This Saturday night (June 18, 2011) on the Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum" main card, two lightweights will duke it out in "The Lone Star State" as K.J. Noons takes on Jorge Masvidal with a potential Strikeforce lightweight title shot on the line.
Noons is just one bout removed from a thrilling title fight against Nick Diaz this past October in a serious grudge match. He's not only looking to get back on track but he's hoping to put himself square into the title picture in his more natural 155-pound weight class.
Masvidal has quietly gone 3-0 in Strikeforce during his promotional run. Most fans remember him for being on the receiving end of one of MMA's greatest submissions of all time but he's built a solid resume with some major victories. He knows how important a victory on Saturday night will be for his career.
Can Noons get back on track and perform the way he knows he's capable of on the biggest stage? Will Masvidal be able to create a positive highlight of his own? Which fight will impress the suits upstairs enough to earn a title shot against Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez?
Follow us after the jump to find out:
Record: 10-3 overall, 2-1 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Nick Diaz (Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II), Charles Bennett (EliteXC: Destiny)
How he got here: Karl James Noons is one of the few fighters who has been successful at both boxing and MMA. Originally getting into combat sports as a kickboxer near the turn of the century, he got submitted in less than 30 seconds in his second MMA fight back in 2002.
After that, K.J. focused primarily on boxing for awhile but would make his return to mixed martial arts, achieving the highlight of his career thus far by defeating Nick Diaz via TKO (cuts) to become EliteXC's inaugural lightweight champion. After defending his title against Yves Edwards, Noons would be stripped of his belt for refusing to give Nick Diaz a rematch.
Noons would then sign with Strikeforce two years later and after winning his first two fights in the promotion, he was given a title shot against welterweight champion Nick Diaz in a much anticipated grudge match. The fight with Diaz was electric and both men hurt each other on several occasions but Diaz would go on to outstrike Noons and win the later rounds to take a unanimous decision victory and retain his title.
Noons will be dropping back down to the lightweight division to battle Jorge Masvidal for the right to potentially challenge Diaz's stablemate Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title.
How he gets it done: This one is easy. Noons will want to find a way to get Masvidal in the pocket and go to work with his major technical advantage in the boxing department.
K.J. has developed a lot over the years training in mixed martial arts but he uses most of his skills defensively to either get back to his feet or keep the fight standing. He will want to find his range and blast his opponent in the face with repeated punches.
This will require excellent footwork and movement, something K.J. is very good at. He'll want to be the aggressor in this fight and cut off Masvidal's escape routes. Once he has him cornered, it'll be time to go to work.
Record: 21-6 overall, 3-0 in Strikeforce
How he got here: Jorge Masvidal has been everywhere. After starting his career with a plethora of fights in the Absolute Fighting Championships, he made his debut in the upstart Bodog Fights promotion where he would go 3-0 before the promotion disbanded.
Masvidal would take his talents to Japan, going 2-1 for Sengoku Raiden Championships before signing to compete in the inaugural Bellator lightweight tournament.
After defeating Nick Agallar in just over a minute in his quarterfinal fight, Masvidal would be placed on the receiving end of one of the greatest submission in mixed martial arts history as Toby Imada scored an impromptu inverted triangle choke after getting thoroughly beat on for two-plus rounds of the Bellator lightweight semifinals.
"Gamebred" bounced around several promotions, even fighting eventual Strikeforce welterweight title challenger Paul Daley at welterweight (and holding his own) before making his return to the promotion in 2011. Masvidal would dominate previously undefeated lightweight Billy Evangelista at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson to jump up to contender status in Strikeforce's thin lightweight division.
How he gets it done: One thing Masvidal will not want to do is stand in the pocket and trade punches with Noons. He showcased an improved jab and ability to use his range against Evangelista but K.J. Noons is an entirely different animal.
Jorge cuts a lot of weight to make 155 and as a result, he'll have a respectable size and strength advantage over most of his opponents. He has a relatively strong kicking game in his arsenal and that will definitely come in handy if K.J. is intent on keeping the fight standing.
Also, Masvidal has showcased an ever-improving wrestling skill-set in his recent fights. He was able to take Paul Daley down at welterweight and it will be vital for him to put K.J. on his back if he wants to score points with the judges and take the boxer out of his comfort zone.
The ground is where Masvidal wins this fight so look for him to put Noons into a sense of false security and then duck under a big looping hook to put him either pressed against the cage or on the canvas.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this bout will be the pressure on both fighters. Noons is coming off a loss to Nick Diaz while Masvidal is fighting for an opportunity to compete in the most high-profile bout of his career. There is a TON at stake for both me. Sometimes when this happens, fighters show up with goofy gameplans and they fight not to lose instead of fighting to win. Noons has competed on the largest of stages thus far and thrived so this is more directed at Masvidal, a fighter who blew a perfect opportunity in a similar situation when he was just minutes away from a Bellator title shot. Will he show up on Saturday night?
Bottom line: Scott Coker said that this is "most likely" a number one contender match but it entirely depends on how the fight plays out. One of these two men has to impress the head honcho or he just might give the title shot to the winner of the Justin Wilcox / Gesius Cavalcante fight. With that in the back of their minds, expect both men to come out guns blazing if they really do want a shot at Strikeforce gold. This should be a great fight.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum?" Let us know in the comments section below!