The Strikeforce Challenger Series will resume on Showtime this Friday night (Jan. 7) from the Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, with "Woodley vs Saffiedine." The thirteenth edition of the series will air live on the premium cable network beginning at 11 p.m. ET.
Tyron "T-Wood" Woodley and Tarec "Sponge" Saffiedine are set to headline the card in a battle of top welterweight prospects. Former United States Olympians Daniel Cormier and Rhadi Ferguson will also be in action in separate matches.
In addition, fast rising star and former University of Tennessee linebacker Ovince St. Preux will look to push his winning streak to seven as he makes his third start in less than two months under the Strikeforce banner, taking on "Abongo" Humphrey.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, I've given some quick analysis and predictions for those featured fights.
Check it out below.
Tyron "T-Wood" Woodley vs. Tarec Saffiedine
"T-Wood" finally showed he was human on the Challengers 8 card when he barely eked out a split decision victory over Nathan Coy. Before that fight the former University of Missouri wrestling standout had destroyed all five of his professional opponents, finishing each by submission.
Woodley bounced back in a big way on the "Diaz vs. Noons II" card, spoiling well respected Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner Andre Galvao's two fight winning streak under the Strikeforce banner with a brutal first round knockout.
Saffiedine is an excellent striker, though, and he has the tools to have similar success on his feet like Coy. Coy was strong in the clinch and used a lot of kicks and knees to wear Woodley down. If Tarec wants to win this fight, he's going to have to score points in those areas, as well, not to mention keep off his back as much as possible.
That won't be easy to do. Woodley is an athletic freak. He has ridiculously quick and explosive takedowns, and he should have a solid strength advantage over Saffiedine, too. I don't think he'll have too much of a problem putting Tarec on his back if he starts losing exchanges on the feet.
Saffiedine has done nothing but impress since signing on with Strikeforce, though, and he's coming off the biggest win of his career over a strong wrestler in Brock Larson. But Woodley and Larson are two different types of wrestlers, and I think Saffiedine is going to have a much more difficult time keeping pace with "T-Wood."
This should be a competitive fight, but I think Woodley takes the decision with a lot of top control.
Final prediction: Tyron Woodley via decision
Cormier is a former United States Olympic wrestler who is making his fourth start under the Strikeforce banner and seventh overall as a professional mixed martial artist. His transition to MMA has been a smooth one. He's dominated each of his opponents, finishing all but one inside the first round.
Cole has a ton more quality MMA experience. He has twenty-seven pro fights, including bouts against guys like Jeff Monson, Ben Rothwell, Krzysztof Soszynski, Rafael Cavalcante, and others. He's definitely Cormier's stiffest test to date.
But even with that said, I still don't see much of a reason to believe the AKA trainee will have trouble staying unbeaten on Friday night. Cole's strength is also his wrestling, and although he has more MMA experience, that figures to work against him in this fight. Cormier's wrestling is superior, and once they lock up, he should be too much, physically, for Oregonian.
Cormier is a mauler. I have a hard time believing that a fellow wrestler is going to give hand him his first loss.
Final prediction: Cormier via technical knockout
Ovince St. Preux vs. Ray "Abongo" Humphrey
St. Preux has been the busiest man on the Strikeforce roster over the last couple of months. He fought seven times in 2010, and this will be his third fight in less than two months for Strikeforce. He hasn't exactly been facing a bunch of cupcakes, either. Antwain Britt and Benji Radach are both very respectable wins, and a trifecta against "Abongo" Humphrey would be a great start to 2001 for the former University of Tennessee linebacker.
Humphrey is a dangerous guy on his feet. He has good power in his hands and he's not scared to exchange. He may have a hard time getting inside on the lengthy St. Preux, though, and that could be a big difference maker in this fight if it stays upright.
I expect to see "Abongo" looking for takedowns at some point. St. Preux's ability to stop those will be a big key to whether or not he wins this fight. His cardio is also going to be an interesting thing to watch to see how it holds up. If he starts getting tired and dropping his hands, "Abongo" is capable of ending his night quickly.
This should be a fun fight. I'm going with the Volunteer.
Final prediction: Ovince St. Preux via technical knockout
Budd steamrolled through Shana Olsen a couple of months ago on the Challengers 11 card. It was her pro debut, and she could not have been more impressive. I've been looking forward to getting a chance to see her fight again.
I don't know much about Nunes, but she better be a tough chick if she wants to stay competitive in this fight.
Final prediction: Budd via technical knockout
Rhadi Ferguson vs. John Richard
Richard is a late replacement fill-in for Ion Cherdivara. This will be his third pro fight, and he hasn't even had a week to prepare for it. That is not a recipe for success coming into a fight against a former United States Olympic Judo player who has been dominant in his only two pro MMA fights.
Ferguson trains with American Top Team. He an excellent wrestler and all around athlete. He should win this fight without breaking too much of a sweat.
Final prediction: Rhadi Ferguson via technical knockout
That's it from us. Sound off with your predictions in the comments section below.