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Analysis: “Strikeforce: Nashville”

Lost in the nonsense that went down at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi is the fact Strikeforce will be hosting their second CBS primetime broadcast tonight inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

A trio of title bouts will headline the card, as Gilbert Melendez puts his lightweight belt on the line against Japanese import Shinya Aoki, light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi will defend his strap against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, and newly-signed Dan Henderson challenges middleweight champ Jake Shields.

“We are excited about returning to CBS Primetime with a card featuring some of the top mixed martial arts fighters in the world, including three title fights and the Strikeforce debut of MMA legend Dan Henderson,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated. “CBS has shown a tremendous commitment to furthering the sport of MMA on network television, and we appreciate the home they have given Strikeforce to deliver world-class cards for MMA fans everywhere.”

Aoki, who’s best known for his stylish tights and sizzling ground game, has a 23-4 record and holds impressive wins over studs like Joachim Hansen, Eddie Alvarez and JC Calvancante. This will mark the Dream lightweight champ’s U.S. debut, however his title won’t be up for grabs.

Melendez just unified the 155-pound title when he dominated Josh Thomson at “Strikeforce: Evolution” in December. It was his third straight win and improved his record to 17-2.

In the night’s co-main event, Mousasi makes his return after last being seen annihilating Gary Goodridge at “DYNAMITE!! 2009: Dream vs. WVR” this past New Year’s Eve. Although Goodridge wasn’t the most dangerous of opponents, Mousasi was able to rattle off his 15th consecutive win.

The 24-year-old holds a dominant 28-2-1 professional record and hasn’t lost a fight in three-and-a-half years.

“King Mo” owns a perfect 6-0 professional record and emerged onto the MMA scene with his outrageous ring entrances and devastating knockout power, however he has never faced a beast like Mousasi.

The night’s main event will feature a battle for the middleweight crown. Shields took the open 185-pound title by defeating Jason Miller at “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers” in November, bumping his record to 24-4-1.

His challenger is the only man to simultaneously hold two major MMA titles, PrideFC’s 185 and 205-pound crowns, so Hendo’s tweener status has him in the hunt for not only Shields’ belt, but Mousasi’s as well.

For now, Henderson is focused on Shields, knowing that a resounding win over the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter could have him in a 205-pound championship fight in his next Strikeforce outing.

“Strikeforce: Nashville” airs tonight at 9PM ET/PT on CBS.