“Strikeforce Challengers 15? Aftermath: Lopsided Beatdowns in the 209? Business As Usual.
Strikeforce Challengers 15 marked the promotion’s first event since Zuffa seized control, but with the exception of the addition of elbows on the ground, there were no noticeable changes to the event which took place in homey Stockton, CA. Mauro, Quadros, and Miletich made themselves at home in the commentary booth and the broadcast had the same production feel we’re accustomed to. The only thing unfamiliar about the event may have been some of the fighters themselves, but that’s par for the course for the Challengers series. Strikeforce’s endeavor to showcase the up-and-comers in the sport may not always result in overly competitive fights, but the event did put several fresh faces on the map for those unwilling or unable to follow the sport to its lower levels.
Wilcox, Damm Set for Strikeforce Challengers 15
Seeking his sixth consecutive victory, American Kickboxing Academy representative Justin Wilcox knocks at the door of lightweight relevance.
Wilcox checked in at 155.2 pounds for his showdown with Sengoku Raiden Championship veteran Rodrigo Damm (155.8) in the Strikeforce Challengers 15 headliner on Friday at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. The eight other men slated for duty on the televised card -- including AMC Pankration prospect Caros Fodor (155.4) and Cesar Gracie protégé David Douglas (154) -- also made weight without incident at Thursday’s official weigh-in.
Lighty Knows Little About Larkin, Doesn’t Mind
This is nothing new for Scott Lighty.
He had been preparing to fight Satoshi Ishii on Friday at Strikeforce Challengers 15, but the promotion announced Monday that Lorenz Larkin would be replacing the Japanese fighter due to visa issues.
Paul Daley Looking to Strikeforce Title for Leverage in UFC Negotiations
One of the fighters put in the most awkward position by the recent Zuffa acquisition of Strikeforce is clearly Paul Daley. The brash Brit had started a UFC career at UFC 103 with a tremendous stoppage of Martin Kampmann and followed that up with a KO of Dustin Hazelett. Fans were calling for Daley to get a shot at the welterweight title and a win over Josh Koscheck would have gotten him the shot. Unfortunately for Paul, Koscheck was able to take him down over and over for three rounds leading to Daley throwing a punch after the final bell at his trash talking foe. The act led to his immediate release from the UFC and claims by Dana White that Daley would never fight in the UFC again.
Since the release, Daley has gone 4-0 including crushing KO's in his last two bouts against Scott Smith and Yuya Shirai. Now set to face Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley, Daley realizes that he's in a position of power. From MMA Fighting:
But the truth be told, when I am the Strikeforce champion, I'll have even more bargaining power, and it will be even more of a kick to the teeth of the guys that don't like me in the organization. To negotiate before the fight would show a lack of confidence in myself, and I'm very confident I'm going to beat Nick Diaz. Once a champion, I have more power to negotiate.
It's a reasonable position to take but one that may not matter if the negotiations don't extend past White saying "we don't want you." For his part, Daley is still trying to figure out exactly why the UFC boss has such a problem with him:
If Dana gives me an honest opinion -- aside from hitting Koscheck after the bell -- as to why he genuinely dislikes me, then at least I'd get some explanation. But there's too many incidents in the history of the UFC that prove it's more personal. Many of the UFC fighters have done a lot worse things to bring the company into disrepute, and they're still there.
The UFC has retained or signed fighters involved in high speed drunken chases with police, fighters involved in huge post-fight brawls and fighters with long histories of in-ring poor behavior including attacking referees. So it isn't hard to see why Daley feels that this is somehow a personal issue.
The only way to know if Daley will ever get another shot in the UFC is for him to defeat Diaz on April 9 and remove any chance for White to dismiss his credentials. This is a truth Daley seems to be fully aware of and one that he appears to have plenty of confidence will become a reality.
Aaron Rosa Not Impressed by Bobby Lashley, Wants UFC Shot
With four wins in a row, former Strikeforce fighter Aaron Rosa has put himself back in the heavyweight mix.
As he recently told MMAWeekly.com, the key to his resurgence since his loss to Rafael Feijao in November of 2009 is the fact that, “I didn’t let that fight against Feijao get me down.
“If you really want something, you’ve just got to keep going for it, no matter what. I really want this. I’ve got all my family supporting me and they keep pushing me forward.”
Wins over Robert Villegas and Jay Peche helped get Rosa back on track, but what really stood out to him was his three round war with Devin Cole in September.
“I thought it was my best fight to date,” he stated. “It really showed that I could push forward and keep going through adversity.
“He took me down, I fought off my back, I got back up and he hit me and I hit him. It not only showed that I had heart, but also the skill set to step up in competition.”
Rosa was able to carry over his momentum to last Friday’s Titan FC show, where he handily defeated former Ultimate Fighter cast member Abe Wagner via rear naked choke just under a minute into the second round.
“(He) came out aggressive and it kind of threw me off a little bit, but I regained composure,” said Rosa. “And after we had that first exchange, I came out on top and he was smiling, so that means I hit him hard and he knows what’s up and he just can’t run me over.
“I was surprised in the second round where he tried to come after me again, and what happened, happened.”
While Rosa is happy with the way he performed that night, he was not impressed with the evening’s headliner, Bobby Lashley, who survived severely gassing en route to a unanimous decision victory over John Ott.
“I don’t want to talk too much smack, but (the way he won) just looks bad,” commented Rosa.
“I watched the whole film of where he has his own training facility in Colorado at high altitude, and he has all these nice things like people giving him massages. You see what that dude’s got and he can’t last 15 minutes? That’s ridiculous.”
Since he’s currently working a job that routinely forces him to work 11 hours a day on top of his training routine, Rosa doesn’t like to look too far ahead of himself when it comes to the fight game, but he does have one wish he’d like to see come true.
“My main goal is that I want to fight for the UFC one day,” he admitted. “I just want one fight; just give me the opportunity to do it. I think I’ve proved myself over my career that I can compete.
“I just want one chance, and if you give me that chance, I’ll take it.”
Should Rosa continue his winning ways, there’s no reason why he could not receive his dream shot, and he promises if he gets it, he’ll make it work while to the fans that come out to support him.
“I want to thank God, my family, Richard Odoms, Pete Spratt, Rodrigo Pinheiro, Mike Rangel and all the people who have been driving me forward and helping me since I started fighting,” said Rosa in closing.
“To the fans, I promise you for sure I’m not going to get tired in my fights; I’m going to try to put people out one way or another. I know people pay money to watch what we do, so I’m going to do my best to give them the best show that they pay for.”
Mike Kyle Withdraws From Gegard Mousasi Fight
Mike Kyle has been forced to pull out of next week's fight against Gegard Mousasi due to a broken hand suffered in training, Strikeforce director of communications Mike Afromowitz confirmed with MMA Fighting.
Strikeforce is currently looking for a replacement to fight Mousasi, but the organization has yet to sign anyone as of Thursday afternoon.
The Kyle-Mousasi fight was scheduled to be a part of April 9's four-fight card, co-headlined by Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley and Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri.
M-1 Global Denies Fedor Emelianenko Cut From Strikeforce Contract
Earlier today a rumor spread through the MMA community that Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko had been cut from his Strikeforce contract. The move would have likely ended Emelianenko's career on the sport's largest stage.The Russian website LifeSports.ru reported the news this morning saying:
Business owners UFC and Strikeforce have refused to renew the contract with the world champion in MMA heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
Thursday's "Strikeforce Challengers 15: Wilcox vs. Damm" weigh-ins open to the public
Fans are invited to Thursday's free Strikeforce Challengers 15 fighter weigh-ins.
Doors open to the public at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT local time) at the Lexington Plaza Waterfront Hotel in Stockton, Calif.
The fighters step on the scale shortly after.
Thursday's weigh-ins precede Friday's nine-fight event at Stockton Arena. The main cards airs on Showtime and marks the promotion's first event since being purchased by the UFC's parent company.
A lightweight contest between Justin Wilcox (10-3 MMA, 4-1 SF) and Rodrigo Damm (9-4 MMA, 0-1 SF) headlines Strikeforce Challengers 15.
The full card includes:
•Justin Wilcox vs. Rodrigo Damm
•Lorenz Larkin vs. Scott Lighty
•David Douglas vs. Caros Fodor
•James Terry vs. Josh Thornburg
•Damian Douglas vs. Wayne Phillips
•Anthony Avila vs. Rafael Rios
•Bobby Escalante vs. Raul Sandoval
•Tristan Arenal vs. Tommy Peterson
•Adam Antolin vs. Ronald Carillo
For more on Strikeforce Challengers 15, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Strikeforce Challengers: Josh Thornburg Wants To Stay This Time
While Justin Wilcox and Rodrigo Damm may be headlining Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers 15 in Stockton, Calif., the fighter who may have the most to gain from the evening’s festivities is up-and-coming Cesar Gracie prospect Josh Thornburg.
A replacement for an injured Conor Huen, Thornburg is eager to return to Strikeforce after suffering the second loss of his career just a few weeks ago to Roger Bowling.
“After the (Bowling) fight I was pretty disappointed in my performance, so I just let (Strikeforce) know that I was looking to get back in there as soon as possible,” Thornburg told MMAWeekly.com. “And then when (Huen dropped out) I was one the first calls.
“For me, a fast turnaround isn’t a problem. I’ve fought back-to-back months a few times, so it doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s a little bit of an advantage to step back in right away. It cuts down on some of the anxiety and everything.”
Thornburg admits in his loss to Bowling, he wasn’t himself and made a series of mistakes he normally wouldn’t have.
“I think I was a little reserved,” he admitted. “Part of it, I feel, is a little bit nerves, but I guess I just didn’t fight well.
“When I was on my back, I didn’t attempt as many submissions as I normally do; I normally finish fights with submissions. I didn’t really try a lot besides the guillotine. I’m disappointed in that. I held my hands a little bit lower than I usually do in the stand-up and didn’t let my hands go a lot.”
Thornburg will get an opportunity to redeem himself against Cung Le student James Terry, who is coming off two straight victories over Team Cesar Gracie fighters.
“I’ve got to go out there and win because I don’t want to lose two fights in a row, that’s the biggest thing in my head,” said Thornburg. “If I beat him and avenge the loss of a couple of my teammates, that’s great too.”
When asked if he feels he has an advantage working with teammates who have faced Terry recently, Thornburg replied, “A little bit.
“I got to watch both fights he fought my teammates, he’s more of a pace fighter and doesn’t finish fights, so I’ve got a pretty good feel about what he’s going to do. I don’t sit back a lot, but I am composed. He likes to bounce in and out a lot and that’s going to play into my style.”
Having trained with top fighters such as the Diaz brothers, Gilbert Melendez, and Jake Shields, Thornburg feels he’s been pushed to become a better fighter, and it will show on Friday night.
“I think the biggest thing that’s come across to me has been the cardio these guys have,” he commented. “When I came down I thought I was in great shape, but Nick, Nate, and Jake, all these guys have great cardio.
“That’s really stuck out to me as far as that never quit attitude. I thought I had a never quit attitude, but you definitely learn.”
Having achieved his initial goal of fighting in a major promotion, Thornburg’s next step is establishing himself as someone to watch in Strikeforce.
“I want to thank Vexillum, Butcher Gear, Family Chevron, E Rod, and Cesar Gracie,” he closed out. “Everybody who wants to come out, come out, I know I’m going to put on a great fight.
“I want to establish myself as one of the better fighters. I’d like my name to be up there with (my teammates) one day.”
Satoshi Ishii’s Strikeforce Debut Postponed Due to Visa Problems
Though he was slated to face Scott Lighty in a featured light-heavyweight matchup at this Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers event at the Stockton Arena in Sad City, Olympic gold-medalist judoka Satoshi Ishii has been forced to withdraw from the fight. Strikeforce announced this morning that due to the recent natural disasters in Japan, Ishii was unable to acquire a visa permitting him to leave his homeland in time for the event. Stepping in for him will be Lorenz Larkin, an undefeated knockout-artist who is currently 9-0 as a pro, following a 7-0 amateur career.
The Stockton Challengers show — headlined by a lightweight meeting between Justin Wilcox and Rodrigo Damm — would have been Ishii’s first MMA appearance in the United States. After losing his MMA debut in a decision to Hidehiko Yoshida on New Year’s Eve 2009, Ishii went 4-0 in 2010, with notable victories over Ikuhisa Minowa and Jerome Le Banner. Maybe when his visa issues are sorted out, a judoka vs. judoka bout between Ishii and fellow Strikeforce light-heavyweight Rhadi Ferguson is in order.
Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight Champ Cris Cyborg in Contract Limbo
Strikeforce hasn’t announced when Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos will next defend her belt, and according to the dominant women’s middleweight champion, it’s not because she isn’t ready. It’s because she doesn’t have a contract.
Cyborg told Tatame recently that her contract ran out after her last fight with Jan Finney last June and she hasn’t spoken with Scott Coker and company about re-signing with the recently Zuffa-acquired promotion in the nine months since the bout.
“Currently I don’t have a contract signed, but on my former contract there was something saying that for a year I’m connected to the [promotion] but we might sign a new one. I believe the fact that the UFC bought Strikeforce is a good thing for women, because we have two years to do a good job and prove them our value — to prove it to Dana White,” she explains. “I’m not anxious and I’m not worried. I’m happy and I keep on training.”
Cyborg’s agent, Ken Pavia, says that the “one-year term” Santos is referring to is a standard champions clause Strikeforce adds to its contracts to ensure its belt holders don’t fly the coop after winning a title. Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields had a similar proviso on his expired deal with the San Jose organization, but was granted his full release by the promotion when the two sides realized they were unlikely to come to terms and that that Shields was willing to sit out the negotiation period so he could move on the the UFC. Although he says that there haven’t been any discussions about Santos’ future with the promotion, Pavia tells us that he’s confident that Cyborg will come to terms with Strikeforce in the coming weeks.
Cyborg isn’t the first female Strikeforce champion to have a contract expire. Former welterweight champ Sarah Kaufmann revealed prior to her July 2010 fight with Roxanne Modafferi that her contract expired after her win over Takayo Hashi five months earlier. Strikeforce director of communications, Mike Afromowitz told MMAFighting.com that by winning the title against Hashi, Kaufman was essentially locked into a deal via her contract’s champions clause.
Though she says she is letting Pavia and his MMAAgents team handle her contract negotiations, Santos points out that the key to securing a home for women’s MMA if and when Strikeforce’s anticipated merger with the UFC happens after its broadcasting deal with Showtime and current batch of fighter contracts expire in around 2013, will be to keep on putting on exciting fights, something she’s never had a problem doing.
“I believe we have to put on good shows. We need more women to come and fight. Our market is small when compared to men, but I believe we’ve been proving ourselves to be good at [fighting]. Lately Strikeforce has been supporting female MMA a lot,” Cyborg says. “My fight with Gina [Carano] was a good one, and there are lots of other good female fighters in MMA.
She also points to her former foe and ally, Carano as being a person who will play an important role in ensuring WMMA’s longevity.
“I believe it’s pretty important [for Gina to come back to the sport] because she’s always been there and people got to know it better because of her. There are many fans that enjoy watching her fighting and I believe that, for us to grow on the sport, we can’t think only about ourselves,” Santos says. “We have take one for the team. I cheer for her and for all women on the sport. I think we must get together and make the sport grow.”
9 Fights Signed for Strikeforce Challengers 15
Undefeated light heavyweight prospect Lorenz Larkin will make his promotional debut against Scott Lighty (Pictured) in a featured matchup at Strikeforce Challengers 15 on Friday at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. Nine fights have been signed for the event, which will air on Showtime.
A combined 15-0 as a professional and amateur, Larkin last appeared under the MEZ Sports banner in February, when he stopped Maximum Fighting Championship alum Mike Cook on second-round punches at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, Calif. The 24-year-old Californian has secured six of his eight professional victories by knockout or technical knockout, five of them inside one round.
The once-beaten Lighty has not fought since Fight Militia MMA “Fight for Wrestling 2” in August, when he knocked out Shawn Frye at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif. A John Hackleman protégé, the 32-year-old has trained extensively with UFC hall of famer Chuck Liddell. In seven professional appearances, Lighty has gone the distance just once.
A lightweight battle pairing American Kickboxing Academy representative Justin Wilcox with Sengoku Raiden Championship veteran Rodrigo Damm will headline Strikeforce Challengers 15, along with a showdown between Cesar Gracie disciple David Douglas and AMC Pankration prospect Caros Fodor.
Strikeforce Challengers 15
Friday, April 1
Justin Wilcox vs. Rodrigo Damm
David Douglas vs. Caros Fodor
Lorenz Larkin vs. Scott Lighty
James Terry vs. Josh Thornburg
Damian Douglas vs. Wayne Phillips
Rafael Rios vs. Anthony Avila
Robert Escalante vs. Raul Sandoval
Tristan Arenal vs. Tom Peterson
Adam Antolin vs. Ronald Carillo
Lorenz Larkin replaces Satoshi Ishii at Strikeforce Challengers 15
Unbeaten Lorenz Larkin (8-0 MMA, 0-0 SF) has replaced Satoshi Ishii (4-1 MMA, 0-0 SF) and now meets fellow light heavyweight Scott Lighty (6-1 MMA, 1-1 SF) at Friday's Strikeforce Challengers 15 event.
Following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in his native Japan, Ishii was unable to secure a visa to leave the country.
Strikeforce Challengers 15 takes place at Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. The night's main card airs on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET/PT.
Dream champ Takaya vs Peralta added to Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley
A bout between DREAM featherweight champ Hiroyuki Takaya (15-8-1 MMA, 0-0 SF) and Robert Peralta (13-3 MMA, 0-0 SF) has been added to the preliminary card of next month's "Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley" event.
MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) confirmed the matchup with Strikeforce spokesperson Mike Afromowitz. Sherdog.com first reported the fight.
"Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley" takes place April 9 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, and the main card airs live on Showtime. The event is headlined by a welterweight title fight between reigning champ Nick Diaz and Paul Daley.
Jesse Finney Talks About H.I.T Squad Purchase & The Gym’s Future
Jesse Finney Talks About H.I.T Squad Purchase & The Gym’s Future
MMA Access: Jesse Finney Talks About H.I.T Squad Purchase & The Gym’s Future
Great Audio Interview with Jesse Finney -
The Official Radio Partner of PunchDrunkGamer, Takedown Wrestling Media’s Scott Casber talked to Jesse Finney, owner of Finney’s MMA about his recent acquisition of Matt Hughes H.I.T. Squad gym in Granite City, Illinois.
Representatives from H.I.T. Squad, one of the most recognized and respected mixed martial arts training facilities in the industry, announced that they are under new ownership. The Granite City, Illinois MMA training facility is now officially known as "Finney's HIT Squad."
According to gym representatives, Jesse Finney now owns the facility. Finney also owns Finney's MMA; another St. Louis based mixed martial arts gym known for producing top-level contenders. As a result of the strategic change in ownership, the HIT Squad has emerged stronger than ever.
Jesse Finney had this to say, ""We are very excited about working with Matt Hughes, Marc Fiore, and Kyle Watson. The H.I.T. Squad (now Finney's HIT Squad) is already considered one of the top MMA gyms in the world. Our goal is to make it THE top MMA gym. We have already begun making improvements to both training facilities, improvements that will ultimately generate bigger and better opportunities for our fighters as we evolve."
A full size competition cage has been installed in Finney's HIT Squad facility as a result of the new ownership, and they have already begun implementing the Shamrock Fighter Development System (SDS). The system mirrors that of Major League Baseball, where players start out in a development league and work their way up based on their skills and performance.
Amateur fighters start out competing for credible local promotions such as Shamrock MMA. If you're a top-level professional fighter, Finney's has affiliations with nationally recognized promotions such as Shark Fights, Bellator, Strikeforce and the UFC.
Although ownership has changed hands, UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes will continue to train at the facility and the gyms well-established coaching staff will remain intact. According to H.I.T. Squad coach Marc Fiore, "I fully support the change in ownership and look forward to working with Finney and his team. This is a positive change that will generate new opportunities for the gym and make the HIT Squad brand even stronger. The new build out has added value to the facility and our stable of fighters has already increased from 40 to 80. We are all very excited about the direction the gym is going."
Finney's MMA and Finney's HIT Squad collectively offer one of the most comprehensive, well-rounded, training programs in the industry. Fighters at both amateur and professional levels have access to everything they need to advance their careers, from top-of-the-line equipment and unparalleled training, to housing and fight management. Both facilities offer on-site and off -site housing for members of the fight team, a highly sought after amenity that most MMA gyms do not offer. Fighters associated with the gyms also receive top-level representation through Elite MMA Management.
Both 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art facilities cater to professional fighters, as well as the general public. The superior instructors, all experts in their respective disciplines, teach men, women and children of all skill levels. The combined coaching staff has more name recognition and experience than any other team assembled in the Midwest. Classes are offered in boxing, kickboxing, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, wrestling, and sports conditioning. Whether a member joins to increase their fitness level, learn self-defense, or to hone their fighting skills, both Finney's MMA and Finney's HIT Squad offer superior instruction.