Strikeforce returns to Showtime this Saturday, June 6th for the promotion’s third show since purchasing EliteXC. Taking place at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO, this card looks to deliver with a stacked card offering great matchups from top to bottom.
In the main event, former EliteXC stalwarts Robbie Lawler and Jake Shields are set to meet each other at a 182 Ibs catchweight bout. Ex-UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will also appear on the card, as will as the returning Kevin Randleman. Popular fighters such as “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni and the hard-hitting Brett Rodgers round out the Strikeforce lineup for the evening.
Here are my predictions for the June 6th fights.
Middleweight: Phil Baroni vs. Joe Riggs
A lot has been said this past week with Joe Riggs’ accusations pointing to a “pharmaceutically-enhanced” Baroni and the NYBD responding back saying he will walk through his opponent. Both of these guys have been around for a long time. Baroni is sporting a 13-10 record and has been fighting since 2000. Riggs is not far behind, fighting since 2001, and has actually been the busier of the two with a 29-10 record.
My prediction: Phil is coming off three straight wins since his EliteXC loss to Joey Villasenor and looks to be in much improved cardiovascular condition. Couple that with his takedown defense ability and I just don’t see Riggs being able to do much to him unless it goes into the later rounds, which won’t happen. I see Phil Baroni knocking out Joe Riggs in the first round. I’ll even go ahead and call it right now. Right hook to the face for a one-punch knockout.
Light Heavyweight: Kevin Randleman vs. Mike Whitehead
Kevin Randleman has been inactive for little over a year since his Sengoku win over Ryo Kawamura in May of 2008. Randleman has fought sparingly in the past two years due to a serious kidney injury and an NSAC suspension. Prior to that, he’s had some hardships with a serious car accident and a life-threatening staph infection. Meanwhile, Whitehead’s only two losses since 2006 have come against Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Keith Jardine.
My prediction: Randleman has recently been training with the Xtreme Couture team in Las Vegas to prepare for his first bout on U.S. soil since 2002 and is said to have been focusing on his striking. Despite his attempts to round out his skill set, I believe this is going to be a classic case of an old dog being unable to learn new tricks. The 37 year old Randleman has simply went through too many hardships and has been way too inactive to stop a workman like 27-year old Whitehead, who is also an accomplished wrestler. I would say this fight will end with Whitehead submitting Randleman via armbar in the first round.
Heavyweight: Andrei Arlovski vs. Brett Rogers
This is clearly one of the most intriguing fights of the card, if not just to find out if the undefeated Brett “The Grim” Rogers is the real deal with his striking. His initial bout was originally supposed to be a title bout with him taking on champion Alistair Overeem, but the Dutch striker had to pull out due to injury. The man who replaced him, Andrei Arlovski, boasts even loftier credentials with a UFC championship to his record. Coming off a loss to the universally regarded #1 fighter in MMA Fedor Emelianenko, Arlovski is sure to want to rebound in this bout. In fact, he was actually winning (dominating?) the Fedor fight with his boxing before an ill-advised rush against the Russian put him out for his first loss in five fights.
My prediction: Arlovski should have learned a lesson on following gameplans from the Fedor fight. And as we saw from that fight, his Freddie Roach-trained boxing and movement can make him dominant on his feet as long as he remains disciplined. Rogers is no slouch himself in the striking department and has the edge on power. Despite that, Arlovski will be too much for him and will outclass Rogers easily before taking him out. If Arlovski doesn’t finish Rogers in the first round via strikes, look for him to submit the Team Bison product via leglock in the second round.
Catchweight (179 Ibs) Scott Smith vs. Nick Diaz
Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith is coming into a very different fight than his last one, an exciting win over Benji Radach. In that fight, Smith and Radach were content trading on their feet and Smith got the win after being in trouble for much of the fight. Smith is definitely a gamer and doesn’t count himself out. That much is justified as he truly can turn the direction of a fight with his vaunted striking abilities. Nick Diaz is a drastically different fighter than Radach, despite the fact that both like to mix it up. Diaz is more methodical with his boxing and looks to pick opponents apart rather than knock them out with one shot. He is also coming off an impressive win of his own against MMA hall-of-famer Frank Shamrock.
My prediction: Much can be said about the striking prowess of both combatants. The difference in this fight, however, will not be striking but the disparity of their ground abilities. Diaz, a Cesar Gracie black belt, will be wise in taking this fight to the ground as soon as he sees an opportunity. From there, he should be able to finish the fight via triangle choke and should do so in the second round.
Light Heavyweight: Rafeal Cavalcante vs. Jared Hamman
I recently reported Jared Hamman as being the replacement for Renato “Babalu” Sobral, who is expecting the birth of a child. In that report, I said that there had been trouble finding a matchup for the Brazilian Rafeal “Feijao” Cavalcante. There is good reason for that in that Feijao posseses all the tools to make a run for a title someday, whether it be in Strikeforce or anywhere else. In fact, Cavalcante already trains with top talents at Team Nogueira in Brazil such as the Nogueira brothers, Lyoto Machida, and Anderson “Spider” Silva. In his career, Hamman has knocked out 8 out of the 11 opponents he has faced.
My prediction: Rafael Cavalcante will simply be too much for a game Jared Hamman. Cavalcante’s lone loss comes via DQ, when he kicked a downed Marcio “Pe De Pano’ Cruz in the head back in 2007. He hasn’t lost since then and he won’t start this weekend. Feijao will KO Hamman for a hard-fought win in the third round of this fight.
Main Event – Catchweight (182 Ibs) Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Shields
This has fight of the night potential as Lawler and Shields are arguably the two best acquisitions from the EliteXC deal. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler hasn’t lost since a Bully Beatdown submission courtesy of Jason “Mayhem”Miller at a Hawaii ICON event in 2006. On the other side, Jake Shields hasn’t lost in his last 11 bouts and is one of the most highly-touted grapplers in any division of MMA. Both are great, with Lawler having beaten the likes of Joey Villasenor, Frank Trigg, Scott Smith, and Murilo “Ninja” Rua and Shields having defeated Paul “Semtex” Daley, Carlos Condit, and Yushin Okami.
My prediction: The outcome of this fight really depends on where it takes place. Lawler can finalize the fight at any moment on his feet with his powerful striking. Likewise, if Jake Shields can get this on the ground, he can win via submission. I don’t think either will happen and this fight will go to decision. If it’s not on the ground for any long stretch, expect Shields to win via unanimous decision.