Strikeforce 'Challengers' 14 preview and predictions for Feb. 18


The Strikeforce Challengers Series is back on Showtime this Friday night (Feb. 18, 2011) from the Cedar Park Center in Austin, Texas.

Strikeforce Challengers: "Beerbohm vs. Healy" will air live on the premium cable network, beginning at 11 p.m. ET.

Undefeated title contender Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohm and well-rounded veteran Pat "Bam Bam" Healy are set to headline the card in a battle to earn top title contention in the lightweight division.

MMA legacy Ryan Couture will also step inside the cage for to make just his second professional appearance against another undefeated newcomer, Lee Higgins, in a 155-pound affair. Also on the card is Bryan Travers -- an up-and-comer who has won seven of his last eight bouts -- taking on young knockout artist David Douglas.

To get you Maniacs prepared for the action, I’ve given some quick fight breakdowns and predictions for our main card fights. Check it out below.

Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohm vs. Pat "Bam Bam" Healy

Lyle Beerbohm has come quite a long way since his stint in prison, lighting the Strikeforce 155-pound division on fire and rapidly establishing himself as one of the top lightweight contenders. The former drug addict boasts impressive wins over world jiu-jitsu champion Vitor Riberio and UFC veterans Duane Ludwig and Rafaello Oliveira, among others.

Beerbohm is as balanced as they come, finishing his opponent in 13 of his 15 fights (all wins), with six  technical knockout’s and seven submissions. He is very skilled on the ground, but in my opinion, his best chance to win this fight will be to use his speed and better overall standup to control the action. Beerbohm is going into this fight at a disadvantage in the size and strength departments and would be better served to only go to the ground late in rounds and try for a quick submission.

Although "Fancy Pants" is undefeated (15-0), it's unlikely that he has met a challenge to date like the one Pat Healy will present on Friday night.

"Bam Bam" has earned his name fighting mostly as a welterweight throughout his career -- he is a huge man for the lightweight division. Healy has beaten a "Who's Who" of 170-pound fighters with submission wins, including notables such as Paul Daley, Dan Hardy and Carlos Condit. He also dropped hard-fought decisions losses to guys like Chris Lytle, Chris Leben and Jake Ellenberger.

Not too shabby.

Healy has a big advantage in the strength department and is a better wrestler than Beerbohm. He is extremely well-rounded and can finish the fight on the ground or standing, but his best shot to win this matchup will be to push Beerbohm up against the cage and slow down the pace of the fight. Healy needs to wear down Beerbohm and neutralize his speed, which in turn, could allow his strong wrestling to help him take control late in the fight.

This will be an amazing fight and if both guys bring their "A" games. We are in for a treat .... don't sleep on this one. It's a tough call, but I'm going to side with experience and track record and say Healy will bring Beerbohm's hype train to a screeching halt in the "Lone Star State."

Final prediction: Pat Healy via decision

Ryan Couture vs. Lee Higgins

We all know about the Couture name for obvious reasons, but Ryan Couture proved in his debut fight against Lucas Stark at "Challengers 10" back in August that he's more than just "Randy Jr."

"Lil' Natural" secured a first round submission victory over his more experienced foe and while we do not have much tape on the young gun this much is for sure, he will have an amazing game plan and will be technically sound.

Couture will probably follow the family fighting tradition of setting a good pace and controlling the fight with dirty boxing and wrestling skills. Also let’s not underestimate the advantage of having one of the greatest fighters in history in your corner, but this one will not be easy.

Lee Higgins is also a relative newbie with only two fights under his belt, but both of them were impressive first round submission wins (rear naked choke). After strangling Kenny Burke at "Worldwide Gladiator" back in November, he shot right back into the cage on less than a month's notice to put Gilbert Jimenez to sleep in the International Xtreme Fight Association.

This fight will come down to who can keep the pace and get the best of the other in the ground game. With both men green when it comes to cage experience, this will be one of those fights where the first man to slip up and make a mistake will likely lose the fight. I’m going to go with my gut and say Couture will be ready and willing to live up to his name and take home a victory with a submission.

Final prediction: Ryan Couture via submission

Carlo "Neo" Prater vs. Bryan Travers

Bryan Travers was on a six-fight tear until he ran into a brick wall known as "Bam Bam" Healy under the "Challengers" banner earlier this year, but Travers has bounced back since that loss and won his last fight against Rocky Johnson at TWC 9 to get back on track.

Travers is a solid ground fighter (five career submission wins) with good wrestling who has a knack for winning three round fights, proving he also has great conditioning. Travers will need to work his striking from the outside and time his takedowns through his striking. If Travers can gain dominant position his talent for getting submissions will be put to good use.

Carlo Prater is in a slump to say the least, losing his last two bouts and four of his last five fights. Prater hasn’t been able to finish one of his opponents since 2008 so it will be crucial for him to try and stay active on his feet and make sure he is the first man to strike with takedowns.

Still, it's important to note that Prater is an eight-year pro and was challenging for the WEC title a few years back and despite a 1-3 record in his 2010 fight campaign, he competed three times in one night during the Shark Fights Lightweight Grand Prix last September.

Prater will need to keep control of Travers and try not to get too sloppy looking to advance position or finish the fight, but he will have his work cut out for him. It’s tough for me to pick against a fighter like Travers who is riding a good hot streak when he is facing off with an opponent in Prater who is in a major slump. I’m going with Travers by decision.

Final prediction: Bryan Travers via decision

Erik "Bad" Apple vs. Ryan Larson

After winning his first nine fights Erik Apple has hit a speed bump, losing two of his last three fights. He is a strong ground fighter with 60 percent of his wins coming via submission, but do not be fooled:

Apple has some power in his fists.

He also happens to be a big man for the 170-pound division. And if he can come out and not be overly aggressive, which has been his weak point in his two losses (one by Kimura and the other by knockout), he’ll prove to be a tough opponent.

Texas native Ryan Larson is the definition of a submission fighter with four of his five wins coming via submission. He is less experienced than Apple, and his two losses have come by the way of submission, so just like Apple patience will be a key component to victory for Larson, too.

Larson will be fighting in front of his home crowd so it will be interesting to see if that equals a tight nervous fighter or a man on a mission. Either way, this fight won’t go the distance. Once again I will go with experience and say Apple will take home a submission win.

Final prediction: Erik Apple via submission

Nick "Ghost" Gonzalez vs. David "Tarzan" Douglas

Another Texas native fighting in front of his home crowd, Nick Gonzalez, has won two of his last three fights with one no contest. Gonzalez is a veteran, banging in the cage with standouts like Josh Thomson and Yves Edwards.

"Ghost" is a balanced fighter who does well on his feet, but can finish the fight on the ground. He has also gone the distance in 12 of his 24 fights. He will have a big experience advantage, but he’d be wise to not keep this fight standing for too long.

That's because David Douglas is a dangerous man -- all five of his victories have come by way of  technical knockout. The Cesar Gracie-trained jiu-jitsu standout has a five-inch advantage in height, which should help him to stay on the outside and throw strikes with bad intentions.

Douglas’ two losses both have come by rear naked choke, so "Tarzan" will have no desire to go to the mat. Gonzalez is a seasoned fighter and will be sure to try his best to get it there, but I think Douglas will be too much for him standing and will walk away with a  technical knockout victory.

Final prediction: David Douglas via technical knockout will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of the Strikeforce: "Challengers 14" event, beginning with the Showtime telecast at 11 p.m. ET on Fri., Feb. 18. Live results of all the preliminary card action will also be available much earlier on fight night.

That’s all I have for you right now Maniacs be sure to tune into Showtime on Friday night, and let’s hear some opinions on your predictions on how you think things will unfold.

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