The ninth installment of Strikeforce Challengers is set for this Friday night (July 23) at "The Ice Box" at Comcast Arena in Everett, Washington. The five-fight main card will air live on the premium cable channel Showtime beginning at 11 p.m. ET on fight night.
In a fight that is sure to provide fireworks, heavyweight sluggers Lolohea Mahe and Shane del Rosario are set to trade leather in the night's featured main event. Meanwhile Strikeforce female welterweight champion Sarah Kaufman will defend her title for the first time ever against dangerous top contender Roxanne Modefferi in the co-headliner.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, I've given some analysis and predictions on those two fights as well as two others from the main card that is set to hit the Showtime airwaves on Friday night.
Check it out below.265 lbs.: Shane del Rosario vs. Lolohea Mahe
Shane del Rosario is easily the better overall fighter between the two, but Mahe is a dangerous opponent for anybody because he's so powerful. The thing is, though, if you can make it past the first five minutes of the fight with the Hawaiian, you've got a pretty good shot at beating him.
He's a typical power punching heavyweight whose stamina is non-existent outside of the first round. As long as del Rosario can weather the early storm, this fight is his to win.
On top of that, I'm not convinced that del Rosario isn't capable of finishing the fight himself inside the first frame. He also has a pair of extremely heavy hands, not to mention a bit more versatility on his feet than Mahe with his ability to mix in kicks and knees.
Mahe has a better chin, though, so del Rosario should be careful about standing in the pocket for too long. However, the good news for fans of the Californian is that he's too smart to fall into that trap. He knows that the most important bit of strategy for himself in this fight is to avoid Mahe's power early on, more specifically his counter right hand.
It wasn't all that surprising to see Mahe looking for takedowns against Lavarr Johnson in his last fight, but I'd be shocked if he starts shooting in on del Rosario on Friday night. Del Rosario's ground game is much much better than Johnson's or anybody else that Mahe has faced so far in his career for that matter.
If anybody is going to be initiating clinches or looking for takedowns, it'll be del Rosario.
Regardless, like I said above, this is del Rosario's fight to win as long as he avoids Mahe's power early on. Still, in the first five minutes, this is anybody's fight.
Final prediction: Shane Del Rosario via knockout
135 lbs.: Strikeforce Female Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman vs. Roxanne Modefferi
Modefferi is a much more suitable number one contender for Kaufman than the chick (Jan Finney) Strikeforce fed to Cyborg last month at "Fedor vs. Werdum." Finney put on a decent show in that fight, but in my opinion she didn't really deserve to be there. The same can't be said about Modefferi, though, who has won eight of her last nine fights, including a recent split decision victory over Tara LaRosa, who was once considered the top female mixed martial artist in the world.
Modefferi probably likes this match-up, too. Her biggest weakness, which is probably submission defense, shouldn't be an issue in this fight, since Kaufman has never won by submission and prefers to trade strikes instead. That seems to also work in Modefferi's favor because she's never been knocked out or stopped from strikes in a fight.
Even with all that said, I still think Kaufman retains her title. I just don't think she'll get the finish, which has sort of become the norm with her lately anyway, with all three of her previous appearances under the Strikeforce banner going the distance as well.
The truth is, though, while she hasn't been finishing her opponents as of late, it's still easy to see that she has improved each time out since joining Strikeforce. Her takedown defense was stellar against Takayo Hashi, and her striking, as far as her control and technique go, has improved dramatically from what it was when she was knocking out bums on small shows in Canada a few years ago.
She's no longer a power puncher who swings for the fences or goes for broke when she thinks her opponent is wounded. She has learned to pick her spots and control her power while maintaining a good base for takedown defense. It's been fun to watch her improvement, despite her not being able to finish fights. Eventually fans are going to want to start seeing the knockouts again, and eventually I expect that to happen. I just don't think it'll be this fight.
Look for a similar result to the Hashi fight from the Challengers 6 card with Kaufman winning decisively on the cards. The champ should be able to stay on her feet and pick Modefferi apart with her striking.
Final prediction: Sarah Kaufman via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Cory "The One" Devela vs. Bobby Voelker
Voelker is about as tough as they come. He's only been stopped three times in just under thirty professional fights. And he took an absolute beating from Roger Bowling his last time out at Challengers 8, yet somehow made it to the scorecards, even if it wasn't quite a full fifteen minute decision.
If Bowling - who had destroyed all seven of his previous opponents, including TUF alum Seth Baczynski - couldn't put him away with his high level boxing skills, I have a hard time believing Devela can win this fight with strikes either, which means Voelker's best chance to win is on his feet.
That last part becomes even more apparent when you consider that Devela has been on the losing end in his last two fights because he was dropped with big punches, and also that Voelker has thirteen career wins by (T)KO.
Devela's best plan of attack is clearly to take Voelker to the mat and look for submissions and ground and pound. Bowling had some success with takedowns against Voelker, so Devela - who has much better wrestling credentials - should be able to be effective in that area as well.
Add the fact that he'll be making his debut in the welterweight division after previously competing as a middleweight to this point in his career, and one can certainly see where wrestling and ground control become "The One's" biggest weapons in this fight.
Voelker is dangerous on his feet, and Devela has been out of action for over a year while helping his girlfriend through a battle with cancer. Cage rust and/or cardio could certainly become an issue, but I still look for Devela to grind out a three round decision with a lot of top control here.
Wrestling trumps striking when the striker has no takedown defense.
Final prediction: Cory "The One" Devela via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Ron "Abongo" Humphrey vs. Mike "MAK" Kyle
Kyle is a devastating striker from the American Kickboxing Academy camp who is on a solid four fight winning streak since being submitted in the first round by Fabricio Werdum last summer.
The way to beat him usually doesn't involve trading strikes, which is basically all that "Abongo" Humphrey is good for. For that reason, I think this is going to be a fun fight for the fans, but it's also one that Kyle should come away victorious from.
The former heavyweight has a decent high kick, which could provide an problem for Kyle, but I give every other advantage in the striking department to the AKA guy, who is bigger, stronger, meaner and more experienced.
It seems likely that somebody is going to get knocked out in this fight. My money says "Abongo."
Final prediction: Mike Kyle via knockout
That's a wrap. Now it's time for you to sound off with some of your predictions in the comments section below.