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Strike Force: Carano vs. Cyborg review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on December 26, 2009, 1:22 PM

Strike Force: Carano vs. Cyborg

San Jose, California

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock. They discuss the big Women’s fight between Carano and Cyborg, but also talk about Strike Force’s acquisition of Fedor Emelianenko which Mauro calls the biggest signing in Strike Force history. Well, duh. Though whether you can call it a “signing” when Strike Force have been forced to co-promote with the shady M-1 Global to get him I’m not really sure.

Heavyweight Fight: Fabricio Werdum vs Mike Kyle

This card was another of those ones that get hit horribly by injuries, as Werdum was originally meant to be challenging for Alistair Overeem’s Heavyweight Title here, but Overeem injured his hand in a barroom brawl and so Mike Kyle stepped in to take his place. Werdum weighed in here at 228lbs – a far cry from the flabby 256lbs he’d come into his last UFC fight at – and with him being back in proper shape I couldn’t see any way Kyle could beat him.

Interesting side note – PRIDE legend Yuji Shimada is referee here, first time I’ve seen him referee in the US! Good move for Strike Force though because he’s a very good ref.

Round One begins and both men surprisingly come out swinging, but neither really lands. Good leg kick from Kyle and then he catches one from Werdum and backs him up but can’t capitalize. Takedown attempt from Werdum and he gets it, landing some hammer fists as Kyle looks to secure guard. Unbelievably Kyle throws up an armbar attempt from his back and almost gets it, which would be an insane upset, but Werdum slips free and takes top position in side mount. Scramble from Kyle and he escapes to his feet, but Werdum grabs an arm-in guillotine on the way up and pulls guard, and after a bit of a struggle Kyle taps out.

Decent short fight actually as Kyle knew he had nothing to lose and really came out gunning for Werdum, but in the end Fabricio was able to catch him as expected and get the submission. See what happens if the guy gets into shape? This was by far Werdum’s most impressive showing since beating Gabriel Gonzaga in January ’08. Werdum’s a little frustrating to me because he has this tendency to try to bulk up and put on unnecessary mass when it’s clear his optimum weight is around 230lbs, but if he stays around that weight then I think he’s a match for anyone in Strike Force’s HW division and that includes Fedor.

-We get a backstage interview with Jen Brown who is with Gina Carano. Gina says she’s going to stick to the gameplan and keep a cool head in the cage. Randy Couture joins her and explains that she has to forget about being the “face of women’s MMA” and everything and just concentrate on what’s going on in the fight. Smart man.

Strike Force Interim Lightweight Title: Gilbert Melendez vs Mitsuhiro Ishida

Like the previous fight, this was affected by injury as Melendez was supposed to fight Josh Thomson (again) to unify the Lightweight titles, but The Punk’s leg was still playing up and so Strike Force brought in Ishida, who’d handed Melendez his first career loss in 2007, in to face him instead. I was surprised that Ishida ever beat Gilbert in the first place to be honest and fully expected Melendez to avenge that loss here.

We get underway and they circle before Ishida shoots and Melendez sprawls to avoid it. High kick from Ishida is blocked and then they clash legs on low kicks before Gilbert clips him with a right hand. Crowd begin to get restless as Ishida has another takedown blocked and this time Melendez lands with a knee. Ishida continues to circle on the outside and then he walks right into a pair of hard rights from El Nino. Flurry from Melendez puts Ishida firmly on his back foot. Counter right hand from Gilbert narrowly misses. Gilbert is fighting such a smart fight here. Left hook backs Ishida up badly. Ishida looks in trouble I think. He continues to circle on the outside and then he shoots on a single leg, but Melendez shows some tremendous wrestling to avoid it before Ishida manages to get him seated. Melendez scrambles to his feet and gives his back in the process, but he’s able to turn into the Japanese fighter and gets a takedown of his own, pinning Ishida into the fence. Ishida holds a front headlock and looks to get to his feet, as Gus Johnson cracks me up by saying Ishida is “good at wasting time”. Crowd begin to get restless as the round peters out on the fence. 10-9 Melendez.

Second round and again Melendez takes the center of the cage as Ishida circles around on the outside. Good right hand counter from Melendez again as Ishida steps in. Left jab snaps Ishida’s head back. Takedown attempt from Ishida but Melendez stuffs it and immediately gets to his feet, forcing Ishida into the cage. Knees to the legs from El Nino and then he breaks with an elbow and sprawls to avoid a takedown. They circle out and Melendez works the left jab some more, keeping Ishida at a distance, and the Japanese fighter misses a looping left and gets wobbled by a right hand. Melendez closes in and flurries on him before stuffing another takedown, landing punches to the head with Ishida stuck in a crouched position. Double leg from Gilbert puts Ishida on his back now and it looks like he’s bleeding badly from one of his ears. Ishida works to get back to his feet, but takes a couple of knees to the midsection. Good uppercuts from Melendez but Ishida works back to his feet. Flurry from Melendez hurts Ishida as he desperately tries to fire back, and then they break off. Body kick from Ishida but he slips to his back, and as Gilbert pounces the round ends. Man, that round was all Gilbert Melendez.

Round Three now and Gilbert again takes the center of the cage, landing a leg kick as Ishida circles around. They trade some punches and Ishida’s striking looks really stiff. Jabs connect for Melendez but Ishida’s not really looking for the takedown as much now and Gilbert isn’t able to counter off that. Finally though he shoots in and Gilbert stuffs it and then follows with an uppercut that backs the Japanese fighter into the cage. Pair of big uppercuts drop Ishida and Melendez pounces and lands punches on the ground as Ishida tries to cover up. Ishida ends up pinned against the fence and eats another knee, then gets to full guard. Flurry of punches lands for Gilbert as Ishida tries to tie him up. Gilbert now works to take his back and gets both hooks in, and then he decides to give up the rear naked choke and just punch away, and the ref ends up calling it there as Ishida stops defending.

Great showing for Gilbert Melendez who showed how much he’s evolved since the first fight – where he used to come out like an angry hurricane before, which allowed Ishida to take him down at will, here he was much more controlled with his aggression and Ishida never came close to getting him down and just got taken apart throughout the fight. Really if Ishida can’t get you down he’s got little else going for him and the moment Melendez stuffed the takedown early it was all downhill for him. El Nino looked tremendous here in avenging the first loss of his career. Entertaining fight too, as per usual when Ishida loses if I’m completely frank.

-Jen Brown joins Cyborg backstage who says she’s been working for a long time for this fight and is ready. Apparently she’s fought five five-minute rounds in Brazil before, which is interesting. I was actually surprised they went for 5 x 5 for this fight given that the women’s fights were always 3 x 3. I expected five three-minute rounds to be honest.

Strike Force Light-Heavyweight Title: Gegard Mousasi vs Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral

This one had originally been set for the aborted Affliction: Trilogy show, but when the clothing company went under, it got moved to here despite the majority of Affliction’s fighters being UFC-bound. Babalu was already contracted to Strike Force though while Mousasi had a joint contract with DREAM so it’s not all that surprising. At any rate this was a fantastic fight on paper, the first test for Mousasi at his new weight of 205lbs after doing exceptionally well at 185lbs, cementing himself as the top fighter outside of the UFC at that weight class. With Babalu having been on a great run himself, beating the likes of Bobby Southworth, Mike Whitehead and Sokoudjou since leaving the UFC under a black cloud, this was a hard fight to pick.

Just a side note, but out of all the nicknames Mousasi’s been given in his career, ‘The Dreamcatcher’ has to be the worst. I liked ‘Soldier of Fortune’ myself!

First round begins and they exchange leg kicks. Mousasi is looking mad relaxed here. Body kick from Mousasi and Babalu catches the leg and looks to bring him down. Mousasi defends and they clinch before he takes Babalu down with a throw and works quickly into side mount. Babalu tries to kick him away and scramble out, but Mousasi stands over him and drops some BOMBS and KNOCKS BABALU SILLY!~!

Scary stuff. Mousasi is a STONE COLD KILLER and he is clearly the real deal at 205lbs, just as he was at 185lbs. It’s a pity he’s in Strike Force to be honest with the UFC having such a lockdown on talent at Light-Heavyweight, but hopefully that’s a move he can make in the future once his contract is up. Unbelievable showing to just blow Babalu out of the water like that as it’s not like Babalu is a tomato can or anything – he’s a perennial top ten/fifteen guy at 205lbs and he got absolutely tooled. This was an incredibly impressive US debut for the Armenian and he’s definitely going to become a big star if he carries on like that. Sick knockout too as Babalu clearly didn’t have a clue where he was afterwards.

-Mauro Renallo interviews Jake Shields and they discuss his move to 185lbs, before boxer Andre Ward joins us to discuss his own move up in weight to take on Mikel Kessler as part of the Super Six tournament, which in my opinion is the best thing to happen in boxing in years.

Strike Force Women’s Title: Cristiane Cyborg vs Gina Carano

Well, I’m not a fan of Women’s MMA by any means but there’s no denying that this was a pretty big fight to say the least, garnering a ton of media attention mainly because Carano has the model look and a ton of charisma. Cyborg is pretty much the opposite of Gina when it comes to looks and personality, as she looks like a monster and doesn’t speak English, but she’d taken off as somewhat of a star too mainly because she’d killed everyone put in front of her dead and fans of combat sports will always get behind someone like that eventually. Kudos to Strike Force for putting this fight together so quickly too and not trying to “build” to it, risking either woman losing. Thankfully both women made the 145lbs weight too, after having problems with that in the past.

Massive pop for Carano’s entrance, no surprise there, but surprisingly little heat for Cyborg. I expected her to get booed out of the building if I’m honest. Cannot believe she’s only 24, too. She looks at least ten years older than that.

We get underway and Cyborg unloads with a flurry right away and forces Gina into the cage. Takedown by Cyborg but Carano reverses on top and lands some punches as Cyborg rolls for a leglock. Crowd heat is INSANE now. Toehold attempt from Cyborg but Carano rolls, and now the Brazilian goes for a heel hook. Gina works free but Cyborg takes the back and begins to land punches, preventing Gina from getting to her feet. Carano scrambles up and they trade BIG SHOTS, but Cyborg gets the better of it and forces Gina to cover up to survive. Cyborg tries a throw, but botches it and now Carano gets on top in mount and lands some shots before choosing to stand. Cyborg joins her and now they trade into another clinch along the cage. Credit to these two, this has been awesome so far. Elbow from Gina to break and now she begins to back Cyborg up with a few punches. Cyborg lands a right and then begins to push forward again, catching a leg into the clinch. Rear waistlock from Cyborg and Gina goes down off a knee before popping back up. Front kick from Gina and then they trade again before Gina lands a superman, er, superwoman punch. Ha. Cyborg pushes forward and swings into a clinch where she takes Gina down, and this time Carano ends up turtled before working back to her feet. This is a terrifying pace for a five-rounder. Cyborg continues to push the action and flurries into a clinch again, where Gina lands with an elbow. Crowd boo as Cyborg appears to gouge the eyes, and then she gets a takedown to half-guard. Keylock attempt from Cyborg but Gina manages to work her arm free, popping the crowd hugely. Seconds remaining and Cyborg begins to land some HUGE SHOTS, just DESTROYING Gina, and the buzzer sounds to end the round...but on the buzzer it turns out that referee Josh Rosenthal’s stopped the fight, declaring Cyborg the winner by TKO.

Announcers seem confused as Cyborg celebrates, but Gina is still down and sure enough the fight’s been waved off. Replay shows it was a fair decision too as Gina wasn’t defending at all and was taking a horrible beating at the end of the round. Crazy fight and there’s just no way they could’ve kept that pace for twenty-five minutes, but Cyborg’s power ended up being way too much for Carano to handle and that proved to be the difference.

Credit to them, the fight was excellent and all, but what this means for Women’s MMA I don’t know. I mean let’s be fair now, Gina Carano took off as a crossover star due to her looks and charisma rather than her fighting skill, and regardless of Cyborg getting over with the fans as a killer, I don’t think she’s nearly the same level of star as Gina. And while there are other very attractive female fighters who are talented too (Erin Toughill comes to mind!), whether they have the charisma to carry the division is unknown at this point. Personally I don’t see Women’s fighting ever taking off properly now that Gina’s lost like this, but I guess I’ve been wrong before so hey. Hell of a main event, at any rate!

-Announcers wrap up the night’s action and we end there.

Final Thoughts....

Honestly my only criticism of this show would be that they had enough time to show way more than just four fights, but I guess that’s not really fair as they had two possible twenty-five minute ones on the card and probably didn’t dare risk a botch in the timing or anything like that. Outside of that this was tremendous stuff, from the mega-heated and exciting main event, to Melendez avenging his first loss, to Mousasi making a massive impact with a sick knockout in his US debut. I’ve got Werdum-Kyle as the worst fight but it was in no way a bad one, just the least-great out of four very good fights, and that tells you a lot I think. Not the best show of the year purely because it was only four fights, but it’s definitely worth a look. Strike Force promised a strong show here with so many people watching for the main event, and they completely delivered.

Best Fight: Carano-Cyborg
Worst Fight: Werdum-Kyle

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 101-107, Fight Night 19
WEC: 45
Strike Force: Fedor vs. Rogers and Evolution
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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