Two Strikeforce world titles were on the line in Houston, Texas, tonight as the promotion invaded "The Lone Star State" for the first time ever with an action-packed offering of mixed martial arts.
Brazilian knockout artist and jiu-jitsu black belt Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante came into the main event as the first challenger to try and put and end to Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal's reign over the light heavyweight division.
And that's exactly what he did.
"Feijao" showed excellent takedown defense and did a great job of getting back to his feet after the couple of times Lawal was able to get him to the floor. A lot of people thought that if he could do those two things he would have a great chance to win this fight on his feet.
Early in the third frame, he found his opening.
With "King Mo" having a lot of success in the previous round with body punches, he came out looking to do more of the same in the third. "Feijao" took advantage of the champ having his hands down by his waste and he lit him up with an overhand right that led to a series of knees and punches from the challenger.
Ultimately, Lawal would end up on his back with Cavalcante landing punches over him. He got back to his feet and tried for a takedown, but the Brazilian was relentless with punches and hammer-fists. After several unanswered blows, referee "Big" John McCarthy stepped in to stop the fight, and Rafael "Feijao" became the new Strikeforce light heavyweight champion.
Another champion for Team Black House.
Speaking of Team Black House, the vacant middleweight strap, leftover from Jake Shields' departure to the UFC was the other title up for grabs, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Ronaldo Souza and former American special forces soldier Tim Kennedy were the two men vying for that crown.
There were maybe two or three takedowns total during the entire fight (all for Kennedy) with most of the action being contested in the stand up. It wasn't the most action packed fight, but there were some big exchanges and a lot of technical striking on display from both sides.
I thought Kennedy did a great job of pushing the pace and did enough to win the fight on the cards, but the three cageside judges saw it differently and unanimously awarded the fight to Souza, making him the new Strikeforce 185-pound champion -- the second from the Black House camp to capture gold tonight.
Kennedy voiced his displeasure with the decision afterward and vowed to come back a stronger fighter. We clearly haven't seen the last of him.
As for "Jacare," Strikeforce is in the process of setting up a middleweight tournament to determine his first challenger, and there are plenty of talented fighters in the division worthy of that spot.
Stay tuned for more on that in the near future.
Former Elite XC champion KJ Noons and UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel squared off in a battle of lightweight contenders looking to make their case for a shot at company champion Gilbert Melendez.
And make his case KJ Noons did.
Gurgel, who is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, usually elects to stand and trade with his opponents despite his advantage on the ground, and once again that is the strategy he took into this fight.
This time, however, it backfired on him. Big time.
Noons' head movement and counter punching was on point, and he got the better of a number of exchanges in the first round, including one of which that carried past the bell. Gurgel was floored by a powerful left hook that came a split second after the bell sounded to end the round, and he never fully recovered from the blow.
The Cincinnati, Ohio, resident came out firing to start round two, but Noons blasted him with a brutal two punch combination that put him down for good just seconds into the frame. After looking to the referee to see if he should continue the onslaught, KJ unloaded a few more punches and a kick to the body before the punishment was finally brought to and end.
It was the first time in his career that Gurgel was stopped from strikes. For Noons, it was his sixth win in a row and eighth overall by (T)KO.
Former WWE superstar turned pro heavyweight mixed martial artist, Bobby Lashley, appeared to be turning in another dominating performance when he scored with several slams and takedowns in the early going against Chad Griggs.
He took a full mount position late in the second round and looked to have the fight in control, despite suffering a decent sized gash under his left eye earlier in the fight. However, Griggs did a great job of limiting the damage with his jiu-jitsu from the bottom, and Lashley emptied his gas tank trying to finish him off from mount.
With seconds remaining in the round, the referee noticed that Lashley was gassed out and not doing much and he called for a stand up. Lashley tried to shoot in right away on the restart, but he clearly had nothing left.
Griggs defended it easily and then teed off on the big man with hammer-fists until the bell sounded. Lashley was unable to continue and the fight was called right there.
It was obviously a huge upset win for Griggs and a devastating setback for Lashley.
In other action, former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier and world renowned Brazilian jiu jitsu expert Andre Galvao each continued their early success in mixed martial arts by scoring victories on the undercard over Jorge Patino and Jason Riley, respectively.
That's a wrap from Houston. You can check out the complete results and our live blow-by-blow coverage of the event by clicking here.
Strikeforce will return home to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., for its next event on Oct. 9, 2010. Female welterweight champion Sarah Kaufman is expected to defend her title against Marloes Coenen on the main card, while Nick Diaz, Luke Rockhold and Matt Lindland are also expected to be in action.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more on that developing fight card in the coming days and weeks ahead.