NEW YORK (May 8, 2009)–Two-time NCAA Division I National Wrestling Champion and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin “The Monster” Randleman (17-12) will make his long-awaited return to mixed martial arts (MMA) action when he squares off with fellow grappling expert Mike Whitehead (23-7) during the live SHOWTIME® telecast of Strikeforce: “Lawler vs. Shields” from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. on Saturday, June 6.
Making his first appearance in over a year and his debut with Strikeforce, the 37-year-old Randleman of Columbus, Ohio will attempt to reclaim the glory he achieved almost a decade ago when he was crowned UFC heavyweight champion after scoring a knockout on Pete Williams at UFC 23 on November 19, 1999.
A tremendous athlete with explosive power, Randleman captured back-to-back NCAA national wrestling titles in 1992 and 1993 while competing for Ohio State University. His stellar collegiate career gained him entry into the school’s Hall Of Fame in 2004.
On October 22, 1996, Randleman made his professional MMA debut in Brazil where he stopped Luiz Carlos Macial in the first round of action. After amassing a 6-2 record, he entered the octagon for the first time at UFC 19 on March 5, 1999 and pulled off a stunning upset of MMA and kickboxing legend Maurice Smith.
After retaining his UFC title with a unanimous decision over Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo on June 9, 2000, Randleman was stopped by Randy “The Natural” Couture two months later.
In 2002, Randleman joined the ranks of Japan’s elite Pride Fighting Championship and enjoyed initial success by overcoming his first three opponents.
Randleman’s career came to a screeching halt three and a half years ago when he contracted a severe fungal lung infection that required surgery. The illness return shortly thereafter, thus delaying his return further.
Like Randleman, the 27 year old Whitehead has shined on the mats, achieving NJCAA All-American honors in 2001 while wrestling for North Idaho Junior College and, later, two-time All-American honors while competing for Southern Oregon University.
In his last start on October 29, 2008, Whitehead submitted Leo Pla in the first round of their matchup in Kansas City, Missouri. The victory returned Whitehead’s name to the win column one month after he gave up a unanimous judges’ decision to Renato “Babalu” Sobral. The loss to Sobral ended Whitehead’s 13 fight win streak that dated back to March 2006.
A native of Oregon, Whitehead has taken residence in Las Vegas, Nevada, the fight capital of the world to train amongst the sport’s best competitors. He recently parted ways with the Xtreme Couture camp and found a new home at the all-new training ground of superstar and former world champion Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva.
In 2005, Whitehead was cast on the second season of Spike TV’s smash-hit reality series The Ultimate Fighter. He has since conquered fellow octagon veterans Krzyysztof Soszynski and Vernon “Tiger” White as well as former UFC champion and HBO documentary subject Mark Kerr, whom Whitehead stopped with strikes in the first round of their meeting in Portland, Oregon on November 2, 2006.
Tickets for Strikeforce: “Lawler vs. Shields” are on sale at the Scottrade Center box office as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (800-745-3000), Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com), and Strikeforce’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).
The live SHOWTIME telecast of the event begins at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). In the highly anticipated main event, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (16-4) will face off with fellow top-ranked superstar Jake Shields (22-4-1) in a 182-pound catch weight fight.
Fresh off their respective thrilling Strikeforce wins on April 11, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and boxing stylist Nick Diaz (19-7) and knockout artist Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (17-5) will face off with each other special 180-pound showdown.
Additionally, “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni (13-10) will collide with Joe “Diesel” Riggs (29-10) in a 170-pound contest.
Doors at the Scottrade Center will open for Strikeforce: “Lawler vs. Shields” at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, June 6. The first non-televised preliminary bout will begin at 7 p.m.