Strikeforce 'Nashville' predictions, preview and analysis

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Strikeforce: "Nashville" is set to go down this Saturday, April 17, 2010 from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, live on CBS.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air on CBS at 9 p.m. ET.

To get us pumped for the event, MMAmania.com Editor and Senior Writer, Jesse Holland (that’s me), has once again rallied the troops for a breakdown of the televised main card fights. All your favorite contributors are here, bringing you an in-depth look at each contest.

One of the big stories coming into this event is of course the headlining middleweight title fight between Jake Shields and Dan Henderson. Defeating the former PRIDE champ would make a very strong argument for Shields' place among the world's best fighters.

Would a "Hendo" loss be more damaging to Henderson -- or Strikeforce?

Also putting his belt up for grabs is unstoppable light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi. His opponent, "King Mo," has done a lot of talking in the past few months and finally has the chance to back it all up on Saturday night.

Can "The Dreamcatcher" defend against Lawal's takedowns and work his striking game? Or will he pull off a submission if (and when) it goes to the ground?

In lightweight action, famed Japanese grappler Shinya Aoki makes his Strikeforce debut against the fury of "El Nino." Can the "Tobikan Judan" be the first DREAM import to win on U.S. soil against Gilbert Melendez?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning.

I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.

Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking.

185 lbs.: Dan "Hendo" Henderson (25-7) vs. Jake Shields (24-4-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Jake Shields doesn't fight in the UFC. What does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, not much, considering the current crop of Zuffa welterweights. Fans like to regurgitate the old adage about "fighting the best competition" when they really mean "fighting in the UFC."

And let's face it, despite his current run, Shields is a natural welterweight.

While I concur that he won't dazzle you with his hands, he's got to be considered elite. First of all, he fights above his weight class, defeating guys like Yushin Okami and Robbie Lawler. Don't yawn and say it's no big deal if you're the same guy who deifies BJ Penn for his previous trip upstairs.

And isn't Paul "Semtex" Daley considered one of the next big threats at 170-pounds? Shields made him look amateurish when they met a little over two years ago. Now, he'll never fight Nick Diaz because of their Gracie affiliation, but outside of Georges St. Pierre, it's hard to make an argument against Shields' place at the top of that division.

You want to say that Fitch is better? Consider that Shields has finished 8 of his last 10 opponents while Fitch has decisioned 8 of his last 10.

In typical long-winded fashion, that's the Nostradumbass way of saying nice things about a fighter before predicting that he'll get creamed.

Does he stand a chance against Dan Henderson? Of course. When you can grapple like Shields does, you have a chance against anyone. But I'm a practical guy, and it's very hard for me to pick a fighter who puts on weight to make 185-pounds versus a guy cutting it to make the same limit.

Normally cutting weight can affect performance, but Hendo's had a gazillion wrestling matches coupled with a storied career in that weight class -- so even pushing 40 it's just another day at the office for him.

And for me, that's what this fight really boils down to.

Henderson is too big and strong and is too good a wrestler to be in what I would call "grave danger" on the ground. If a hulking menace like Rousimar Palhares couldn't sub Henderson, I don't expect Shields to either. It can be done, as Anderson Silva proved at UFC 82, but you need to do some serious tenderizing if you want to be able to chew that meat.

And again, there isn't enough power in Shields' arsenal to get it done and he's too smart a fighter to let this thing turn into a slugfest. Aside from Henderson fighting just about every top fighter on the planet over the past decade, there's TNT in that crusty right hand.

Shields knows his best chance is on the ground and that's where he has to go. I believe he's durable enough to make it interesting and to his credit, Shields has only been stopped once -- and that was over ten years ago.

Expect a slow start followed by a fair amount of ground work. This bout may not light up the message boards like UFC 112 did, but it should be another belt added to Henderson's cabinet on the heels of a workmanlike performance that earns him the unanimous decision win.

Betting lines (as of April 16):

Henderson: -450 ((Bet Now))

Shields: +325 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Henderson via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi (28-2-1) vs. Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (6-0)

Larry Pepe predicts: Gegard "The Dreamcatcher" Mousasi simultaneously has one of the worst nicknames in MMA along with one of the most enviable collection of skills in the game. Mousasi carries a lofty 28-2-1 MMA record with a staggering 26 finishes, all but four of them coming in the opening round.

The Armenian Assassin (c'mon, that's way better than Dreamcatcher, whatever the hell that means) has a 4-0 professional kickboxing record and has used that stand up repertoire to put 17 (T)KO's on his MMA scoresheet along with a great ground game that led to nine stoppages. And while we're talking digits, the number two comes to mind, as in the different weight divisions where Gegard has scored World Championship belts.

He won the Dream Middleweight title in 2008 when he beat Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Melvin Manhoef on the same night and he struck Strikeforce Lightheavyweight gold in '09 when he disposed of Renato "Babalu" Sobral in 60 seconds. And the scariest thing about him may be his relaxed, steely demeanor.

Think Fedor after a visit to Mike Whitehead's house. How this guy gets left off Pound-for-Pound lists is a mystery to me.

Mousasi's opponent, "King Mo" Lawal, is the anti-Gegard in many ways. He has only fought six times and is as brash as they come. What they share is a high level of talent. King Mo was a Division 1 All American while at Oklahoma State and was considered the frontrunner to win the 2008 Olympic wrestling trials but was upset by Andy Hrovat in the final seconds of a third and deciding match.

Bottom line, he has amongst the best wrestling in all of MMA and has plenty of power on the feet. Ask his most recent victim, the aforementioned Whitehead, who he knocked out in the first round of his Strikeforce debut in a fight contested at heavyweight.

This is a tough fight to call since it is very difficult to tell how good Lawal really is at this point in his young MMA career. His 6-0 record doesn't reveal that he has been significantly challenged and the names on that resume don't necessarily suggest that he should have been. Mo has the better wrestling, Mousasi the superior submission game.

Mo looks to be the more powerful striker, Gegard clearly the more technical and diverse when you add kicks and knees into the mix. King Mo should have his moments in the fight, but Gegard's technical skills will prove to be too much at this point in his career. Mousasi emerges from the cage with his crown intact, while Mo shows enough talent to make a prediction of a future championship not just believable but probable.

Betting lines (as of April 16):

Mousasi: -220 ((Bet Now))

Lawal: +175 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Mousasi via submission

155 lbs.: Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez (17-2) vs. Shinya "Tobikan Judan" Aoki (23-4)

Akimitsu Kuwabara predicts: DREAM lightweight champion and the torch bearer of Japanese MMA, Shinya Aoki, makes his Strikeforce and US debut against the Strikeforce champion, Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez.

Besides the Strikeforce lightweight title on the line, the bout bears a loftier significance, at least for Aoki: "Tobikan Judan" has claimed that it is a clash of nations and the pride of Japanese MMA is at stake.

A preeminent submission artist in MMA, Aoki boasts flexibility and technical acumen that allow him to be versatile and unpredictable from top control and guard. He is noted for his effective use of rubber guard, and has finished fights with a variety of submission techniques.

Melendez, on the other hand, thrives on aggression. Befitting his "El Nino" moniker, the Strikeforce champion storms his opponents with ferocious attack and relentless work rate.

Challenge for Melendez lies in figuring out a way to run roughshod over Aoki without getting entangled in Aoki's game. While he has hinted at utilizing ground and pound, hitting the mat with Aoki carries more risk than reward. Though Melendez has a solid hip that aids him in securing top control to pound out his opponents, he has never displayed the grappling savvy to cope with someone of Aoki's caliber on the ground.

Essentially, the outcome of the fight hinges on how the two competitors with completely different fighting styles take rein of the fight. In this respect, Aoki's success against opponents of various stylistic stripe bodes well for him: Despite his utterly incompetent striking and allergy to getting hit, Aoki has snaked his way around the fistic firepower of opponents like Gesias Cavalcante and Eddie Alvarez and ensnare them in grappling game.

Aoki's reed-thin frame belies his strength from the clinch and ability to create scrambles. Melendez is undoubtedly the better wrestler and leveling him will be no easy task; if the takedown attempt fails, however, Aoki has a surefire resort of pulling guard. Once Aoki gets his hands on Melendez, he should be able to find a way to drag the fight to his domain.

Despite the presence of numerous X-factors (fighting in the US and the cage for the first time, no grappling pants, no favorable treatment from referees, no butt-scoot), Aoki will prevail and become the dual DREAM/Strikeforce champion.

Betting lines (as of April 16):

Melendez: -155 ((Bet Now))

Aoki: +125 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Aoki via submission

185 lbs.: Jason "Mayhem" Miller (22-7) vs. Tim Stout (9-7)

James Kimball predicts: Jason "Mayhem" Miller vs. Tim Stout will serve as the so-called swing bout for this card, though Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has stated that the fight will indeed air during the broadcast.

And quite honestly, I think this fight will end quickly enough that the show won't be in danger of running over its allotted time.

Miller is a known commodity to fight fans. Having competed in most every major mixed marital arts promotion during the course of his career while also managing to star in MTV's Bully Beatdown reality show, "Mayhem" will be no stranger to Saturday night's viewing audience.

Tim Stout -- not so much.

The native Tennessean has spent his entire career to date competing in local, smaller shows. One would naturally think that to earn a fight against a guy the caliber of Miller, he would have had to compile an impressive record during that time.

Again -- not so much.

Just one win over the .500 mark at 8-7, Stout has also gone the distance just once, with that coming in a loss against former UFC fighter Luigi Fioravanti in 2005. His other six defeats all came by way of submission.

"Mayhem's" last fight was coincidentally enough the last time Strikeforce appeared on CBS, fighting on the main card of the Fedor vs. Rogers event. That night Miller lost a tough fought unanimous decision to the man who will be competing in this card's main event, Jake Shields.

While Jason has endured the same number of losses during his career as Stout, he has 22 wins to go along with them and has competed against a far superior line up of fighters.

As far as what we can expect to see during this fight, I don't really think there is much to break down here. Miller can win the fight standing up if he chooses to do so, and he can of course decide to take Tim down and end the contest there.

I expect him to take the latter route.

This one is ending early. I'll even get specific with it. "Mayhem" gets back in the win column by submitting Stout via rear-naked choke in round one.

Betting lines (as of April 16):

Miller: -1400 ((Bet Now))

Stout: +700 ((Bet Now))

Prediction: Miller via submission

That’s a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of Strikeforce: "Nashville."

What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Saturday’s event.

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