UFC veteran and former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 2 contestant, Jorge Gurgel (12-5), will likely make his long-awaited Strikeforce debut against Conor Heun (8-2) at the SHO MMA: Challenger Series event scheduled for June 19, according to MMAWeekly.com.
Gurgel was handed his walking papers after a close decision loss to Aaron Riley at UFC 91: "Couture vs. Lesnar" in November 2008, which was awarded "Fight of the Night" accolades for the performance. In fact, Gurgel also earned similar honors with his win over Diego Saraiva at UFC 73 in July 2007.
However, it was not enough to keep his job -- he has won just one of his four most recent bouts inside the Octagon. All told, the adopted Cincinnati, Ohio, native competed seven times in the UFC, compiling a losing record (3-4) with wins over Danny Abbadi, Saraiva and John Halverson, as well as losses to Riley, Cole Miller, Alvin Robinson and Mark Hominick.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt was clearly unhappy with his ouster, but had this to say when he signed on with the San Jose, Calif.,-based mixed marital arts promotion:
"I am very, very excited to part of Strikeforce and given a chance to fight new blood and capture a belt. UFC has been my family for a few years now but I am ready for the next chapter. There are some amazing contenders in my weight class including Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez. I will do whatever it takes to climb to the top of this league."
That climb now begins with Heun, who is no stranger to the art of jiu-jitsu himself.
"Hurricane" is an Elite XC and International Fight League (IFL) veteran who is currently enjoying a three-fight win streak. He most recently finished the very tough and experienced Edson Berto vie technical knockout (strikes) at EliteXC: "Heat" in October 2008.
Prior to that win, he outpointed Marlon Matias on all three judges scorecards to earn a unanimous decision at ShoXC: Elite Challenger Series in March of that same year and submitted Noah Shinable with a first round armbar at OctoberFist 2007: "Fight Night on Fright Night" in October 2007.
Heun is also pals with Jason "Mayhem" Miller, which is the reason you may have seen him recently dishing out some punishment on MTVs "Bully Beatdown." He certainly won’t have such an easy time against a talented guy like Gurgel, who was often over matched by the competition provided in the UFC’s tough 155-pound division.
By his own admission, however, Gurgel often failed to execute his gameplans and instead got up in brawls rather than leveraging his strong ground skills. Whether or not he meets the same fate under the Strikeforce banner will likely determine how far up the ladder he is able to climb.
Strikeforce Challenger Series will serve as a replacement for what the company used to refer to as "Young Guns," which was basically used to promote up-and-coming (and lesser known) fighters. The events will be similar to what Elite XC used to promote with its SHO XC: "Challenger Series" on Showtime.