It was a battle of two men who'd both come off tough losses to title challenger Jorge Masvidal, and it looked like it last night (December 17, 2011) when former EliteXC lightweight champion and Strikeforce welterweight title challenger K.J. Noons took on 10 fight Strikeforce veteran Billy Evangelista in the opening bout of the Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal main card.
Noons seemed to have taken the initiative on becoming a more well-rounded fighter after getting battered by "Gamebred" his last time out, but did it help him or hurt him?
Evangelista, in typical Billy Evangelista fashion, was aggressive, looking for the clinch, takedowns and the occasional big looping haymaker, but it wasn't enough.
So how did Noons pull it off? And where do both former top prospects go from here?
Early on, it was all Evangelista as he took the initiative by pushing the pace and repeatedly backing Noons towards the fence where he was a little easier to hit. Noons, though, surprised many by mixing things up, occasionally shooting for takedowns and actually throwing multiple leg kicks.
What made it interesting was the fact that Noons probably could have been equally successful if not moreso if he had simply stuck with his boxing, which was clearly better than Evangelista. By choosing to mix it up with attacks that he's not an expert in yet, he actually allowed his opponent to catch up with him.
As the fight wore on, Noons became confident in his strikes and began landing much more consistently with his combinations and it was evident on Evangelista's face that he had been punched quite a bit. Evangelista continued to try to pressure him by pinning "King Karl" along the fence but Noons utilized solid lateral movement to side-step his attempts to cut him off along the fence.
After dropping the first round, Noons was awarded a unanimous decision victory, although neither fighter looked that great.
For Billy Evangelista, he seemed to be successful with his clinch attack and the occasional big hook, but he repeatedly let Noons escape his clutches when he had him cornered along the fence. He should have kept up his pressure and perhaps been a little more aggressive with his takedown attempts. When Noons shot in for takedowns, there were huge openings to take top position on the ground and keep him there but he didn't capitalize.
I would expect to see Evangelista against someone along the lines of Justin Wilcox, James Terry or perhaps David Douglas depending on where Strikeforce ranks his skill level and potential.
For K.J. Noons, he won, but it wasn't exactly pretty. He said he wanted to showcase his all-around game in this fight, but from the looks of it, he still has a long ways to go. His takedowns only worked in the opening seconds because of the surprise factor and he got stuffed badly after that. His leg kicks didn't have much on them either and he likely would have been better off punching away. Perhaps he can try to utilize those new skills once he's refined them more but for now, he should keep working on shoring up the rest of his defensive abilities first.
I would expect to see Noons take on someone along the lines of Joe Duarte, Pat Healy or maybe even Josh Thomson in his next bout depending on whether the promotion wants to try to build him up for a title shot or not. Hopefully he can continue to improve because he's still one of the few fighters that has really pushed Nick Diaz and he'd got plenty of striking talent.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you see anything you liked in this fight? Do either of these lightweights have what it takes to become contenders in the 155 pound division?"
For complete Strikeforce: "Melendez vs. Masvidal" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.