Strikeforce Challengers 15 preview and predictions for ‘Wilcox vs Damm’ on April 1


The Strikeforce Challengers series is heading to the '209' for the first time this Friday night (April 1, 2011) from the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California, live on Showtime with "Wilcox vs Damm," the fifteenth event in the "Challengers" series.

The main card will air live on the premium cable network beginning at 11 p.m. ET.

Headlining the upcoming event is a lightweight tilt between Justin Wilcox and Rodrigo Damm. Wilcox's star is on the rise and a victory Friday night will likely graduate him from the series.

Cesar Gracie's camp is well represented as Gracie prospects David Douglas, Josh Thornburg and Damion Douglas are also on the televised card.

Complete Strikeforce Challengers 15 preview and predictions after the jump.

155 lbs.: Justin Wilcox (10-3) vs. Rodrigo Damm (9-4)

Justin "The Silverback" Wilcox surprised many hardcore fans of the sport with his dominating decision victory against "Shaolin" Vitor Ribeiro this past November at Strikeforce Challengers 12 in Mississippi. Ribeiro was once considered one of the best lightweights in the world and Wilcox's ease of victory really put him on the map.

Insert Rodrigo Damm.

The Brazilian has competed against some of the best lightweights in the world including a fight against Gilbert Melendez for the interim Strikeforce lightweight title nearly two years ago. Damm lost the Melendez fight and he's looking for revenge in his return to American soil.

Wilcox is a former bodybuilder and NCAA Division I wrestler. He uses his strength and agility to outwork and control his opponents in the cage. This has led a rash of decision victories, but he's still a work in progress. Training out of the prestigious American Kickboxing Academy, he's bound to be improving on a steady curve.

Damm, like most Brazilians, has very strong submission skills. His striking is very defensive, throwing occasional jabs and leg kicks. Damm has had trouble pulling the trigger and really opening up with his strikes recently so don't be surprised if he stays on his bicycle for much of the stand-up portion of this fight.

At 31 years old, Damm's career is no longer on the upswing. He's lost considerable momentum after losing three of his past four fights which includes two bad knockouts. Wilcox will likely take Damm down and keep him down with his superior wrestling.

With the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce, elbows on the ground are now allowed and they will likely play a key role in this fight. Wilcox especially is foaming at the mouth to use elbows once he has his opponent on their back and I feel he'll score his first Strikeforce TKO on Friday night.

Final prediction: Justin Wilcox via technical knockout

155 lbs.: David Douglas (6-2) vs. Caros Fodor (7-2)

"Tarzan" David Douglas is a Cesar Gracie product who is really looking to build some momentum in the lightweight division. After a disappointing submission loss to headliner Justin Wilcox in his Strikeforce debut, Douglas has scored back to back stoppage victories on Challengers cards.

Caros Fodor has done everything he can to live up to his nickname "The Future" since making his Strikeforce debut last July. After an easy decision victory at the ninth Challengers event, Fodor followed it up with an impressive first round Brabo choke of Derek Getzel last November.

Both men are riding two fight winning streaks in the promotion and a victory on Friday night will likely secure main event status on future Strikeforce Challengers cards if not more.

Douglas hits like a Mack Truck and is one of the strongest men in the lightweight division. He doesn't possess the most technical striking but if he gets his hands on Fodor, it could very well be lights out.

Fodor will need to get Douglas on his back as soon as he can and work his impressive jiu-jitsu skills. He can't risk standing with Douglas and he definitely wants to avoid Douglas' ground and pound. Look for Fodor to shoot early and shoot often and despite how scary Douglas is on his feet, I feel Fodor will put him on his back and secure a submission.

Final Prediction: Caros Fodor via submission

205 lbs.: Lorenz Larkin (8-0) vs Scott Lighty (6-1)

This bout was originally scheduled to be Olympic Judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii's Strikeforce debut but Ishii had trouble securing a work visa and undefeated light heavyweight Lorenz Larkin stepped in on extremely late notice.

Both Larkin and Lighty have dynamite in their fists as each man has won the majority of their fights via knockout or TKO. Larkin has a little more pure power as the majority of his victories are by clean knockout and he's capable of ending the fight with kicks or punches.

Lighty trains out of the infamous "Pit" in California and he does have some K-1 level kickboxing experience on his résumé. Despite his credentials, he was stopped in his last Strikeforce bout against Anwain Britt in December of 2009.

I think Strikeforce might have something with Larkin, a very strong and powerful light heavyweight striker. He'll overwhelm Lighty and knock him out in the first or second round.

Final Prediction: Lorenz Larkin via technical knockout

155 lbs.: James Terry (9-2) vs Josh Thornburg (6-2)

James Terry has experience in spades. This will be his sixth match under the Strikeforce banner where he currently holds a 4-1 record. He was originally slated to face Conor Heun but Heun had to drop out with injury and Cesar Gracie fighter Josh Thornburg is stepping in on short notice.

I'll admit, I was surprised when Thornburg took this fight. He absorbed a ton of punishment against Roger Bowling less than four weeks ago in a three round affair. Bowling hit Thornburg with everything but the kitchen sink but to his credit, he didn't go down.

Thornburg has an incredible chin, solid jiu jitsu and a strong gas tank. His biggest weakness is striking defense. Sadly, striking defense is something he'll definitely need against James Terry.

Terry is a fantastic striker, training out of Cung Le's gym in San Jose. He will definitely be looking to keep this fight standing where he can punish Thornburg.

There's something about the resiliency of Thornburg that impresses me. He is tough as nails and if he can wear Terry down or get this fight on the ground, he has a decent chance of winning this fight.

Final Prediction: Josh Thornburg via submission

170 lbs.: Damion Douglas (3-1) vs Wayne Phillips (5-3)

Damion Douglas is actually the twin brother of David Douglas, both coming out of Cesar Gracie's camp. He will have his hands full with Wayne Phillips, a fighter who is always defying the odds.

Phillips was expected to be a sacrificial lamb in his Strikeforce debut against Eric Lawson. Lawson had won four consecutive Strikeforce bouts while Phillips was riding a three fight losing streak at the time.

Phillips instead shocked the Strikeforce matchmakers with a first round submission victory and then followed it up with a split decision victory over Werdum Combat Team fighter Fernando Bettega this past December.

Douglas, like his brother, has significant power but he's surrounded by tons of questions. He has not been very active as of late, having not fought since September of 2008. With over two and a half years since his last fight, cage rust will likely be too much of a factor to overcome no matter where he trains. Look for Phillips to outwork and outlast Douglas.

Final Prediction: Wayne Phillips via unanimous decision

That's a wrap.

How about it Maniacs? Let's hear your picks for Friday night's Showtime event!

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