On September 29 Strikeforce invades the Power Balance pavilion in Sacramento,California. Gilbert Melendez puts his Strikeforce lightweight title on the line against scrappy veteran Pat “Bam Bam” Healy. Both men have faced and defeated almost every top ranked lightweight fighter outside of the UFC. While Healy may not have the same kind of name recognition as Melendez, he poses a tremendous threat to the latter’s lightweight throne.
Bam Bam enters this fight on an impressive five-fight winning streak that includes wins over Mizuto Hirota, Caros Fodor, Maximo Blanco, and Lyle Beerbom. Healy has shown that he is not afraid to either stand and bang or grapple with his opponents. His well-rounded skills will be beneficial against Melendez, who is one of the toughest fighters in mixed martial arts. Melendez has not lost a fight since June 2008 and will be looking to solidify his place as one of the pound-for-pound best fighters.
The co-main event features another lightweight tussle between Gilbert Melendez’s arch nemesis Josh Thompson and Caros Fodor. Melendez has recently stated that he is open to a fourth fight with Thompson, and a win over Fodor could very well set up the quadrilogy. On the other hand, Fodor will be looking to play spoiler and secure his place amongst the elite Strikeforce lightweights looking for a title shot.
The main card also features a heavyweight match up between Gian Villante and Guto Inocente, a welterweight scrap between Quinn Mulhern and Jorge Santiago, and another lightweight battle between Adriano Martins and Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
The preliminary card is highlighted by a light heavyweight tilt between Mike Kyle and Dion Staring. Here is how the rest of the undercard shapes up:
155 lbs.: Jorge Gurgel vs. Mizuto Hirota
170 lbs.: Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Yuri Villefort
135 lbs.: Amanda Nunes vs. Cat Zingano
155 lbs.: Estevan Payan vs. Michael Bravo
Does Pat Healy have what it takes to derail Gilbert Melendez status as the best fighter outside of the UFC? If Melendez wins, does anyone really want to see a fourth fight with Thompson, or is it finally time to have a cross-promotional title unification bout? Keep it locked on Kamikaxeoverdrive.net for all your previews, predictions, and post-fight coverage.
155lbs- Jorge Gurgel (17-8-0) vs Mizuto Hirota (14-5-1)
In a Lightweight battle between two veterans of the sport, Jorge Gurgel battles Deep Lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota. Hirota debuted in Strikeforce with a controversial decision defeat against Pat Healy while Gurgel has been out of action since August 2011 defeat against Joe Duarte, Gurgel has lost 3 of his last 5 in Strikeforce. Gurgel is a BBJ Black Belt, with 10 of his 14 wins coming by way of submission. Although Gurgel is a talented grappler, he had issues with taking the fight into his realm of dominance either through his inability to or an unwillingness only recording 1 submission victory over his last 12 fights. While Gurgel has won the majority of his fights by submission and has yet to record a victory by knockout, Hirota has taken 8 of his 14 victories by knockout with not a single submission win on his record. Despite Hirota’s lack of submission success, he showed in his debut that he is more than capable of competing on the ground taking Pat Healy down on multiple occasions using a well executed clinch and trip. Gurgel is more than willing to engage an opponent on the feet, but he lacks technique or power to really do any significant damage. Hirota has demonstrated decent power over his career and did a nice job changing levels against Healy attacking the body before landing on his chin with compact right hook. Gurgel is at his best on the mat, but Joe Duarte had success taking him down and scoring points which I expect Hirota will be able to do is he chooses to. If the fight remains standing Mizuto’s more refined striking should carry the day especially countering against Gurgel’s aggressive style. Hirota deserved better in the Healy fight and should win the striking exchanges, defend the takedowns while scoring points with his clinch work and his own takedowns so my prediction is Mizuto Hirota to defeat Jorge Gurgel by decision.
135lbs- Amanda Nunes 7-2-0 vs Cat Zingano 6-0-0
In the division headlined by the most popular fighter on the Strikeforce roster Amanda Nunes welcomes promotional newcomer Cat Zingano to the Hexagon. Zingano is undefeated as a professional 3 wins by knockout, 2 more by submission and only one by way of decision. Nunes will be competing in Strikeforce for the third time in her career, her last appearance was a disappointing one suffering a 2nd round TKO defeat against Alexis Davis that saw her get off to a good start but fade. Nunes rebounded nicely in her last fight with a submission win, the first of her career, while fighting under the Invicta FC banner. Nunes has won all 7 of her fights inside the distance including a brutal 14 second KO of Julia Budd in her Strikeforce debut. She is an aggressive striker with knockout power that will try to overwhelm her opponent with her forward push, but she has been shown to be vulnerable on the ground. The undefeated Zingano has finished 5 of her 6 wins by either knockout or submission and is a well rounded fighter with a BJJ purple belt and a Muay Thai background. In her last bout she knocked out Takayo Hashiwith a slam after spending the majority of the fight in the clinch. Even though she has Muay Thai experience, Zingano’s greatest advantages in this fight exists on the mat, if she is able to take her opponent down. This fight will be taking place in the Bantamweight division, but it is interesting to note that the majority of Zingano’s fights have taken place against smaller competition fighting at 125 pounds while Nunes has competed at 145 and shown power fighting in the heavier weight class. This size disparity should give Nunes a distinct advantage, especially in clinch where she does nice work with short elbows and punches. Nunes has dangerous power and unless Zingano can get her to the ground she will be in constant danger as a result. Look for Nunes to come out aggressive and look to blast Zingano early, debuts can be tough on a fighter which could also take a toll so my predictions is Amanda Nunes to defeat Cat Zingano by TKO.
205lbs- Mike Kyle (19-8-1) vs Dion Staring (28-7-0)
Mike Kyle returns to action in the Champion-less Light Heavyweight division against promotional newcomer Dion Staring. Kyle has been a long time Strikeforce competitor and is coming of a no contest against Raphael Feijao that he originally lost by submission. Staring has won 5 in a row and 8 of his last 9 including 6 by submission. At the start of his career he compiled an impressive list of knockouts, which is not surprising considering he has spent time at in the Golden Glory camp working alongside Alistair Overeem. As mentioned above he has been racking up the submission numbers of late and Kyle will need to be wary of Staring finishing ability considering he has been finished 7 times in his career (4KO 2 Sub). Kyle has put together his own impressive resume including 12 knockouts with a KO victory over Feijao in their first encounter. Kyle has been searching for a title opportunity and in order to continue his pursuit a win over Staring is a must. In the footage that I have seen of Staring, despite his striking background, his stand up appears to be the weakest aspect of his repertoire. In a 2009 meeting with Little Nog, Staring spent the majority of the fight on the defensive back pedalling and taking punishment before getting submitted. Kyle’s fight with Marcos Rogerio de Lima, although a win, left a little bit to be desire but his striking power and size advantage should be the deciding factor here. Kyle is only a couple of fights removed from dropping Antonio Silva with a powerful right hand while fighting at Heavyweight and along as he can keep off his back he should find similar success here. This is probably Staring’s last big fight opportunity if he falters, but Kyle will be just as desperate looking to remain in the title conversation so my prediction is Mike Kyle to defeat Dion Staring by TKO.
170lbs- Nah-Shon Burrell (8-2-0) vs Yuri Villefort (6-1-0)
A battle of two of the youngest competitors in the Welterweight division sees Nah-Shon Burrell square off with Yuri Villefort as both men looked to rebound from defeats in their previous Strikeforce appearances. Villefort suffered the first lose of his career via split decision against Quinn Mulhern in a back and forth affair that saw Mullhern get the better of Villefort in the grappling department when Yuri began to get tired. Villefort is a well rounded fighter with skills both on the mat and the feet, but for the most part he is still young and developing in his MMA career. The same can be said for Burrell who has won the majority of his fights by knockout and not surprisingly his striking is his strong point. Burrell’s stand-up is unorthodox, but effective when coupled with the dangerous power that he possesses. Against Chris Spang he was pushing the action early landing with regularity before Spang hurt him during an exchange and proceeded to light up Burrell with a barrage of strikes including a series of vicious knees before the action was halted. It will be interesting to see how Burrell rebounds from the first knockout loss of his career considering he is facing another opponent with a dangerous striking repertoire. Villefort is the more well rounded of the two combatants and should look to mix his attack up with his takedowns something that James Terry found success with against Nah-Shon completing 6 of his 12 attempts. Yuri’s debut was a grueling battle and considering he was returning to competition after almost 2 years away from the cage I expected a better performance in his second time around. Burrell has dangerous power, but Yuri striking is equally as effective and his ground game should give him a significant edge so my prediction is Yuri Villefort to defeat Nah-Shon Burrell by submission.
155lbs- Estevan Payan (13-3-0) vs Michael Bravo (7-2-0)
Kicking off the prelims is a Lightweight bout that could provides some serious fireworks as Estevan Payan attempts to build on a successful promotional debut and spoil Michael Bravo’s first Hexagon appearance. Payan demonstrated solid striking technique and power in his debut batter Alonso Martinez for the duration of their 3 round affair, landing and will and doing a nice job limiting his opponent’s opportunities. Bravo has serious power with all 7 of his wins by knockout and his track record is a clear indication that he comes to throw down with 2 of his 3 losses also coming by way of KO. This fight should be contested mainly on the feet and while Bravo has shown some admirable skill in the past he is taking a step up both in competition along with making his first appearance on the big stage. Both of these factors could impact Bravo’s performance against a solid veteran in Payan. Bravo’s one punch knockout power is something to be concerned with and although Payan has been stopped twice in his career he should have a technical advantage that will diffuse the threat. Payan has also earned 3 wins by submission, and in the footage I have seen of Bravo he hasn’t shown much of a ground game to speak up which could create openings for Estevan should he look to exploit them. In the end I like Payan’s experience and technical advantages to have the biggest impact so my prediction is Estevan Payan to defeat Michael Bravo by decision.