Strikeforce Challengers 18 preview and predictions for 'Gurgel vs. Duarte' on August 12

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The Strikeforce Challengers series is back on Showtime this Friday night (Aug. 12, 2011) at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, for it's eighteenth event. After an inaugural run on July 22, 2011, this will be the second time the series has traveled to the Pearl at the Palms.

Strikeforce Challengers 18: "Gurgel vs. Duarte" will air live on the premium cable network, beginning at 11 p.m. ET.

Lightweights Jorge Gurgel and Joe Duarte are set to headline the event in a match-up between a journeyman Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) practitioner (Gurgel) and a rising star in the promotion (Duarte), who is a Muay Thai specialist.

Also on the card, middleweight prospect Danillo Villefort will try to keep his four-fight win streak intact against newly signed Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Nate James.

155-pound machine Pat Healy will fight for the first time since defeating Lyle Beerbohm at Strikeforce Challengers 14 on Feb. 18, earlier in the year. Healy will be taking on Eric Wisely, who will be making his promotional debut.

The ladies will also be in the house with a 145-pound dust-up between Ronda Rousey and Sarah D'Alelio, who was originally scheduled to fight Gina Carano in June, before "Conviction" was forced to withdraw for medical reasons.

In a light heavyweight bout, Roy Jones will look to start off his Strikeforce career with a bang as he takes on Derrick Mehmen, a wrestling specialist who trains with American Top Team.

To prepare you Maniacs for Friday night's action, we've got the full fight breakdowns and predictions for the main card fights below.

155 lbs.: Jorge Gurgel (14-7) vs. Joe Duarte (9-2)

It's not a huge secret where each fighter wants this one to go. Gurgel will look to shoot and take the fight to the canvas as soon as he sees an opening. Duarte is no stiff on the ground, but he will have a clear preference to stand and trade.

Gurgel is more experienced. Duarte is younger and probably has a bigger upside at this point in his career. A win for Gurgel could mean the beginning of a climb back to the big show. A win for Duarte would mean that his last four wins were for real and that mixed martial arts (MMA) fans need to take him seriously.

For me, it's a toss up. I think the opening round will be hugely indicative of how things will play out. If Gurgel tries to stand in the middle and bang, he probably will get knocked out. If Duarte is not cautious and wades into Gurgel's guard, he may get submitted.

I'm not putting money on this fight.

Prediction: Joe Duarte via round two technical knockout (TKO)

185 lbs.: Danillo Villefort (13-3) vs. Nate James (12-7-1)

I like Nate James. He's easy to root for. Nice guy. Always scraps.

The problem is that timing is just not in his favor in this fight. Villefort is on a tear, and it doesn't look like he's stopping anytime soon. I'm not making crazy "Anderson Silva" predictions, but this guy is a force to be reckoned with in the Strikeforce middleweight division.

Both guys have had a decent amount of decisions. James has a lot of heart, so it's hard for me to say I think he'll get finished.

Prediction: Danillo Villefort via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Pat Healy (26-17) vs. Eric Wisely (17-5)

If you're like me, you did a double-take when you looked at Healy's record. That's a crazy amount of fights for a guy who's just 28-years-old. He's lost a lot of fights, but he's won more often than not. He's fought some tough guys in his career and beaten quite a few of them (see: Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Dan Hardy and Ryan Ford).

"Bam Bam" will look to show that he is not a gate-keeper nor a stepping stone. Wisely will look to fight a smart fight and prove he belongs inside the hexagon.

Sidenote: It'd be a fun drinking game to take shots every time one of the gentlemen in the Strikeforce booth make a play on Wisely's last name. 

Prediction: Pat Healy via decision

145 lbs.: Ronda Rousey (2-0) vs. Sarah D'Alelio (4-1-0)

Both fighters are fairly young and untested in the sport. Rousey is a former Olympian who competed as a judo player at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

D'Alelio started her career off on a four-fight win streak before finding herself on the wrong side of a unanimous decision at the hands of the Greg Jackson trained Julie Kedzie.

Both women like to work their respective ground games. However, Rousey should hold a slight advantage if it gets to the mat.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey via second round submission

205 lbs.: Roy Jones (5-1) vs. Derrick Mehmen (11-3)

Jones is coming in super confident. He talks a big game and is predicting a knockout (KO) victory. He will be taking on an opponent in Mehmen who is more experienced and well-rounded.

It's a pretty classic match-up between a striker and wrestler. The problem is that Mehmen is no slouch in the area Jones excels. Of Mehmen's eleven victories, nine of them have come by way of KO or TKO.

Mehmen should have the tools to get the job done.

Prediction: Derrick Mehmen via second round submission

That's a wrap.

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

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