The Strikeforce Challenger Series will resume on Showtime this Friday night (Oct. 22) from the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California with "Bowling vs. Voelker," the eleventh event in the series. The main card will air live on the premium cable network beginning at 11 p.m. ET.
Welterweight prospects Roger Bowling and Bobby Voelker will headline the card in a rematch from five months ago that saw Bowling win by technical decision after the bout was prematurely called in the third round due to an accidental eye poke from Voelker.
Heavyweight knockout artists Lavar Johnson and Virgil Zwicker are also set to lock horns in the co-main event, while undefeated Muay Thai specialist Billy Evangelista returns to action from injury to face Waachiim Spiritwolf in a main card lightweight affair.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, I've given some quick analysis and predictions for those featured fights. Check it out below.
170 lbs.: "Relentless" Roger Bowling vs. "Vicious" Bobby Voelker
The first fight between these two was entertaining as hell, but for the most part it was a one-sided beating being laid down by Bowling. Had the fight gone the full fifteen minutes, he probably would have taken his dominating decision victory and moved on up the ladder with the likes of Tyron Woodley.
But since it ended prematurely after an accidental eye poke, Strikeforce is going to cash in on the rematch. I don't blame them, and I'm not complaining, either. Like I said, the first fight was action packed and very entertaining. I'm all for watching it again, but I'm not expecting a different result in the win/loss column.
Sure, Voelker showed he could take a lot of Bowling's best shots and keep on fighting, but before the eye poke, he was still getting schooled in basically every aspect of the fight. Bowling was tagging him on his feet, out-wrestling him in the clinch, and beating him up on the ground.
I think Bowling was more surprised than anything by how much punishment Voelker could take. He was used to finishing guys early, and with the shots he was landing, he had to be thinking he was close to putting him away. He probably came out a little bit defensive in the third round, with it being unfamiliar territory, and with him basically having the fight already in the bag at that point anyway.
The fight wasn't all that close, though, and the bottom line is that Bowling is better. He proved that he can take Voelker down and be effective with ground and pound. He also confirmed what we already knew about his superior boxing and overall stand up game. And now he knows what it's like to be in a war, one-sided or not.
It's hard not to be a Bobby Voelker fan, but I think he's out-classed by Bowling and it will show again in this rematch.
Final prediction: Roger Bowling via decision
265 lbs.: Lavar "Big" Johnson vs. Virgil "The Rezdog" Zwicker
This will be Lavar Johnson's second fight since being gunned down at a family picnic in Bakersfield, California just over fifteen months ago on Fourth of July weekend, 2009. He'll be looking for his seventh straight win by some type of knockout in this fight.
Zwicker is a hard hitter, himself, with six of his eight wins coming by TKO, and his overall record is impressive at 8-1. His only loss was by decision to a last minute replacement opponent that out-weighed him by forty pounds. Still, the quality of competition he's faced versus who Johnson's been in there with, is a big difference, and that's saying something, because Johnson's resume isn't anything to necessarily shine a light on.
The point is that Zwicker is stepping up onto a bigger stage against a tougher and more skilled opponent, and I don't think he's going to last very long, especially with his aggressive style. I think he's going to end up like most of Johnson's other recent opponents, on the wrong end of a knockout.
Final prediction: Lavar "Big" Johnson via knockout
165 lbs.: Billy Evangelista vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf
This has "showcase" written all over it for Evangelista.
Strikeforce hasn't had the opportunity to get their undefeated prospect any cage time over the past eleven months because of an injury he suffered to his thigh in the Jorge Gurgel fight at "Challengers 4," but before that setback he was considered to be near the top of the Strikeforce 155 pound division.
There were even talks of possible number one contender bouts on the table for the Muay Thai specialist. He was on the fast track to a potential title shot. But now that he's been on the sidelines for so long, the promotion has clearly given him a tune-up fight here with Spiritwolf, no disrespect.
Spiritwolf has competed fifteen times in just over four years of professional fighting, and during the time Evangelista has been out with the injury, he's only been getting better by staying very active and compiling a record of 2-1-1 in four fights.
But even so, a healthy Evangelista should prove to be too much for him because a healthy Evangelista has enough wrestling to keep the fight standing, and he has enough technique and power to earn some type of finish from there.
Cardio has always been an issue for him, though, and the longer this fight goes, the more chance there is for cage rust to become an issue. It's also worth noting that the fight will be contested at a catchweight of 165 pounds because Evangelista has apparently put on a little bit of weight.
I will say this, if Evangelista isn't completely healed up or he's not in fighting shape, he may be in for a much tougher battle than I'm giving credit for. But I still say he'll come out firing and win by knockout early.
Final prediction: Billy Evangelista via knockout
That's a wrap. Sound off with your predictions in the comments section below, and remember to check back on fight night for our live blow-by-blow coverage of the event.