The Strikeforce Challenger Series will resume on Showtime this Friday night (Nov. 19) from the Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, Mississippi, with "Shaolin vs. Wilcox," the twelfth event in the series. The main card will air live on the premium cable network beginning at 11 p.m. ET.
Lightweight AKA prospect, Justin Wilcox, and twenty-four fight MMA veteran and Brazilian jiu jitsu world champion, Vitor Ribeiro, will headline the card in a fantastic wrestler vs. jiu jitsu match-up.
Light heavyweight knockout artists Antwain Britt and Ovince St. Preux are also set to lock horns in the co-main event, while 2009 DREAM welterweight grand prix winner, Marius Zaromskis, looks for his first win under the Strikeforce banner, taking on the hard nosed Waachiim Spiritwolf.
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.
155 lbs.: Justin "The Silverback" Wilcox vs. Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro
I like the wrestler vs. jiu jitsu match-ups like this one. There's usually either a lot of exchanges on the feet with both guys thinking they have the better striking, or it ends up being a very technical ground battle between opposing skill sets. Both are entertaining and interesting to watch unfold.
Most of the time I like to lean towards the wrestler, because they usually have an easier time dictating where the fight goes, and this fight is no different. I like Wilcox.
"The Silverback" is on a nice little four fight winning streak, which includes a submission win over the Cesar Gracie trained David Douglas and decisions over Shamar Bailey, Moses Baca and Daisuke Nakamura. This will be his fifth fight under the Strikeforce banner, and he won't be blinded by any main event lights. He'll definitely be in shape and well prepared thanks to his team at AKA.
Ribeiro is a world champion jiu jitsu practitioner, though, and Wilcox has already been submitted twice in his career. That formula seems to favor the Brazilian. If Wilcox is forced to go to his bread and butter (wrestling) in this fight and take it to the ground, then there's a good chance he'll end up in some unfavorable positions once they get there.
I think his submission defense can hold up in this fight, though. He knows what Ribeiro can do on the ground, and he has a great jiu jitsu instructor at AKA in Dave Camarillo to keep him on his toes. Plus, he'll be stronger than Ribeiro, which is an advantage he should be able to use to keep the top position on the mat. I think he can have success with grinding out a decision on the ground because of that.
The thing about "Shaolin" is that, yes, he's battle tested with wins over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, Mitsuhiro Ishida, and others, and he'll be well prepared on Friday night, too. But he's also lost three of his last four fights, including a split decision to Lyle Beerbohm in his only Strikeforce appearance. And he's only competed four times in the last three years.
He had plenty of success in MMA at the beginning of his career, but at this point the game seems to have caught up to him. Every fighter trains jiu jitsu these days, and if a well trained guy is on top of you, overpowering you with control, then it's that much harder to execute a gameplan that relies heavily on submissions.
This is an interesting fight that Strikeforce has put together. It'll be fun to watch it play out, but my money is on Wilcox by decision.
Final prediction: Wilcox via decision.
205 lbs.: Antwain "The Juggernaut" Britt vs. Ovince St. Preux
Britt got pounded by "Feijao" in his last fight, and he was submitted pretty quickly by Rodney Wallace two fights before that. "The Juggernaut" still has plenty of power, though, and he is certainly capable of catching St. Preux and ending his night early.
However, St. Preux also has a ton of power, and he is also plenty capable of ending this fight in a hurry. In fact, he is currently on a four fight winning streak that has seen all four of his opponents get stopped inside the first round.
This fight has fireworks written all over it, and it should be fun to watch.
I like the momentum that St. Preux has built up, and I don't like what I've seen recently from Britt at all. But it's worth mentioning that the level of competition between the two guys isn't really all that close. Britt has faced far better competition, and his recent losses arguably would have been losses for St. Pruex as well.
This looks to be a pretty even match-up between two devastating strikers. I like St. Preux's length and ability to mix in kicks to be the difference, though. I'm going with him. Either way, this thing won't make it to the final bell.
Final prediction: St. Preux via knockout
185 lbs.: Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf
Spiritwolf put on a great show in a losing performance to Billy Evangelista on the last Challengers card, and Strikeforce certainly isn't doing Zaromskis any favors by booking this match-up after being raped his last two times out.
Still though, this is a fight that "The Whitemare" is expected to win.
Spiritwolf came out of the gates strong against Evangelista, but he tired as the fight endured. I think it's safe to expect a similar outing from him in this fight, if it goes that long.
Zaromskis has had trouble weathering early storms in recently, too, and it's fair to worry a little bit about how he'll deal with Spiritwolf's attack. But if he keeps his distance by using his full arsenal of strikes, and he keeps his patented high kick cocked and loaded at all times, he should be alright.
He has plenty of power on his feet, too, and by the way Spiritwolf likes to constantly move forward, Zaromskis should have plenty of opportunities to get off with counters.
Spiritwolf proved that he is no gimmie fight, and Zaromskis certainly has his hands full tomorrow night. But I think the third time will be a charm for him to get a Strikeforce win, if for no other reason than the fact that he's "The Whitemare."
Final prediction: "Whitemare" via knockout
That's a wrap. Sound of with your predictions in the comments section below, and remember to check us out tomorrow night for our blow-by-blow coverage of the Showtime televised event.