The recently re-energized Strikeforce promotion will finish up its 2011 fight campaign tomorrow night with "Melendez vs. Masvidal," a stacked Showtime card emanating from the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California.
Leading the charge will be lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, as he defends his 155-pound strap against fierce competitor Jorge Masvidal. Strikeforce women's champion (145-pounds) Cristiane Santos will also get in on the action, returning from an extended layoff to answer the call of Hiroko Yamanaka.
A couple of familiar faces round out the network televised rumble as former light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi takes on Ovince St. Preux while Billy Evangelista clashes with K.J. Noons.
As always, MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Masvidal," beginning with the Showtime telecast at 10 p.m. ET on Dec. 17. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
So, who gets it done on Saturday night and who runs home to mama?
Follow me after the jump to find out.
Remember that fight between Clay Guida and Anthony Pettis a few months back? Add two more rounds to that memory and you have a pretty good idea of how this thing plays out.
The good news for fight fans is that Melendez has a more refined arsenal than "The Carpenter," so we won't be lulled to sleep with five rounds of hug-and-mug. But make no mistake about it, this thing is going south.
Masvidal is the better, or at least the more dynamic striker of the two, and his wrestling ain't too shabby either. While I give him the edge on the feet, it's difficult for me to envision a scenario where he puts "El Nino" to sleep. That begs the question, can "Gamebred" do enough in the striking department to overcome the time spent on his back?
It wouldn't surprise me to see the challenger have a terrific first round and he may even claim part of the second, but sooner or later he's going to tire and Melendez won't. This kid can do five rounds without even batting an eyelash and once Masvidal loses a little pep in his step, he's getting dragged to the mat and beaten up.
Prediction: Melendez by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Cristiane Santos vs. Hiroko Yamanaka
Let's be real here, there isn't anyone digesting this word vomit who needs convincing that "Cyborg" is going to win, any more than I can persuade you to believe the gazelle has a chance against the lion on those Discovery channel bloodbaths.
But, for the sake of word count, we might as well discuss it.
Remember that fight between Cristiane Santos and Jan Finney? "Cuddles" punched her square in the jaw as hard as she could -- and nothing happened. Marloes Coenen was beaten so badly that by the time she was peeled off the cage floor, she actually looked like Cyborg.
Santos is the Jon Jones of the women's 145-pound division. She looks downright invincible. I mean for Pete's sake people, she powerbombed Tito Ortiz in training camp, am I supposed to give Hiroko Yamanaka some kind of chance here?
"Cat's Eye" is not a can and she's beaten some formidable opponents, but fighting Cyborg is like fighting a gorilla. And I mean that in the sexiest way possible.
Prediction: Santos defeats Hiroko by TK-oko
205 lbs.: Gegard Mousasi vs. Ovince St. Preux
Gegard (pronounced gay-guard) Mousasi (pronounced Mousasi) is kind of head-scratcher when it comes to predictions. I mean seriously, this guy has all the tools in the world to be considered one of the pound-for-pound best, but unfortunately he shuts down when his opponents don't play to his strengths.
We saw that glaring hole in his game exposed by Muhammed Lawal, who gave a textbook example of what it means to be taken down "at will." Mousasi was flustered and frustrated and any semblance of a competent defense was missing in action.
That also came back to haunt him in his stinker against Keith Jardine.
"The Dreamcatcher" is light years ahead of "The Dean of Mean" in the stand-up, but he was befuddled by Jardine's unorthodox stance and Frankenstein footwork, causing his gameplan to crash to the blue screen of death.
The good news for him is that his opponent, the physically gifted but still unproven Ovince St. Preux, has a bit of a paint-by-numbers offense, which should allow Mousasi to attack on his terms. The takedown is always a concern, but while he's a freakish athlete, he's not the kind of hard-nosed wrestler that would give Mousasi pause.
With that in mind, a sloppy takedown with no effective top control gets him triangled somewhere in the second frame.
Prediction: Mousasi by submission
These guys have the distinction of sharing the title of sloppy seconds, since both K.J. Noons and Billy Evangelista are coming off unanimous decision losses to Jorge Masvidal.
In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see this one play out like "Gamebred's" win over Evangelista, depending on how well "King Karl" can defend the takedown.
I know Noons is touted as having a boxer's hands, though his loss to Masvidal proved that no matter how good your mitts are, you have to make them adaptable to cage fighting, which he failed to do, and got lit up with a creative and varied offense.
That ain't happening here.
Evangelista is a competent striker with serviceable hands, but if he wants to try and duke it out for three rounds, he's gonna get smoked like an unfiltered Camel. That means he's gotta get K.J. to the mat and while he's not exactly a newborn calf on the ground, he's no Demian Maia, either.
This one all boils down to how long Noons can stay upright. I believe he does, just long enough to convince the judges he's the better man.
Prediction: Noons via unanimous decision
Alright folks, you've heard what I've had to say about tomorrow night's fights, now it's your turn. Let's hear some main card predictions in the comments section below.
Who ya' got?