MMAmania.com today confirmed with the sponsorship team that represents Anthony Ruiz (21-11) -- KO Dynasty -- that the light heavyweight will replace injured 205-pound champion Bobby Southworth, taking on Renato "Babalu" Sobral (30-7) at "Strikeforce at the Mansion II" at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., on September 20.
The champ's injury is not known at this time, but we do know he is out and "El Toro" is in.
Ruiz was the last guy to challenge Southworth for his 205-pound gold. He lost a unanimous decision in June at Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Thomson" after repeatedly getting taken down by the champ. However, Ruiz does hold a previous technical knockout win over Southworth because of a cut in a non-title fight at a Strikeforce event last year.
If you remember, Ruiz spoke about Babalu in an interview right here with MMAmania.com a few short months ago and had this to say:
"The last time I did an interview with you guys, they were talking like they had Babalu and Vitor Belfort. I feel like I match up well with those guys. Babalu isn’t as mentally tough as I am. Like I said, my cardio and conditioning are always a step up, so that’s what I rely on to win. Some of these other guys like Babalu are good on the ground, Vitor Belfort are good standing up, so they rely on those things to win. I rely on conditioning. So now I can take a punch and eventually wear my opponent out. They get mentally drained and physically drained because they keep hitting me, but nothing is happening. So I think I have an advantage there. Both of those fights are ones I would love to take."
It was an interesting take on Babalu's mental toughness. He'll get his chance to back those statements up thanks to an injured Southworth -- let's see how he actually does match up against the tough Brazilian.
Babalu has long been considered one of the better light heavyweights in the world. He was never able to take the UFC gold from Chuck Liddell, but there weren't many who could; therefore, it's hard to hold that against him.
He did have that disappointing knockout loss to Jason Lambert at UFC 68. And Babalu was then booted from the organization for refusing to release a choke hold on a passed out David Heath at UFC 74 last August.
Apparently Sobral has put all that behind him and is now looking to go after the Strikeforce world title. He's won his last two fights since the David Heath incident, including a unanimous decision over Mike Whitehead at last month's inaugural Affliction event.
Babalu is a sick jiu-jitsu player, meaning Ruiz will have to keep his submission defense alert at all times to stay competitive in this one. On paper, Babalu should win relatively easy, but Ruiz is relentless and has a heart of gold. He'll give the Brazilian all he can handle and look to use this huge opportunity against a big name opponent to garner some recognition for himself.
Southworth vs. Babalu was believed to be the main event for this card, but that was unclear and it's even less clear now. We'll keep you posted on any news regarding "Strikeforce at the Mansion II."