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Strike Force: Heavy Artillery review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on May 19, 2010, 6:04 AM

Strike Force: Heavy Artillery

St. Louis, Missouri

-First off, much better show subtitle, kudos Strike Force! Even if they could’ve gotten away with ‘Overeem vs. Rogers’ here, ‘Heavy Artillery’ is better than ‘Strike Force: St. Louis’ would’ve been.

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock. More on these three stooges in a bit.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Rafael Feijao vs Antwain Britt

When they first announced this was on the televised Showtime card with a Lightweight fight between Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro and prospect Lyle Beerbohm on the untelevised prelims, I was initially fuming, but in retrospect this was actually a smart move for them. Sure, I don’t think either guy is a great fighter (Britt didn’t make it on TUF and recently lost to Rodney Wallace; Feijao was KOd by Mike Kyle) but with such a thin talent base at 205lbs Strike Force need to build some sort of contender for King Mo and if these guys are the best they have then so be it. At least when Mo fights one of them the fans will know who they are.

First round begins and they circle before Britt follows a jab with a short flurry and a clinch, forcing Feijao into the cage. Feijao quickly reverses position and they muscle along the fence. Good knees to the body from Feijao but he slips to his back before popping back up as Britt backs up. Right hook misses for the Brazilian and Britt fires back with a couple of wild hooks that Feijao deflects with his arms. Couple of good combinations land for Britt. Into the clinch again and Britt looks to muscle him into the cage. They muscle for position inside before Britt works a couple of hard uppercuts and short hooks that wobble Feijao on the way out. Stiff jab lands for Britt and he follows with a combo, but Feijao answers with a good knee from the plum clinch. Back into the clinch now as they exchange position, but the action slows and the referee calls a clean break. Feijao comes forward from the restart with a big right hook that stuns Britt, sending him staggering backwards, and a big follow-up combo from the Brazilian has him OUT COLD. Nasty finish there.

Replay shows the overhand right hook did the initial damage, but it was a short right from close range that turned the lights out proper. Decent little fight actually. I doubt Feijao has anything for King Mo but Strike Force could do a lot worse as the next title challenger.

-They air a pre-taped interview with Mauro Renallo and Brett Rogers, and boy am I sick of hearing about Rogers working at Sam’s Club or whatever it is. Plenty of fighters did shitty jobs prior to MMA, what makes Rogers so special? Anyway, he pretty much accuses Overeem of ducking him. Maybe not the smartest idea to get Alistair mad.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Roger Gracie vs Kevin Randleman

Grappling phenom and Abu Dhabi legend Roger had debuted in MMA about three years prior to this with a win over Ron Waterman, but had only put together one fight since then, against a hugely undersized Yuki Kondo. Still, when he’d signed with Strike Force in December it was pretty big news as, well, any Gracie coming into MMA always is. With his unbelievable grappling background (even for a Gracie!) the hype on Roger was pretty big although the usual questions (Takedowns? Striking? Chin? Gas tank?) surrounded him too. I thought Randleman was a smart first opponent for him as while his wrestling is great, KO of Cro Cop aside he’s not the greatest striker and he’s about ten years past his prime now. With rumors of another horrid staph infection coming into the fight too, I figured Gracie would somehow get the fight to the ground and submit the former UFC champion.

Size difference is so odd here as Randleman is short, squat and powerful while Roger is really tall and lanky with a nondescript physique, similar to Royce or fellow BJJ legend Pe De Pano in a lot of respects.

We begin and Roger throws out some jabs from distance as Randleman just bounces around looking to counter. Lunging left hook misses for Randleman but Gracie leans back to get out of the way rather than using side-to-side movement which is worrying. Crowd are beginning to get restless as neither man has landed yet. Jumping knee attempt misses for Gracie. Roger continues to work the jab, but not to really devastating effect or anything. Low kick from Randleman. Short right hand lands for Roger but with no damage. Crowd beginning to boo now. Roger manages to get a clinch and looks to move him into the fence, then grabs a guillotine as Randleman drops his head. It doesn’t look sunk in or anything though and they remain standing. Randleman works his head free and they remain clinched, and then Roger gets the guillotine for a second time and almost uses it to spin and take the back. Good explosion allows Randleman to escape to his feet though. More action in those thirty seconds or so than in the whole round thus far. Round peters out on the feet. 10-10 because neither man did much at all – that was one of the worst rounds I’ve seen recently.

Round Two and Roger looks to work the jab again, but Randleman lands with a combination to the body. Roger looks to close the distance but Randleman gets out of the way, and he seems to be more aggressive in this round. They clinch up and Randleman muscles Gracie into the fence, and this time it looks like Randleman’s going for a takedown. Surprisingly Roger works to defend it – I expected him to just pull guard – and keeps himself standing before breaking out and landing with a couple of knees from the plum clinch, one of which drops Randleman! Whoa. Roger immediately pounces on the stunned Monster and gets full mount, where he lands some punches as Randleman scrambles. Randleman spins to try a single leg, but Roger pivots around with him and gets full mount again. He immediately sets up an arm triangle, but Randleman explodes out only for Roger to take his back with ease. This guy is sick on the ground. Both hooks in and Roger flattens Randleman out, looking for the rear naked choke. Roger has a body triangle now and Randleman desperately works to defend the choke.

And suddenly Mauro comes out with the most retarded line I’ve heard from an MMA announcer in a long time, questioning whether Gracie can actually choke Randleman out without his gi. Umm, does the guy not realize Roger is like a god in Abu Dhabi which is all no-gi grappling? Again, more on the announcing later. Randleman continues to attempt to defend, but eventually Roger locks up a horribly tight choke to force the tapout, but Randleman passes out as the ref steps in, giving us a sick visual as the former UFC champ looks dead or something.

First round of this was atrocious but the second was pretty good as Roger somehow dropped Randleman before tooling him on the ground as I expected him to. Roger’s striking is crude, although I’d say it’s better than say, Pe De Pano’s when he first came into MMA or Roger’s cousin Rolles Gracie, but if he can work on it to the point where it’s merely decent, then he could definitely do some damage in MMA as his grappling game is so good, and we’ve seen a similar fighter (Demian Maia) do very well with the same skills. As for Randleman I think he’s done now at the age of 38 and probably ought to hang it up while he’s not punch-drunk or anything.

-Mauro talks to Alistair Overeem about his layoff, with Overeem explaining that Strike Force allowed him to compete in Japan because they had no top opponents for him, but when Affliction and Elite XC went under they could bring in more guys and so he’s back. He says Rogers is a big, strong guy, but he lacks experience and so he’s confident. You forget how well-spoken Alistair is I think. His prediction is a KO in the first.

Middleweight Fight: Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs Joey Villasenor

Jacare had looked fantastic in his Strike Force debut in December, beating longtime contender Matt Lindland with ease, and on paper, to me at least this seemed to be a gimme for him - almost a placeholder fight while Strike Force sort out the Middleweight Title situation with champ Jake Shields likely UFC-bound now. No offense to Villasenor of course, who is a tough guy, but I didn’t think he had much of a striking advantage over Jacare based on the Brazilian’s showing against Lindland, and on the ground it’s no comparison really. The question to me was whether Joey could avoid being tapped out, as the only man to ever have done that was the great David Terrell (!~!) waaay back in 2000.

Fight begins and they press forward before Jacare shoots for a takedown. Villasenor sprawls to avoid, but Jacare forces him into the fence in a clinch before Joey muscles out. Jacare really pushes forward now and gets a beautiful charging takedown to half-guard. Couple of short right hands land for the Brazilian as he works to pass the guard, and then he slips into full mount. Jacare rains down punches and keeps Villasenor firmly under control, but Villasenor turns, gives his back and nicely escapes out the back door. Jacare gets right back on him with a flurry, closing the distance again, where he lands knees to the body. Jacare drops for another takedown but Joey manages to stuff it well. Good knees to the body from Jacare though, and then he manages to drag Villasenor down and goes into the guard. Big punches land for Jacare and Villasenor looks in trouble. Jacare passes into half-guard but Villasenor escapes to his feet. Good combo from Jacare as he stands though and he follows with a big slam and passes instantly to half-guard. Kimura attempt from the Brazilian ala Matt Hughes, and then he turns it into a straight armbar, but Joey wriggles free and then tries an upkick as Souza stands over him, popping up to his feet to end the round. Jacare was all over him in that round and wins it 10-9, but he pushed a tremendous pace.

Second round and Joey pushes forward, but walks into a good straight right from Jacare. Villasenor walks him down, but Jacare shoots in and hits another double leg to guard. Jacare’s takedowns are tremendous for a guy who isn’t a wrestler. He passes to half-guard right away and again begins to work on the far arm. Scramble from Villasenor allows him to explode to his feet though, but again Jacare shoots in and drives him into the cage with a single leg. Villasenor tries to land some punches to block, but Jacare drags him down again and ends up in the full guard. He passes into half-guard again and looks to work through that, but once more Villasenor shows how slippery he is and scrambles to his feet. Knee lands for Jacare on the way out though. Villasenor pushes forward with some punches now as Jacare looks a little tired, but he doesn’t land anything significant and Jacare counters with a short left hook and a right hand. Another takedown follows, really wild shot from the outside, but it still puts Villasenor on his back again in full guard. Jacare lands with some ground-and-pound as Villasenor uses a butterfly guard, then pushes off and escapes to his feet. Good left hook from Jacare to counter a low kick and then he hits another double leg. Villasenor manages to sprawl somewhat, but ends up on his knees as the round ends. 10-9 for Jacare again, despite the announcers claiming it was a better round for Villasenor.

Third and final round and Villasenor pushes forward swinging, but even when he lands Jacare is countering pretty nicely. Frank Shamrock claims a right hand hurt Jacare but he looks fine to me. Joey continues to push forward but eats a one-two. Takedown attempt from Jacare but this time Villasenor does a tremendous job of defending it and escapes out. Villasenor really pushes forward now and lands a straight right, and then he escapes another takedown nicely. Pair of right hands land for Jacare and a takedown follows, dumping Joey into half-guard. It looks like he’s working for an arm triangle, but he’s still in half-guard and he decides to give itu p to attempt to pass, smothering Joey with his hand in the process. The announcers’ pimping of Villasenor is becoming frustrating now as Jacare has dominated this fight from the beginning. Short punches land for the Brazilian but the action has definitely slowed down a bit. Ref calls a stand-up with less than a minute to go, and Joey pushes forward with some strikes but gets caught on a flying knee attempt and quickly taken to the ground. Jacare gets to half-guard and the round ends there. Don’t see how you could score this any other way than 30-27 for Jacare.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 for Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in what was a pretty clear-cut decision in the end, but if you’d have listened to the announcers then you’d have thought this was one of the closest decisions you’ll see. I mean sure, Villasenor did a good job defensively and it’s obvious why nobody but David Terrell’s been able to tap him, but he was on the defensive from start to finish and even standing, Jacare landed just as good shots as he did. I just don’t get why a guy like Frank Shamrock would say the fight was Villasenor’s for the taking in the third round when he was so far behind at that stage. It’s ludicrous. Jacare fought well here and it was a fun fight, but I think he pushed the pace slightly too much in the first round and definitely tired himself out, and that, coupled with the fact that Villasenor proved very slippery, meant the fight was bound to go the distance in the end.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Antonio Silva

There didn’t seem to be much hype on this one coming in but to me it was a fantastic fight on paper, one of the best HW matches put together outside the UFC in years in fact. Sure, Arlovski hadn’t fought in almost a year after suffering a nasty KO at the hands of Brett Rogers, but with his skills he’s still dangerous to anyone, while ‘Bigfoot’ Silva is a guy I’ve had pegged as a possible top ten contender for years now and he’s finally fighting the top guys (or thereabouts) to be able to prove that. Smart gameplan for Arlovski seemed to be to use his speed and boxing to pick apart Silva standing, while I thought Bigfoot would be best to look for the takedown and ground-and-pound, although with his dodgy chin, a knockout over Arlovski was not out of the question either. I ended up picking Bigfoot in a difficult one to call.

Fun fact – the ring announcer calls Silva the “former Heavyweight champion” and I was thinking for a second that he was just making that up. I totally forgot that Bigfoot was actually the Elite XC HW champ before they went under. Just goes to show what an awful job they did promoting their legit fighters, doesn’t it?

Round One gets underway and they circle early and exchange a couple of leg kicks. Pair of solid right hands get through for Silva as they look to trade some punches. They continue to circle but neither man’s landed anything major yet. Good right hand into a left hook lands for Bigfoot and Andrei backs up but looks recovered quickly. Nice counter right hand into a combo from Silva. Big right hand lands flush for Bigfoot and he follows with a left, snapping Arlovski’s head back, but the Belarusian looks okay, he did well to take those shots actually. Bigfoot surprisingly closes the distance now and forces Andrei into the cage, before breaking with a one-two. More punches from Silva into another clinch and this time he drops for a single leg and trips Arlovski down. Bigfoot stands over him and then drops into the guard with a right hand, before Arlovski looks to use the cage to escape to his feet. Crowd get restless as nothing happens before the round ends with Arlovski escaping to his feet. Pretty clear cut round for Antonio Silva there.

Second round and Bigfoot counters a combination early with a straight right. Leg kick lands for Bigfoot and he’s landing the better strikes here easily. Nice stiff jab from Bigfoot and he lands another counter right hand. Big right hook to the body follows with a one-two forces Andrei back into the cage, and Silva follows by looking for the takedown again. This might be the best I’ve seen Silva fight against a top level opponent. They muscle along the fence with Arlovski reversing position, and the ref decides to separate them. Takedown attempt from Silva but Andrei stuffs it well, and they wind up right back in the clinch. Arlovski blocks a leg trip as they muscle in the clinch with short strikes, but Big John’s seen enough and calls the break again. Silva pushes forward with a body kick and then blocks one from Arlovski. Combo misses for both men. Silva lands a jab and then closes the distance into the clinch again, where he lands a knee to the body to break momentarily before clinching again. They break off and Arlovski lands a leg kick, but Silva grabs hold of him once more and the round ends in the clinch. Closer round but I’m going with Silva again and this fight is rapidly slipping away from Arlovski.

Round Three and Silva opens with a leg kick as Andrei circles and looks to land combos. Silva continues to counter well though and catches him coming in. Leg kick from Silva allows him to close the distance with a right hand into the clinch. Silva works the body from close range before McCarthy breaks them up. Combo from Andrei misses and Silva lands a right hand counter again. Pair of rights from Silva back Arlovski up into the fence again, but he switches position and forces Bigfoot into the cage. They muscle for position in the clinch but again the ref calls the break. Andrei just can’t seem to get anything going here and Silva quickly closes the distance again and forces him back. This time he drops for a double leg and puts Arlovski on his back in guard. Silva doesn’t do much damage for a while before standing to land some clean shots, and then Andrei manages to work to his feet using the fence. Silva begins to taunt Arlovski as they break off and that’s the fight. I have this 30-27 for Antonio Silva.

We’re going to the scorecards and it’s a unanimous decision for Antonio Silva, 29-28 all around. While this wasn’t the most exciting fight ever it was a very good win for Bigfoot, who looked sharper striking than I’d seen him before and pretty much beat Arlovski in all areas of the fight. To me Bigfoot was just better at countering and when Arlovski wasn’t missing with combos he was being bullied around the cage by the bigger man. Look forward to see who they’ll match Silva up with next as I think he’s a genuine top ten guy at this stage. As for Arlovski, while he avoided being knocked out early here, he didn’t look anywhere close to his best, unable to land anything significant of note and to me he lacked aggression, too. I think he’s most likely done as a top-level guy for the time being, and Strike Force either need to feed him some real low-level guys to try to get his mojo back, or cut him loose as I don’t think he matches up with the top fighters at the minute.

Strike Force World Heavyweight Title: Alistair Overeem vs Brett Rogers

Wow, talk about a long time coming. For those totally out of the loop, Overeem won the Strike Force HW Title back in 2007 by beating Paul Buentello, but that was back when SF was more of a regional organization as opposed to the #2 in the US that it is now, and he’d ended up signing with FEG in Japan and hadn’t been back to defend since. Of course, since then he’d also piled on about 30lbs or so of muscle, and many people were questioning whether he was avoiding fighting in the US due to their steroid testing. Not to get into that whole issue though (Alistair’s never tested positive before and I’m not going to call him a juicehead until he does) this was actually his first fight against a top opponent in some time, as he’d been feasting on tomato cans like James Thompson and Tony Sylvester for the last couple of years. Rogers had broken into the upper echelon of the division with his win over Andrei Arlovski, and had put up a decent fight against Fedor Emelianenko before being knocked out in the second round (again, I won’t touch on the issues of why this wasn’t Fedor-Overeem for the title...) and thus in terms of rankings alone this was an important fight.

Personally though I’ve never been that enamoured with Rogers – his knockout of Arlovski was cool, but it was more a flash KO ala Sokoudjou on Arona or Nogueira than a proper dominant win, and I think he’s carrying way too much weight on his frame – dropping to about 240lbs in my opinion would stop him from gassing out like he tends to. With that in mind and Overeem’s impressive skill set – genuine K-1 level striking, a good enough grappling game to qualify for Abu Dhabi and ridiculous strength – I thought Alistair would probably end this quickly either by KO or with his deadly standing guillotine.

Weight difference isn’t apparent in any way here; Rogers coming in at 264lbs while Overeem’s about 10lbs lighter, but he makes up for that by well, being UBEREEM with ridiculous muscle while Rogers still looks horribly out of shape.

Fight begins and Overeem walks him down right away, shaking off an early clinch. Leg kick lands for Overeem as Rogers looks tentative. Another couple of kicks land for the champion. Rogers tries a combo but Alistair avoids it. Rogers pushes forward and looks to clinch...but Overeem just THROWS HIM DOWN LIKE A CHILD. Good lord. Rogers ends up on his back, and Overeem stands above him and drops some punches down into the guard, forcing Brett to cover up. He drops down into side mount and forces his forearm into the face of the challenger, as Mauro mentions that Overeem turns 30 two days after the show. Man, insane that he’s only that old. Big knee to the body from Overeem. Rogers looks lost on his back as Overeem lands some elbows to the body. Rogers looks to scramble, but leaves his head out and Alistair almost gets his vaunted guillotine locked in before choosing to just stand over him and land some more punches. Rogers tries to use the fence to escape, but Overeem drops down into side mount again and from there he OPENS UP with some PUNISHING SHOTS and Rogers is unable to defend himself at all, causing Big John McCarthy to stop things there. Wow.

Post-fight Overeem calls out Fedor, and man, after Fedor dispatches of Werdum in June then that’s the best HW fight outside of the UFC and I really hope the goons at M-1 can work with Strike Force to put it together.

Fight was a total squash and while it was unsurprising in a way – Rogers’ whole reputation was built on a flash knockout of Arlovski and the little success he had against Fedor came from his massive size advantage – you have to be impressed by Overeem who treated a giant man like he was a small child and beat him mercilessly. People talk trash on Overeem with the steroid accusations and stuff but you can’t deny that he’s developed into a tremendous fighter who is likely in the prime of his career just about now. I wish he were in the UFC, but outside of there then he’s the best challenger to Fedor for sure.

-Announcers wrap up the action and we end with a highlight of each fight.

-To go on a tangent now it must be said that the announce team for Strike Force has become genuinely awful. They were atrocious for the whole show here, particularly in Villasenor-Jacare, where they continually suggested Villasenor could be winning a fight he was losing handily, and Gracie-Randleman with Mauro’s idiocy. Basically Johnson is just ignorant of MMA in general and doesn’t have the knowledge to carry the play-by-play, Shamrock seems more intent on putting himself and his various grudges over than actually calling the action and Mauro not only sounds like a third wheel as Johnson’s the play-by-play guy, but he’s worse than he ever was in PRIDE, spewing clichés and nonsense throughout the broadcast. If they want to get bigger then this is an area Scott Coker and the guys need to sort ASAP.

Final Thoughts....

On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed this show and we didn’t get any outright horrible fights aside from the first round of Gracie-Randleman. On the other hand, Overeem’s stunning performance aside, nothing is really memorable – Bigfoot got his biggest career win but it was in dull fashion, the best finish came in a fight between two guys who probably won’t impact the upper echelons any time soon, and we got nothing that you could call a great fight. Better than the last Strike Force effort, but that wasn’t hard really! Not a bad show, but it’s only a thumbs in the middle, leaning up from me.

Best Fight: Jacare-Villasenor
Worst Fight: Silva-Arlovski

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 110-113, Fight Night 21, Versus 1
WEC: 48
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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