has just a slightly shorter reach. That still leaves Gracie with his BJJ, but again he has to be in a position to use it and he doesn’t possess the GSP or Chael Sonnen style shot that Smith will have to worry about. King Mo was effective when he fought Roger because he picked his spots and didn’t take any chances and if you force Gracie to stand long enough he will eventually give you an opening. Smith has good power and as long as he keeps this fight standing he is the better fighter and at $3.80 I will take that chance. Again Gracie can beat anyone he can get to the ground so don’t go overboard betting on Smith because he is still young and mistakes happen. See the ** section above to see my plan for betting Smith on this night along with a medium size single bet. For Gracie he is a no play as such a small number and as of writing this the Public is split 50/50 on this fight which is indication that Smith’s value may start to drop as money starts to come on him, so get on him sooner rather then later.
Potentially the most meaningful fight on the entire card with a mid-range UFC Middleweight against a former Strikeforce Champion. While other fighters will be fighting for a UFC contract Souza has a chance to get a win against an established member of his new division and start moving up the ranks before he even steps foot inside the Octagon. At the same time it is a dangerous fight because if he doesn’t beat Herman his stock will drop as a legit Middleweight contender. A win over a former SF champ for Herman would also be a huge boost, so to say the least the pressure is on. I am little shocked about these odds as I didn’t expect Short Fuse to be paying over $4.00, but as of writing this I do see that the majority of sites have started to bring him back down into the $3.00 range, but that is still a good deal. I have included Souza as one of my picks in the rotation system I talked about with the Preliminary Underdog picks because I feel he has he skills to match Herman on the feet and beat him on the ground. Ed makes some bad choices in the cage and I expect to see him clinching up and trying to take Souza down, instead of trying to brawl and or box him on where Jacare is less skilled. Souza doesn’t have a great return, so you can either parlay in the system I mentioned before or maybe a 3-way parlay with Marquardt and Mousasi. That combo won’t pay much more then $2.00, but it is a decent option compared to some of the other ones on the card. For Herman, a small single bet make sense especially at anything over $3.25. Herman is a tough out for anyone and should recognize the opportunity he has here (that is why he took the fight) so expect him to come out guns a blazing.
As of writing this there is a little over 2 days to go before the show and I am still not 100% convinced that this fight is actually going to happen LOL. This is the third time they have paired Kyle and Mousasi and hopefully the first time it actually happens. Kyle has long been one of the better Strikeforce LHW, but the first time he matched up with another top level 205er in Raphael Cavalcante he got shutdown very quickly. The result was overturned, but we all saw what happened in the fight. Yes he did beat Raphael earlier in his career, but Cavalcante wasn’t at the level he is at now. Just like the Herman/Souza fight I didn’t expect these odds to be as lopsided as they are. Mousasi is a talented guy with fantastic striking and an under valued ground game but he has looked far from invincible in his Strikeforce career. Quickly looking at his SF career- he blasted Sobral, lost the opening round against Sokoudjou before Sokoudjou got tired and was finished, he lost his belt to King Mo in a one sided affair, under preformed against Jardine failing to finished an exhausted and opponent with a history of getting knocked out, and then won the opening two rounds against an overwhelmed OSP before letting him back in the fight in the third. I would have put Gegard around $1.35 maybe $1.40 in this fight, but again Kyle is a little inconsistent so you never know maybe these odds are spot on. Mousasi is part of my series of rotation plays I have been preaching about, but I have a little bit of a concern because he hasn’t fought in roughly a year and his issues with getting taken down and laid on could show up here. If you want to leave Mousasi out of the rotation you are not losing that much or you could make a secondary rotation with a smaller investment on the same bets minus Gegard. For Kyle I think a small bet makes sense here at anything over $3.25 for the reasons I just listed.
Short and sweet this fight is a no play for me and should be for you too. I have seen Barnett as a larger favourite and I really don’t care what the scenario anything with this low of a return isn’t worth a bet. Yes I think that Barnett wins this fight, but for the sake of a few dollars why risk a winning parlay.
Again too small a return on Cormier even if I fully expect him to win. No Play.
Main event time and another lopsided set off odds, 9 of 11 underdogs pay north of $2.90, wow. Nate looked great in his debut and that was his first time fighting at 170 and first fight in roughly 15 months. Those are a couple of significant factors that Marquardt worked through and did so very well. I think Nate is better then Tarec is pretty much every area in this fight, short of one. Nate is a good striker, but sometimes he gets a little too focussed on hitting that one big shot and forgets to set up his strikes, while Tarec is a very technical stand-up fighter who could exploit Nate’s aggression. Both guys know what is up for grabs here. Leaving the company with the title is huge and although it might not result in an immediate shot at one of the most popular fighters on the planet, the winner will be in the mix. Nate is my #2 Confidence pick and short of getting caught being too overzealous he should take this fight. I believe he has put his past problems with freezing up in big fights behind him as we saw in the Woodley fight, which is an added comfort for a bettor. Marquardt, Souza and Mousasi make a nice parlay or Marquardt and Martins has some nice potential. I don’t need to go into the system bet, you know them by now. Unlike the possible Herman or Kyle plays I don’t see Tarec’s opponent having any major issues heading into this fight so I don’t really plan on making a play on the challenger.
1. Pat Healy $1.22 (Daniel Cormier or Josh Barnett should be #1 and #2, but I listed them as No Plays so I left them out)
-Purchase the $5 Bet Pack to get my rankings for the entire event + my non-predicted Top 5 Value Plays
The Value Bet list is a list of fighters ranked based on a combination of their ability to win their fight and the potential financial return you would receive if they win.
*There usually aren’t a lot of props available for Strikeforce, but here is what I have come up with
Nate Marquardt to Win by KO/TKO/DQ- Saffiedine is a good striker and Nate has made he mistake of head hunting in the past but I have seen a couple of things that make be believe in this play. When Tarec fought Tyler Stinson he got hurt early in that fight and I really didn’t like the way he responded. Secondly, Roger Bowling wasn’t able to hurt Saffiedine, but he was landing some pretty big shots through the entire fight. If Nate is allowed to land with regularity I can’t see that not leading to a stoppage victory. This prop would add some nice value to Marquardt on a main card full of heavy favourites.
Josh Barnett to Win by Submission– This bet might not add much to the value of Barnett but if it gets him up over $1.25 that would be nice, but doubtful. In the footage I have seen Guelmino has struggled on the ground against lesser grapplers and I would expect that Barnett will be looking to both exploit this and send a message to the UFC with an impressive finish.
Ed Herman/ Ronaldo Souza Total Rounds Over 2.5– Herman is a tough guy to put away and although I think that Jacare is the more skilled fighter, Herman is defensively sound enough to gut this one out and survive. Play the Over.
Anthony Smith/ Roger Gracie Total Rounds Under 2.5– This is one of those plays that allows you to take advantage of both fighters’ abilities to finish. If Gracie gets this fight to the ground a submission finish is a likelihood and if Smith is able to land a big shot we have already seen Roger crumpled to the ground in his only defeat. Take the Under.
Ryan Couture/ KJ Noons Total Rounds Over 2.5– Noons has proven incredibly difficult to finish over his career and I really don’t expect to see him getting submitted by Couture. Ryan is taking the step up here and there is always the risk that he falters and gets knocked out, but I think he will do enough with his grappling game to avoid getting hurt even if he ends up losing the fight.