Undefeated heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) prospects Shane Del Rosario (8-0) and Brandon Cash “Money” (5-0) will square off in a Strikeforce Challengers matchup at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 6. Rising middleweight (185 pounds) stars Luke Rockhold (5-1) and Jesse “J T Money” Taylor (13-4) will duke it out that night as well.
Both fights will be contested on the live Showtime televised portion of the fight card. In the main event, unbeaten lightweight (155-pound limit) sensation Billy Evangelista (9-0) will battle with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and electrifying brawler Jorge Gurgel (13-5). The live Showtime telecast, which will include as many as five bouts, will begin at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
Both Del Rosario and Cash are California boys coming from Irvine and Fresno, respectively. Both are also coming off solid and quick first-round knockouts in their last fights. On Sept. 26, Del Rosario knocked out Lloyd Marshbanks in just 34 seconds at the M-1 Challenge in Rostov, Russia, for his seventh first-round KO in eight fights. In February, Cash knocked out Steve Gavin after just 26 seconds in the first round.
“We’re both big guys that just like to come out swinging,” said Del Rosario, who was a high school basketball star. “It could be a quick ending for either guy on Nov. 6.”
The southpaw Del Rosario said he is feeling good physically after suffering a broken left thumb and torn ligaments a year ago in September. The injury kept him out of January’s Affliction “Day of Reckoning” event. “It was tough sitting on the sidelines and having to watch for eight months,” Del Rosario said. “But it’s only made me stronger and hungrier to come back.”
He said he didn’t mind the travel to Russia. “I actually like it,” he said. “It gets you more pumped up when you’re away from home and seeing new things.”
“I’m so stoked to be fighting on a Strikeforce card on Showtime,” said Cash. “I expect to see a guy across the cage who wants to fight. I’m a brawler and I want to finish this fight. He may have a little more experience than me but I’m a little hungrier.
Rockhold is a native of Santa Cruz, Calif., and a member of Team AKA, one of the country’s most fearsome fight squads. Among his teammates are Strikeforce World Lightweight (155 pounds) Champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson and MMA superstars Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch.
In his last effort, Rockhold made quick work of highly touted Cory “The One” Devela at a Strikeforce Challengers event in Kent, Wash., back in June. The victory over Devela was Rockhold’s fourth straight and his third by way of submission.
Taking up judo as an adolescent, he went on to excel in high school wrestling competition, Rockhold captured first place in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and eventually reaching the California State Championships. Toward the end of his high school career, though, Rockhold began to gravitate towards Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the combat art that utilizes choke holds and joint locks to finish opponents.
Just three years into his professional mixed martial arts career, Jesse Taylor has experienced a roller coaster ride while trying to beat back his inner demons and take advantage of the talent he was born with. He is attempting to notch his eighth consecutive win and continue the upswing that he set in motion after becoming one of the sport’s most infamous characters courtesy of reality television.
A former NCAA Division I wrestling star for Cal State Fullerton, Taylor ranked as high as number three in the Pac-10 conference before deciding to try his hand at MMA. A trip to with the star-studded, Oregon based fight squad Team Quest eventually led Taylor to a successful audition for Spike TV’s seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show.
Taylor’s success continued on the series as the California native won all three of his elimination bouts to secure a place in the season finale. Before his scheduled appearance in the live Spike TV championship, Taylor’s reckless behavior in Las Vegas one night before the event cost him his hard-earned spot and the opportunity to launch his career into the next stratosphere.
Since the incident, Taylor has claimed that he has matured and re-dedicated himself to becoming a fighting champion. Thus far, he has backed up his words, stopping Drew “The Master” Fickett in the first round (1:42) of action on October 2, 2008 and competing successfully nearly every month since January of this year.
On Aug. 15, Taylor suffered his first defeat after seven consecutive wins, losing to former International Fight League (IFL) champion, Jay Hieron at Strikeforce: Carano vs Cyborg at San Jose, California’s HP Pavilion.
Also on Nov. 6, former Fresno State wrestling star and Fresno native Casey “The Underdog” Olson (11-3) will return to action in the cage in a lightweight matchup against an opponent to be determined.