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Evangelista vs. Gurgel In Strikeforce Challengers Main Event On Nov. 6

Undefeated lightweight (155-pound. limit) sensation Billy Evangelista (9-0) will square off with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel (13-5) in the main event when the STRIKEFORCE: Challengers mixed martial arts (MMA) series returns to Save Mart Center in Fresno, California on Friday, November 6.

Former Fresno State University wrestling star and Fresno native Casey “The Underdog” Olson (11-3) will return to action in the cage in a lightweight (155 pounds) matchup against an opponent that has yet to be determined.

Evangelista, a seasoned 28 year old Muay Thai striking machine who fights out of Fresno, will make his first appearance in the cage since he faced off with road warrior “Iron” Mike Aina in the main event of the inaugural STRIKEFORCE: Challengers event at SaveMart Center on May 15, 2009.

The anticipated meeting between the two lightweights came to an anti-climactic end after Evangelista struck his opponent with a knee to the head while Aina was on one knee (striking a downed opponent to the head is illegal.) The bout was originally declared a disqualification in favor of Aina but, after an appeal was made by the Evangelista camp, the ruling was changed to a “no decision.”

Since making his STRIKEFORCE debut during the first-ever MMA event at the world famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California where he earned a split judges’ decision over Clint Coronel on September 29, 2007, Evangelista has enjoyed continued success with the promotion over the course of three additional bouts.

On October 3, 2008, Evangelista made his greatest stand to date against Luke “Lil’ Hulk” Caudillo at STRIKEFORCE: Payback held at Broomfield, Colorado’s Broomfield Event Center. After being dropped twice with punches in the first round, a determined Evangelista dug deep and battled back in the following two rounds to earn a unanimous decision.

While Evangelista’s last effort may have ended prematurely, Gurgel’s last start, a matchup with rising star Conor “Hurricane” Heun on the STRIKEFORCE: Challengers card at Kent, Washington’s ShoWare Center on June 19, 2009, was a classic barnburner. After three rounds of non-stop, toe-to-toe exchanges, Gurgel emerged the winner by way of unanimous decision.

His victory over Heun marked the 32-year-old Gurgel’s debut under the STRIKEFORCE banner. A member of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” season two cast whose relentless fighting style helped him earn two “Fight Of The Night” honors with UFC, Gurgel parted ways with the promotion late last year.

Gurgel, a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Marcus Aurelio and a six-time Brazilian state champion in the grappling sport, has claimed 9 of his 13 victories by way of submission. Still, he has shown his penchant for striking, bringing fans to their feet repeatedly with his explosive Muay Thai combinations.

A native of Fortaleza, Brazil, Gurgel entered The United States as an exchange student during high school and later became a citizen here. He withdrew from his college studies just one semester shy of graduation to pursue a career as an MMA fighter and trainer. Recently, he opened a gym in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Olson, whose Fresno State University wrestling achievements include qualifying for the NCAA Division I national tournament and capturing the Northern California Regional Championship, is looking to rebound from a first round submission (guillotine choke) he suffered in his last start at the hands of Eddie Yagin on May 8, 2009.

His start on the card will be the second of Olson’s career in STRIKEFORCE. During the promotion’s first event at SaveMart Center on October 7, 2006, Olson submitted Bobby Sanchez in the first round (1:58) of their matchup.