Strikeforce: "Heavy Artillery" is locked and loaded for Saturday, May 15, 2010 from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, live on Showtime.
To get you primed for the impending violence I shall delve into each of the main card contests with some level of analysis, wit, and the usual charm.
The main attraction heading into this event is the return of Alistair Overeem to the United States to defend his Strikeforce heavyweight crown he captured in what seems like an eternity ago back in November 2007. He will square off with heavyweight contender Brett Rogers in the main event of the evening.
How will Overeem match up with a top flight heavyweight, arguably the toughest he's faced since moving to heavyweight full time in 2007?
More importantly, will Fedor Emelianenko take on the winner if he is able to get past Fabricio Werdum on June 26?
In another marquee heavyweight scrap former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will take on former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva, with both men coming off disappointing losses and looking to right the ship.
The rest of the main card includes what could potentially be a pair of #1 contender match ups in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, along with the anticipated arrival of jiu-jitsu ace Roger Gracie.
There will certainly be a lot of chatter on Sunday morning, likely dominated with a heavyweight-themed thread.
Alright, enough with the fluff lead in ... let's do this thing.
265 lbs.: Alistair "Demolition Man" Overeem (32-11, 1 NC) vs. Brett "The Grim" Rogers (10-1)
Derek Bolender predicts: The Golden Glory God Alistair Overeem will set foot on US soil to defend his dusty Strikeforce belt he earned over two years ago with a victory over Paul Buentello.
That win kicked off his current seven fight donkey kong'ing streak over a murderer's row of gents including Lee Tae-Hyun, Tony Sylvester, and most recently, Kazuyuki Fujita, who ate a cranium busting knee a little over a minute into round one.
The hype train is certainly full speed ahead amidst the ever present Truman Show-esque steroid cloud following him diligently overhead.
And by "murderer's row" I meant the 09' Nats, not the 27' Yanks.
Brett Rogers is arguably the best heavyweight Overeem has faced in his career, unless you count guys like Badr Hari and company under K-1 rules.
Rogers will step into the cage, sans mohawk, and coming off his first career loss at the hands of the reigning heavyweight king of Phi WAMMA Jamma, Fedor Emelianenko.
What Rogers is going to do is what he always does - rely on his hands and his power. 100% of his wins have come via knockout. He's certainly not going to be actively pursuing takedowns, he's not going to be able to control Overeem in the clinch, and he's at a distinct disadvantage on the mat in a submission battle.
Consequently, I'm inclined to believe we'll see a glorified kickboxing match, but only one of these two men has certifiable K-1 level striking. That would be "The Reem."
Horse meat does a body good. And, with the Preakness Stakes on Saturday I'm predicting a great day for horse lovers all around. It's coincidental fate.
Prediction: Overeem via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski (15-7) vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (13-2)
Derek Bolender predicts: Arlovski's first rodeo in St. Louis lasted a mere 22 seconds courtesy of Brett Rogers this past June. Here's hoping his return visit lasts a bit longer, unless you're holding out hope the Vitor Ribeiro/Lyle Beerbohm undercard fight miraculously gets air time.
Like the Overeem/Rogers scrap I think we are in for predominantly a stand-up battle between these two giants. The first thing that comes to mind is Arlovski's glass chin, and for good reason. He has a history of not being able to take one on the chops whether it's from Rogers, Fedor Emelianenko, Tim Sylvia, or even Pedro Rizzo going way back. Jonathan Goulet probably thinks Arlovski has a questionable chin.
Silva is no doubt salivating at the opportunity to knock Arlovski's beard into the third row. Can you blame him? There likely isn't much more to his game plan than that.
Regardless, my gut says it's time for Arlovski to break his losing streak. The two previous times he had two-fight losing streaks in his career he rattled off winning streaks of six and five, respectively, thereafter.
Arlovski has the quicker hands and his boxing is crisper and more technical. Silva has never faced anymore with even better than average stand-up in his career.
Although Silva does have a 5" reach advantage Arlovski has faced guys with significant length in the past like Sylvia, and it was not a deciding factor in any of their three match-ups.
The sheer size and shape of Silva's dome piece would lead me to believe he's extremely hard to knockout. With that being said, he did get dropped in an exchange and pounded out by overweight King of the Cage veteran Eric Pele in 2006. The same man who forced his corner to throw in the towel against Dan Bobish, no less.
Furthermore, Arlovski's head movement can't be as bad as we've seen from him in the past could it?
Don't answer that. Arlovski's speed kills before he gets killed. +1 for Belarus.
Prediction: Arlovski via technical knockout
185 lbs.: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (11-2, 1 NC) vs. Joey "Smokin'" Villasenor (27-6)
Derek Bolender predicts: This intriguing match-up could very well grant the winner a title shot against middleweight champion Jake Shields, or if he flees into the arms Dana White, another opponent for the vacant strap.
Let me come clean and say I was extremely impressed with Jacare's stand-up against Matt Lindland, regardless of the regressive state "The Law" currently finds himself in.
Jacare is clearly a great athlete and a quick learner. His movement was much more fluid and he looked extremely comfortable in exchanges. Don't get me wrong, he's still predominantly a jiu-jitsu wizard, but it was clearly evident he has made big strides with his stand-up.
Standing in the way of his potential title shot is well-rounded veteran and Greg Jackson product Joey Villasenor.
Villasenor has only fought three times since the beginning of 2008, although he has won all three and is on a four-fight win streak overall. He will look to keep this fight standing and avoid the jiu-jitsu prowess of Jacare. He's a solid boxer, uses his jab well, and likes to scramble. He will be seeking out exchanges and trying to bait Jacare into fighting his kind of fight.
At this stage, Jacare has proven enough to me that he can avoid danger on the feet and use his own strikes to set up takedowns. Villasenor does not have the best takedown defense in the world. Riki Fukada, "Ninja" Rua, and Evangelista Santos all were able to put him on his back with relative ease.
Having a submission stud like Jacare on top of you and trying to prevent him from improving his position and laying the foundation for impending submission attempts is not a favorable spot by any means. That's what I would call a precarious predicament. It's a tall task for Villasenor to continually defend properly off his back while his movements are being stifled. I'm confident Villasenor has been drilling this very instance on a consistent basis in New Mexico. I just don't think he'll have an answer when the lights go on.
Villasenor has only been submitted once in his entire career back in 2000 by a David Terrell armbar. He's a tough man to put away, but I think the Brazilian gets it done.
Prediction: Souza via submission
205 lbs.: Roger Gracie (2-0) vs. Kevin "The Monster" Randleman (17-14)
Derek Bolender predicts: In a past life Randleman was suplexing Fedor Emelianenko on his head and upsetting Mirko Cro Cop in his prime, but it hasn't been "Monster" mash for some time as the 38-year-old has dropped 9 of his last 12 fights.
He's lost his patented explosiveness and power and added Ruben Studdard-esque cardio to his arsenal. It's not a pretty combination.
Gracie, on the other hand, has very limited experience in MMA and has not fought since submitting Yuki Kondo under the Senogku banner in 2008.
His grappling resume is quite impressive. It includes a host of ADCC and jiu-jitsu world championship titles, including wins over names like Robert Drysdale, "Xande" Ribeiro, Fabricio Werdum, and Jacare.
Randleman must get a hold of Gracie's 6'4" frame and try to get him on his back early, hurt him with ground and pound, and end the fight before getting a limb ripped off. Clearly easier said than done, and I don't see this sequence coming to fruition.
What is more likely to happen is Gracie actively seeking one takedown after the other until he finally gets one, and it only will take one. If Ron Waterman submitted Randleman back in the day surely Gracie won't break a sweat once this hits the turf, right? The correct answer is yes. Once Gracie takes top position it is only a matter of time. There is more defense in an NBA All-Star game than there is in Randleman's submission game.
The long layoff should not be that big of a concern for Gracie as his fitness has to be only slightly better than Randleman's, who clearly won't set the bar too high. Grandpa Kev moves one step closer to finishing his career with a .500 record.
Prediction: Gracie via submission
205 lbs.: Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (8-2) vs. Antwain "The Juggernaut" Britt (11-3)
Derek Bolender predicts: A battle of two up-and-comers kicks off the televised card. Sadly, it could very well decide the next title challenger for Muhammad Lawal, as the divisional depth at light heavyweight is a bit anorexic.
In one corner you have a Muay Thai-based, Black House-trained striker in the form of Feijao. He suffered a disappointing loss to Mike Kyle last June in St. Louis, but followed it up with a dismantling of Aaron Rosa at the Strikeforce Challengers 5 event this past November in Kansas City.
Conversely, Britt suffered a bad loss of his own courtesy of Rodney Wallace under the VFC banner this past September. Like Feijao, he came back strong to record a TKO victory over Scott Lighty in December in his inaugural Strikeforce appearance.
This looks like a war on paper given the killer instinct mentality of both fighters, with the varied Muay Thai attack of Feijao, and the power punching and brute force of Britt.
Feijao is going to have to find an answer for the dynamite in Britt's hands. Whether that means getting inside and scoring points in the clinch, foot sweeping Britt to the ground from that position, or simply using an effective jab to keep him at distance.
If Feijao wants to go toe-to-toe and he neglects his jab or the head movement and footwork necessary to escape danger while pressured, he's probably in trouble. Britt is a handful when he's pressing forward. Antonio Mendes would concur.
The cardio of Feijao has also been an issue in the past, most notably in his loss to Kyle. In the second round of that fight the grappling had warn him out to the point where he was flat footed and a stationary target once the fight moved back to the feet. Kyle took full advantage of the situation and recorded the knockout.
For some reason when two dangerous finishers get in the cage together it tends to not live up to expectations. I actually think both guys will probably do a great job of depleting their cardio throughout the first round and it will slow down tremendously towards the second half of the fight. I'll also say a late Britt takedown the crowd sees coming a mile away is the proverbial nail in the coffin in the third.
Prediction: Britt via unanimous decision
That's all she wrote.
Remember to check back with us for the latest results, recaps, and coverage of Strikeforce: "Heavy Artillery."
Now it's your turn Maniacs. Sound off in the comments section. Share your thoughts and picks for Saturday night's event.