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Strikeforce Challengers 'Evangelista vs Gurgel' preview and quick picks

Strikeforce Challengers IV is just a couple of days away from kick-starting an action packed weekend of mixed martial arts courtesy of the San Jose based promotion. "Evangelista vs. Gurgel" is all set for the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, and the main card will air live on the premium cable network, Showtime, beginning at 11 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 6.

Strikeforce Challenger Series serves as a proving ground to promote up-and-coming (and lesser known) fighters. The events are similar to what Elite XC used to promote with its SHO XC: "Challenger Series" on Showtime.

The featured fight of the night is a battle between undefeated wrestling and Muay Thai stud Billy Evangelista and UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel. Undefeated heavyweights Brandon Cash "Money" and Shane Del Rosario are also set to clash in the co-main event.

Ultimate Fighter (TUF) castoff Jesse Taylor is also scheduled to make his Strikeforce debut on the Showtime telecast, and there will be plenty of other promising fighters from the promotion's roster in action as well.

To help get you better prepared, we’ve given our analysis and predictions for the three most anticipated bouts on the main card that are set to hit the Showtime airwaves Friday night.

Check it out below:

Billy Evangelista (9-0) vs. Jorge Gurgel (13-5)

Evangelista - a wrestler and Muay Thai striker - last fought in May in the main event at Challenger Series I against BJ Penn trainee "Iron" Mike Aina where he was handed the first loss of his career thanks to a disqualification stemming from an illegal knee to his downed opponent's head.

However, the California State Athletic Commission reviewed the footage of the errant strike and later deemed that the blow was unintentionally thrown and that it landed on Aina's shoulder area and not his head. Therefore the fight was changed to a "No Contest."

So, the Fresno resident will not only be looking to remain undefeated when he takes on Gurgel in the main event of Challenger Series IV right in his own backyard, but he'll also be looking to redeem himself in front of his hometown fans from a controversial ending his last time out.

He'll have his hands full with the jiu jitsu specialist though. Gurgel made his debut for the promotion in June on the Challenger Series II card, fighting outside of the UFC for the first time in three years, handing Conor "Hurricane" Heun only the third loss of his career with a unanimous decision.

Gurgel is an accomplished jiu jitsu player who has trained some of the best fighters in the world at his craft. However, he's infamous for neglecting his trade and instead slugging it out with his opponents when he actually gets into the cage to fight.

It's a strange thing that has baffled his fans for years now, but nobody is complaining because it usually leads to a "fight of the night" candidate, even though he has come up on the losing end more times than not using that strategy.

Strikeforce fans can probably expect more of the same in this fight from Gurgel who has even said this week that he isn't the type of fighter who will pursue the takedown.

Evangelista, on the other hand, has certainly been known for pursuing takedowns in his fights. He has some nice stand up skills and even some decent jiu jitsu, but he tends to rely on his bread and butter, which is his wrestling.

In this fight, however, his strategy will likely be to avoid Gurgel's dangerous submission game and keep the action on the feet, meaning the Strikeforce fans are in store for one heck of a stand up battle.

Gurgel doesn't have great finishing ability in the striking department, so a win for him would likely come on the judge's scorecards. For Evangelista though, he has 4 career wins by (technical) knockout, and he'll surely be looking for a fifth on Friday night.

Don't count on that happening though since Gurgel has also never been knocked out in a fight.

This fight has judge's decision written all over it, and it's going to be a tough one to call. While Gurgel's striking background isn't out of this world, his in-fight experience is another story. His time in the UFC was filled with back and forth stand up battles that have prepared him for fights just like this.

He'll be ready to throw down with Evangelista, and I think he'll do just enough to score the win over the hometown fighter.

Final Prediction: Jorge Gurgel via unanimous decision.

Shane Del Rosario (8-0) vs. Brandon Cash "Money" (5-0)

Like Evangelista, Cash is another Fresno resident who will be fighting in his hometown. And like Evangelista, he's another hometown fighter that I'll be picking against on this card.

Don't get me wrong, Cash is a beast of a man who is coming off probably the best performance of his career in dropping Steve Gavin with punches less than 30 seconds into their fight back in Feburary. He always comes in looking to end his opponent's night early, and so far he's been pretty successful in doing so.

However, Shane Del Rosario is more experienced, he's fought better competition, he's more technical, he's trained with many of the top fighters in the world, including Brandon Vera, Rampage Jackson and others, and he's been demolishing his opposition. In fact, only one of his eight opponents (Carl Seumanutafa) has survived the first round with him, and even he was put down early in the second round.

Both of these guys have made it clear that they're coming into this fight to knock each other out early, which means this one likely won't make it a full five minute round.

Look for Del Rosario to counter punch everything Cash throws at him with a more technical and effective variety of strikes. He's been talking about fighting smarter and not just trying to knock his opponent's head off right from the opening bell.

He knows Cash is going to be looking to hit the MMA lottery with a big punch, so as long as he can stick to what he's been doing in training, his technique and power should prevail over Cash "Money's" raw aggression.

Final Prediction: Shane Del Roario via technical knockout in round one

Jesse "JT Money" Taylor (13-4) vs. Luke Rockhold (5-1)

Rockhold is coming off a super-impressive first round submission win over a very talented Corey Devela on the Challenger Series II card. That win opened a lot of eyes in the MMA community, and now he'll get another chance to score a win over a well known fighter in "JT Money."

However, Taylor is very strong and he executes the ground and pound strategy extremely well in his fights. He had some trouble in doing so during his most recent fight with Jay Hieron, but before that, the "TUF" castoff was riding a 7 fight winning streak that saw him win 4 times by rear naked choke.

Look for that trend to continue in this fight as Rockhold could have a difficult time dealing with "JT Money's" strength.

Even though he has finished nearly 77 percent of his opponents before the final bell, Taylor has been accused of laying and praying in the past. If that means takedowns and dominate positions, then expect some laying and praying in this one as well.

That type of strategy should wear Rockhold down enough for Taylor to score another rear naked choke finish in the later rounds.

Final Prediction: Jesse "JT Money" Taylor via third round submission.

That’s a wrap.

Remember that will provide live coverage of the main card beginning with the Showtime telecast at 11 p.m. ET as well as up to the minute results of the under card action beginning at around 9 p.m.

Check in early and often, it should be an exciting night of fights.

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