The tenth installment of Strikeforce Challengers is set for this Friday night (Aug. 13) at the Dodge Theater in Phoenix, Arizona.. The five-fight main card will air live on the premium cable channel Showtime beginning at 11 p.m. ET on fight night.
Joe "Diesel" Riggs and Louis "Handgunz" Taylor will meet in a 182-pound catchweight bout in the night's main event.
However, the one-night, four-women welterweight tournament to decide the promotion's next number one contender will receive most of the attention on the evening as Miesha "Takedown" Tate, Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm, Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano, and Maiju "Maki" Kujala collide for the right to face the winner between champion Sarah Kaufman and current top contender Marloes Coenen at a future date.
Also on the card will be the professional debut of Ryan Couture, son of UFC hall of famer Randy "The Natural" Couture. He'll square off against Luke Stark in a lightweight contest.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, I've given some analysis and predictions on the four women involved in the tournament as well as the other two featured bouts that are set to hit the Showtime airwaves on Friday night.
Check it out below.182 lbs.: Joe "Diesel" Riggs vs. Louis "Handgunz" Taylor
"Handgunz" is making his second appearance under the Strikeforce banner after suffering the first loss of his career in his promotional debut last November against Nate Moore at "Fedor vs. Rogers." This will be the seventh professional fight overall for the twenty nine year old who has a solid background in wrestling.
He recently scored his biggest win so far as a mixed martial artist when he knocked out Ryan Sturdy with a highlight reel head kick at Bellator 14. That win likely earned himself this opportunity in front of a Showtime audience against a well known name like Riggs, but making good on that opportunity is another story.
Riggs has over forty fights under his belt, including several against some of the best welterweights in the world. He's been fighting regularly and he's been winning the majority of the time since exiting the UFC in late 2006.
This isn't going to be an easy fight for "Diesel" because Taylor is coming in hungry to prove himself and make good on the biggest opportunity of his career. However, there is nothing that Taylor is going to show Riggs that he hasn't already seen and dealt with before.
He'll be better and much more experienced both on his feet and on the ground. I got Riggs by some sort of stoppage.
Final prediction: Joe Riggs via technical knockout
155 lbs.: Ryan Couture vs. Lucas Stark
Couture put together a solid amateur record of 5-1-1 before turning professional for this fight. He has a strong submission game, with all five of those wins coming by way of tapout. Add that with his hall of fame pedigree and world class trainers and teammates and it's easy to see the potential.
He has some rather large shoes to fill, though, and it's going to be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure of living up to the Couture name.
Stark is a relative newcomer to the sport also, although he has six pro fights on his record. However, he came up short in four of those contests, including three by way of submission.
On paper that appears to bode well for Couture's crafty submission game. I'm taking Randy's kid by choke out.
Final prediction: Ryan Couture via submission
135-pound Women's Tournament:
Miesha "Takedown" Tate
Tate is my pick to win the tournament. She's the best overall fighter among the four, and she is one of the best in the world at taking her opponent down and imposing her will. Her sty
Her style might normally be considered a liability in a tournament format with multiple fights in one night, but since this tournament is being contested with three minute rounds, I actually think her grind-it-out style is going to be what carries her through to victory. Her style is also a plus because it's a style that can be effective against any other, and in a blind draw tournament such as this, that could be huge.
I don't see any of the other three women being able to stay upright with Tate, and takedowns and ground control become even more valuable in a shortened fight. This is Miesha's tournament to win.
Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm
Damm is my second choice to win this thing, and unless she gets paired up with her in the semis, she'll probably be facing Tate in the final. She hasn't lost a fight since 2006. Her winning streak is at ten and includes seven finishes (5 TKO, 2 sub.)
She is a powerhouse whose career was sidetracked not too long ago by a positive test for steroids. Her strength isn't going to be as big of a weapon for her in this tournament, though, because she is moving up in weight to be here. A fighter like Tate with great wrestling technique still provides problems for her.
Still, she has the tools to beat any of these three women because her striking is very good, and she has so much momentum built up. If Tate lays an egg in her semifinal and somehow loses to one of the other girls, then Damm is going to win this tournament. I just can't see Akano or Kujala beating her right now.
Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano
Hitomi is a judo fighter with a ton of experience against quality competition. She's faced Cyborg Santos, Tara LaRosa and a bunch of others throughout her twenty two fight career. However, while she's proven to be fearless, she hasn't had too much success against that top competition.
I can't see her winning this tourney, but she's going to be a tough out for whoever draws her in the semis. She proved by lasting nearly three rounds with Cyborg that she can take a beating and keep coming forward. Her mark on this tournament may come by tiring out whoever her first opponent happens to be.
Maiju "Maki" Kujala
Kujala is the least experienced fighter in this competition. However, she is the only one of the four women who has competed in and won a one night tournament format like this, although the two women she had to beat that night had a combined zero professional wins to their credit.
Tate was also involved in a Bodog Fight tournament back in the day, but she was beaten in the semifinals by Kaitlin Young. In Tate's defense, that tournament marked her professional debut.
For Kujala, though, she'll need her striking to carry her through this tournament if she wants a chance to win. She has described herself as a slow starter, which certainly isn't a good thing in a fight with three minute rounds. I honestly don't know much about her, but I think it's safe at this point to call her the biggest longshot.
Final prediction: Miesha Tate takes home the tournament crown
That's a wrap. Now it's your turn. Sound off with your own predictions in the comments section below.