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Happy New Year Maniacs!
Believe it or not the first major mixed martial arts (MMA) event of 2012 happens this Saturday night (Jan. 7) and it's headlined by a middleweight title fight between Strikeforce 185-pound champion Luke Rockhold taking on UFC veteran Keith Jardine at "The Joint" from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Other match-ups booked for the "Sin City" fight card include "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov, former light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin and Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE blow-by-blow, round-by-round coverage of Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine," beginning with the Showtime telecast at 10 p.m. ET on Jan. 7. In addition, we will deliver up-to-the-minute quick results of all the under card action much earlier on fight night.
Preview and early predictions, after the jump.Preliminary Bouts:
Welterweight Bout: Ricky Legere vs. Chris Spang
Background: Legere is 13-4 and Spang is 4-0. Neither of these fighters are very well known yet. Both competitors have fought at welterweight and lightweight in their respective careers.
Ricky Legere has spent most of his time in King of the Cage (KOTC), a professional since 2007 with 12 out of 13 victories coming via stoppage. He's only been to a decision twice in his career. This is going to be his Strikeforce debut.
Chris Spang is 24 years old and has been a pro since 2008. He only has four fights to his name but this is second fight in Strikeforce. In his four victories he's finished his opponent three times.
My Pick: I'm going to go with Legere because he has a lot more fights under his belt. I would like to say I had better information, but his experience and seven (T)KO victories gives me a hunch he'll defeat Spang via stoppage.
Light Heavyweight bout: Trevor Smith vs. Gian Villante
Background: Smith is 9-1 and Villante is 8-3. Both of these men are Strikeforce veterans; Villante with three fights under the promotion and Smith with two.
Trevor Smith is 30 years old, has never been to a decision in 10 career fights and has been a pro since 2009. His two fights under Strikeforce have been submissions, which brought his career total of submissions to eight. He's fought mostly on smaller shows but his consistent submission finishes is a good sign. He is a former high school All-State and college All-American wrestler from Iowa State University. He is currently on a five fight win streak.
Gian Villante is 26 years old and has fought mostly in New Jersey. He has been to decision twice in his career, with seven finishes among his eight career victories. He has competed at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, holding a heavyweight title in a smaller promotion. He made his first Strikeforce appearance against recent UFC acquisition Chad Griggs, and his second against Lorenz Larkin. He lost both fights. He rebounded in August against Keith Barry at another Strikeforce Challengers event. He is 2-3 in his last five fights. He is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, is a former New York State wrestling champion and successful college wrestler and was nearly recruited into the NFL as a linebacker.
My Pick: This is actually a really intriguing match up for me, both men have good wrestling credentials and good finishing ratios. This a real toss up because they seem to be very evenly matched. Smith has his five fight win streak behind him and appears to have the better wrestling credentials and submissions, so I think he's going to control the fight to a unanimous decision.
Welterweight Bout: Nah-Shon Burrell vs. James Terry
Background: Burrell is 7-1 and Terry is 11-3. Another good undercard bout.
Nah-Shon Burrell is 21 years old and as been a pro since 2010. He has competed under Strikeforce twice and has been successful in both outings. He has been to decision twice in his career and has six finishes to his name, all (T)KO's. He has no wrestling credentials that I was able to find and has been training full time since he was 18 years old. All of his finishes have been standing (T)KO's, so it's safe to say he's willing to stand and trade with Terry.
James Terry is 30 years old and has been a pro since 2006. Terry is 4-1 in his last five with five knockouts in his 11 career victories. His other wins are via decision. He is also a former All American wrestler and was third place at the NJCAA wrestling finals in 2002. He trains kickboxing under Cung Le and has been training under him since 2006. Terry is a eight time fighter in Strikeforce and is 6-2 under the promotion.
My Pick: Burrell comes to finish the fight whereas Terry seems more content to let it go to a decision, with three fights going to decision in his last six and three ending via TKO. Terry has never been knocked out and neither has Burrell. I expect Terry to grind out a unanimous decision in a back and forth stand up fight with Terry mixing up takedowns and ground control, using his wrestling background to win a decision.
Welterweight Bout: Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson
Background: Saffiedine is 11-3 and Stinson is 22-7. First fight on the main card looks like good test for both men.
Tarec Saffiedine is 25 years old and has been a pro since 2007. He is a two time DREAM veteran, a one time Shark Fights fighter, and a four time veteran of Strikeforce. He holds a victory over UFC, EliteXC, and Strikeforce veteran, Scott Smith. He has five submission victories in 11 professional victories. He is 4-2 in his last six with two decision losses, one to rising star Tyron Woodley. He was a successful amateur kickboxer and blue belt in Shihaishinkai Karate and a blue belt in BJJ.
Tyler Stinson is also 25 year old and has fought as a professional since 2006. He as a lot more fights than his opponent, with 15 (T)KO's and five submissions. However he also has five submission losses. He is a four time Bellator veteran and one time Strikeforce participant. He earned his blue belt in BJJ under Kiko France. He is 5-1 in his last six fights with three KO's due to punches.
My Pick: I really want to see this fight. Saffiedine has had better success with mid-to-higher caliber opponents, whereas Stinson is 2-2 in Bellator. That being said, he did win his Strikeforce debut. If Stinson can keep this fight standing, I see him winning via (T)KO in the second. If Saffiedine can impose his gameplan he'll win the decision. I'm favoring Stinson in the second by (T)KO.
Welterweight Bout: Jordan Mein vs. Tyron Woodley
Background: Mein is 23-7 and Woodley is 9-0.
Jordan Mein is 22 years old and a professional fighter since 2006. He has been on a great run, he is 20-3 in his last 23 fights and is on a six fight win streak, including victories over Evangelista Santos, UFC veteran Joe Riggs, and DREAM Welterweight Champion/Strikeforce veteran Marius Zaromskis. He has 13 wins by (T)KO, and seven by submission. In total, he has only gone to decision five times in 30 pro fights. He did lose to rising star, UFC fighter Rory MacDonald in his pro debut in 2006.
Tyron Woodley is 29 years old and has been a pro since 2009. He is currently undefeated with five submission wins, one KO win, and three decision wins. Woodley's biggest asset is his high level wrestling ability. He is a two time All-State wrestler, a two time NCAA Div I All-American and the 2003 Big Twelve Conference Champion and 2005 Runner Up. He is a seven fight veteran of Strikeforce, with wins over former UFC fighter and Strikeforce welterweight title contender Paul Daley, and Abu Dhabi Gold Medalist Andre Galvao. He is ranked 17th in the world by the "Consensus Rankings" as of December 29, 2011.
My Pick: This is a very tough fight to call. Woodley's best weapon is his grappling/wrestling and will probably look to control the fight with ground and pound and look for a submission. However, even though Mein has four losses via submission, he hasn't been submitted since 2008. Even though he is the younger man, Mein has 21 more fights than Woodley, in exchange Woodley has an insane amount of amateur wrestling matches under his belt. A lot of people are probably picking Woodley to win this fight, but I'm going with Jordan Mein, via KO in the third round.
Light Heavyweight bout: Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin
Background: Lawal is 8-1 and Larkin is 12-0.
"King Mo" Lawal is 30 years old and a professional fighter since 2008. He is the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, NCAA Div II and NCAA Div I All-American, and 2007 Pan American Gold Medalist in Freestyle wrestling. Despite his heavy wrestling background, King Mo has six wins via (T)KO and two by decision. He most recently defeated Roger Gracie by KO. He is currently ranked 11th in the world by the "Consensus Rankings" as of December 29, 2011.
Lorenz Larkin is 25 years old and a professional since 2009. He is currently undefeated and is a three time Strikeforce veteran with eight knockout victories, he also was undefeated as an amateur boxer. Possibly his most impressive victory to date was TKO victory over Scott Lighty, a veteran of 42 pro kickboxing bouts and a 6-2 MMA record. This is huge step up in competition for Larkin, and it remains to be seen how he will fair against upper tier light heavyweights.
My Pick: Like I said up there, Mo is a huge step up for Mr. Larkin. I haven't been able to find Vegas odds for this fight yet, but I hazard a guess that Lawal will be the heavy favorite. I am expecting King Mo to knock out Larkin in the first or second round.
Middleweight Bout: Robbie Lawler vs. Adlan Amagov
Background: Lawler is 18-8 (1 NC) and Amagov is 9-1-1.
Robbie Lawler is 29 years old and made his professional debut back in 2001. He is a known commodity for a lot of MMA fans, being a veteran of UFC, PRIDE, EliteXC, and Strikeforce. He is also the former EliteXC middleweight champion. Inconsistent with a limited ground game, (five of his eight losses are via submission), Lawler is known for his heavy hands and solid boxing game. Currently, he is coming off of a two fight losing streak, going 2-4 in his last six fights. If he wants to move forward with his career he really needs a victory on Saturday night. He is currently ranked #21 in the world.
Adlan Amagov is 25 years old and has be a pro fighter since 2007. He went 0-1 in his first fight, losing to Bellator and BodogFight veteran Alexey Oleinik before going on a 10 fight unbeaten streak; (9-0-1) with six (T)KO's and three decisions. He has appeared in two Strikeforce: Challengers events, defeating Anthony Smith and Ronald Stallings. He recently won the Silver medal at the Expert level at the 2011 NAGA World Championship in No-GI grappling on back on May 7. He has no wins via submission, but it's clear he has a grappling game that's developing.
My Pick: Lawler is on a major downward spiral as a fighter. He's had a rough couple years and desperately needs a win. It's possible that he is being used as a stepping stone for the up and coming Amagov, a big name for him to knock off. I'm going with the up and comer, Amagov via submission in the second round.
Keith Jardine vs. Luke Rockhold (Strikeforce Middleweight Championship)
Background: Jardine is 17-9 and Rockhold is 8-1.
"The Dean of Mean" Keith Jardine is 36 years old and well known veteran of the UFC, with wins over former UFC light heavyweight champions Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell, along with UFC vet; Brandon Vera. He has been fighting as a professional since 2001, and appeared on the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season two. Jardine has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, with big wins over top 10 fighters, but periods of going winless got him expelled from the UFC. He's 3-6-1 over his last 10 fights with two of his wins coming over relative unknowns. Last April, he had a draw with #9 ranked light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi, likely due to Mousasi being deducted a point for an illegal upkick. Jardine needs this win, not only to stay relevant as a fighter, but to keep his career and his head above water. He is a black belt in Gaidojutsu.
Luke Rockhold is 27 years old and has been a pro since 2007. He went 1-1 in his first two fights but has gone on a seven fight win streak which includes a win over UFC/DREAM vet Jesse Taylor, and not to mention, his win over DREAM veteran and Abu Dhabi champion Ronaldo Souza for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. In his title fight he showed excellent stand-up skills, despite having only one win via (T)KO. He has six wins via submission and is a brown belt in BJJ. Rockhold is ranked ninth in the world as a middleweight.
My Pick: I am afraid I am in total agreement with the odds makers for this fight. Keith Jardine is likely done and I don't expect him to be able to deal with Rockhold anywhere the fight goes. I'm predicting a second or third round stoppage. Rockhold by TKO.
That's it, Maniacs.
Let me know what you guys think and what you expect to happen this weekend at Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine."
To get up to speed on all the Strikeforce news and notes click here.