Two of the top-ranked light heavyweights in Strikeforce will have a rematch this Saturday night (May 19, 2012) as former Strikeforce 205 pound champion Rafael Cavalcante challenges American Kickboxing Academy big man Mike Kyle on the main card of Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier in San Jose.
Cavalcante lost to Kyle in 2008, having his title aspirations delayed for two years by "Mak" although he would eventually claim the Strikeforce championship. Now, "Feijao" is looking to remove one of the dark marks on his record by avenging his first loss under the Strikeforce banner.
Mike Kyle has looked terrific at light heavyweight in the last few years, only losing twice at heavyweight against current top big men Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva. Kyle has consistently handled everyone at 205 pounds and could be in line for a vacant title shot if he can beat "Feijao" again this weekend.
Can Cavalcante finally right the biggest wrong on his current resume? Will Mike Kyle be able to repeat history on Saturday night with another knockout? What's the key to victory for both light heavyweights?
Let's find out:
Record: 11-3 overall, 4-1 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Dan Henderson (Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson), Mike Kyle (Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields)
How he got here: Rafael Cavalcante has been a highly touted Brazilian prospect for a long time. Training alongside Anderson Silva at Black House, "Feijao" was all set to work his way towards a Strikeforce light heavyweight title shot in 2008 before an injury forced then-champion "Babalu" Sobral off the card.
In his place stepped American Kickboxing Academy's Mike Kyle, who pulled off a shocking upset, clipping Cavalcante and finishing him with heavy strikes on the ground which was shocking to many.
Since that loss, Cavalcante bounced back with a trio of huge knockout victories, including a monumental third round finish of champion "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal in the main event of Strikeforce: Houston in 2010.
Unfortunately, "Feijao" would not be able to successfully defend his title, losing via knockout to Dan Henderson last year to drop his belt, but he bounced back again, scoring a late second round victory over Yoel Romero last September. He'll likely have an opportunity to fight for the vacant title if he can avenge his prior loss to Kyle.
How he gets it done: Cavalcante has some very nasty elbows, knees and a ground game. If he wants to avenge his loss to Kyle, I'd expect to see him close the distance, get in the clinch and start pounding away on "Mak" with his joints.
If Cavalcante can drag Kyle to the ground, he definitely should. Kyle has some respectable ground striking, but he's far from accomplished in the grappling department and he could be prone to some serious guard passing, ground and pound and potentially even submissions.
What Cavalcante doesn't want to do is stand in the pocket and trade strikes with Kyle. He can match the American Kickboxing Academy fighter with power, but he's susceptible to getting rocked on the feet and doesn't have the greatest ability to take big strikes.
The clinch and ground are where Cavalcante will likely be most comfortable.
Record: 19-8-1 (1 no contest) overall, 3-3-1 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Rafael Cavalcante (Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields), Tony Lopez (KOTC: Honor), Marcos Rogerio de Lima (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov)
Key Losses: Antonio Silva (Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu), Fabricio Werdum (Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg)
How he got here: Mike Kyle has had a very strange career arc. He stepped up and faced some very difficult opposition early in his career, losing bouts to the likes of Dan Bobish, Paul Buentello and Justin Eilers in his first 11 fights.
He had a very difficult 0-3-1 stretch from 2006-2008, most notably his incredibly bizarre actions in a WEC title fight against Brian Olsen where he refused to quit attacking his opponent after the referee tried to pull him off and he was disqualified and suspended for an extended period of time.
Since then, he's gone 8-2 with one no contest and his only losses have been when he stepped up to take on Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva at heavyweight. He nearly pulled off a huge upset against Silva, rocking "Bigfoot" on the feet early but failing to finish the big man on the ground.
Kyle has looked very strong at 205 pounds, but has been plagued by injuries as of late. only fighting once in the last year and a half. He's hoping to get more active and become a contender if he can repeat history against Feijao.
How he gets it done: Kyle doesn't have an advantage over Cavalcante on the ground or in the clinch, but he does have some serious power in both hands and has a better chin.
If Kyle wants to score another victory over "Feijao" he's got to utilize his fast hands and crack Cavalcante on the chin. Kyle has fight-ending power as evidenced by his multiple knockouts and his ability to drop even Antonio Silva.
Footwork will be key for Kyle to find an opening against Feijao. Perhaps he can take advantage lunging in if Cavalcante backs away straight as he's been prone to do on occasion. The one thing that's most important of all is if he hurts "Feijao" he can't let him off the hook. He has to aggressively attack and put him away as he might not get another opportunity.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is Mike Kyle's health. The man has suffered a series of really bad injuries and hasn't been able to train like he'd like to in recent bouts, also being sidelined for extended periods with hand injuries.
If he breaks his hand against Cavalcante, he could be in for a world of trouble as his power decreases drastically after hurting his fist, as evidenced by his inability to finish Antonio Silva after breaking his hand throwing hammer fists on the canvas. If he stays healthy, he's got a shot, but once you start breaking your hand consistently, it's not something that just gets better overnight.
Bottom Line: Both of these men have history with each other and both are capable of finishing a fight on a moment's notice with their power on the feet. Mike Kyle has really had some entertaining fights in the last few years and "Feijao" always brings it. I expect these guys to go toe-to-toe and throw down for extended periods and the likelihood of a finish is extremely high whether it's submission or knockout. This should be very fun.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier?" Tell us your predictions in the comments below!