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Strike Force: Los Angeles review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 23, 2010, 5:04 AM

Strike Force: Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

-Alright, so Iím about as hardcore an MMA fan as you can get these days. Iíve seen every UFC show, every PRIDE show, I download obscure Japanese and Brazilian stuff, and I could easily tell you when the next Bellator or Sengoku show is. Somehow though, this one Ė and remember Strike Force is practically the second-biggest promotion in the world right now Ė completely passed me by until like a day before it happened. Shows how bad the publicity was. The card was supposedly put together to coincide with the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo, but honestly it was the weakest promoted card I can recall in, well, ever pretty much.

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo, Pat Miletich and Stephen Quadros. Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduces Mauro in a bit of a unique opening and then Mauro introduces the other two, but rather than sitting at a cageside desk, they seem to be behind a mini-cage thing thatís not right outside the fighting area. Weird, but hey, Miletich and Quadros are at least a billion times better than Frank Shamrock and the worst commentator in MMA right now, Gus Johnson.

Catchweight (160lbs) Fight: Conor Heun vs KJ Noons

Heunís last Strike Force appearance had been an exciting loss to Jorge Gurgel in 2009, while this was actually Noonsí first fight back in the US since his Elite XC days two years beforehand. Not that heíd really been active abroad or anything either outside of one fight in DREAM earlier in 2010. Not sure about the reason for the catchweight either although Noons fought at 160lbs in EXC so maybe he canít make 155lbs. I take that last line back, looking at Noons here. He looks in horrible shape for 160lbs and could easily make 155lbs, I think. Must be noted again, Strike Forceís generic entrance music for every fighter SUCKS. Am I in the wrong thinking it canít possibly cost that much to get the licensing to use real entrance themes? UFC do it even if they overdub them on the DVD releases.

First round begins and Heun literally comes charging out, causing KJ to quickly get on his bike. Takedown attempt from Heun is stuffed, but he lands a knee on the way out. Overhand right misses for Heun. Good jab from Noons. Heun answers by rushing in with a glancing head kick. Uppercut and left hand land for Heun. Heís doing well standing so far. Few strikes miss for both guys before Heun lands a body kick. Good counter body shot from Noons. Beautiful right hand counter from Noons as Heun steps in. Left high kick grazes the top of Heunís head. Noons is catching him coming in now and Heun looks marked up a little. Good low kick from Heun. Double leg from Heun puts Noons down and he manages to take the back as KJ tries to scramble up. Heun immediately looks for a rear naked choke as Noons tries to use the cage to spin his way out, but Heun gets a body triangle. Couple of good punches land for Heun as Noons rolls from mount to back mount, unable to escape. Good hip escape from KJ allows him to slip free, but Heun keeps side mount and then steps back to mount to deliver some more strikes. Choke attempt from Heun again, but this time KJ slips out of the back door and gets to his feet to end the round with a bang, dropping Heun with a right hand! Great first round, but Iím giving it to Conor Heun based on the ground work. 10-9 Heun.

2nd round and Heun comes out aggressively, but Noons catches a high kick and shoves him to the ground. Heun gets right back up and continues to push the pace, but Noons looks much more relaxed now and heís beginning to pick Heun off with counterpunches. Heun continues to push the action, but he eats a nice knee to the body. Good leg kick from Heun spins Noons around, but he comes back with an uppercut. Nice left hook from Noons. Heun tells him to bring it on, and then lands a knee to the body before trying a left high kick, but Noons counters with a left hook. Heun looks to use the jab, but a big one-two from Noon stuns him badly and puts him on wobbly legs. KJ looks to follow up, but Heun quickly recovers and they trade wildly for a moment before Noons backs up. Takedown attempt is easily avoided by Noons and Heunís looking tired now. Left bodyshot from KJ. Good knee from Heun. Another takedown attempt is stuffed and Noons cracks him with the left hook. Spinning backfist misses for Heun. Left high kick is narrowly blocked by Heun and he gets a takedown on the buzzer. 10-9 Noons in a close round.

-Susannah Collins interviews Cris Cyborg backstage. In broken English. Very broken in fact. I hate how Strike Force cuts to interviews between rounds. And use a translator next time, idiots!

Third and final round and Heun comes out throwing flurries, backing Noons up as he looks to counter again. Noons shows some more good takedown defense, but almost eats a high kick. Good left hook from Noons and Heun is bloodied badly now. Nice one-two from KJ but Heun comes back with a knee. Good left from Heun but Noons fires back with a three punch combination that lands flush. Exchange continues and both men are winging punches now. Knee to the body from Heun seems to hurt Noons and causes him to protect the spot, but Heun misses with a telegraphed double leg attempt. A single leg attempt is also avoided and Noons is cracking him with some hard counters now. Flurry from Heun but Noons gets out of the way. This is a hell of a fight. Heavy uppercut on the end of a combo catches Noons but he seems alright and he stuffs a takedown. Heunís face is a mess but heís still coming forward. Guy is an animal. Crowd go wild as they continue to trade right until the final buzzer. 10-9 Noons which means I have him winning 29-28, but it was a great, close fight.

Judges have a split decision, 30-27 Heun, 29-28 Noons and 29-28 for KJ Noons to take the win. Well, it was a close fight and I couldíve seen 29-28 Heun if you gave him the second round, but to give him a 30-27 is pretty much insane as thereís no way on this earth that he won the third. These judges need help sometimes. Great fight though as Heun acquitted himself well for a guy taking the fight on two weeks notice and came in to throw down, and of course Noons obliged. One of the best fights thus far in 2010 in fact.

-We get a sort-of Year-in-Review package building to what is basically a plug for the EA Sports MMA game. They ask Dan Henderson if itís weird for him to see himself as a character in a video game. Well, I doubt it given he was in UFC Undisputed 2009 IIRC.

Middleweight Fight: Tim Kennedy vs Trevor Prangley

Kennedy is an odd case as he actually serves full-time in the US Army as well as fighting in MMA, which would explain I guess why Strike Force havenít really tried to push him as a top guy, despite his only loss since 2001 being to Mayhem Miller. He hasnít really fought scrubs either Ė he beat Nick Thompson last June in an impressive win. Prangleyís last outing meanwhile was an odd technical draw with Karl Amoussou that ended on an eye poke.

Fight begins and they circle before Kennedy closes the distance and looks for a takedown. They muscle for position inside the clinch as Prangley works to block the takedown, then uses a whizzer to hit a sick leg trip! Kennedy quickly gets back up though and weíre back to square one with Kennedy looking to get him down. Single leg attempt from Kennedy but Prangley uses a switch to avoid. Back to the clinch and this time Kennedy lands a right hook. Trip takedown from Prangley again but Kennedy immediately works back up and then goes for a double leg, this time connecting his hands and bringing him down to half-guard. Hard shots to the body from Kennedy as he looks to pass. Prangley tries to post up, but this allows Kennedy to slip into full mount, and he postures up to deliver some punches. Prangley gives his back, and Kennedy ends up hanging on there with both hooks in, and suddenly Prangley taps out of nowhere. Wow. I didnít even see the choke sunk in there but it obviously was as Prangley made a horrible noise at the same time as tapping, too. Slick stuff.

Kennedy looked excellent there against a tough, capable opponent and if Jake Shields bolts for the UFC which is likely, then he definitely deserves a spot in the tournament to decide the new 185lbs champion. I could actually see him doing well there too although I wouldnít pick him against Jacare who I would call the favourite. Fun fight while it lasted, too, with some really strong clinch work particularly.

-Mauro is joined by Fabricio Werdum to talk about his upcoming fight with Fedor Emelianenko. He brings a translator with him but decides to speak in English, and to be fair itís a big improvement from the last time I heard him. Still pretty broken but you can understand the majority of what heís saying at least. Why give him a translator and have the guy stand there like a spare prick at a wedding while Cyborg didnít get one earlier, though?

Welterweight Fight: Marius Zaromskis vs Cyborg Santos

Before you cry foul, thatís Evangelista Cyborg Santos as opposed to his wife Cristiane. Pretty crazy that his wifeís now like, a thousand times more famous than he is in the MMA world. This was to be his first fight at 170lbs after dropping a decision to Joey Villasenor in his last Strike Force appearance. Zaromskis meanwhile had lost a lot of momentum after being beaten down by Nick Diaz in his US debut, as he came with a TON of hype from DREAM after KOing most of his opponents there with Cro Cop style head kicks. I figured heíd pick the wilder Cyborg apart here though to gain some steam and put his career back on track. Announcers mention Zaromskis has been training with American Kickboxing Academy for this one, which is interesting.

First round begins and they circle before a Zaromskis right hand triggers a classic Cyborg wild flurry. Marius dodges the brunt of it though and stays on the outside. Left high kick narrowly misses for Zaromskis and he eats a leg kick. Good right hand from Marius but he gets wobbled by a counter and Cyborg charges in looking to finish! Zaromskis gets on his bike to avoid the storm and Cyborg slows down. Pair of kicks from Zaromskis but Cyborg catches the left kick and looks to counter with the right hand. Zaromskis circles out, then throws the head kick again, but this time Cyborg blocks and fires back with a leg kick. Good low kick from Cyborg but Zaromskis cracks him with a right hand counter, snapping his head back, and follows with a body kick. Cyborg looks unfazed though. Head kick from Cyborg wobbles Marius and they trade some punches with both men landing, but Cyborg clearly doing more damage. Zaromskis tries a desperate flying knee...but jumps right into a BIG SHOT from Cyborg that drops him for the stoppage!

Post-fight Mrs. Cyborg enters the cage and makes out with her husband, and scarily she looks about the same size as him. Replay shows it was a short right hand that finished Zaromskis off, right on the button. The difference here seemed to be that Cyborg was able to take the shots that Zaromskis dished out, but Zaromskis just couldnít deal with Cyborgís power at all. To me, and no offense to Cyborg here, but I think this goes to show that in the current climate of MMA, where the great majority of the top fighters are US-based, either with the UFC or Strike Force, winning a tournament in Japan doesnít mean youíre suddenly a top ten contender like a lot of people made Zaromskis out to be. Sure, heís hugely exciting and Iíd pay to see him each and every time he fights, but I donít think heís an elite-level fighter yet by any means, and this Strike Force run is proving that. Fight was an energetic, fun brawl overall.

Catchweight (195lbs) Fight: Renato Babalu Sobral vs Robbie Lawler

Apparently the original plan here was to have Lawler rematch Mayhem Miller, but of course Mayhem was suspended by the Tennessee Athletic Commission after the ludicrous Nashville incident, so they ended up throwing Babalu in there instead in a catchweight. Interesting fight on paper, but could they not have got Babalu to cut to 185lbs instead? Word going in was that the winner would gain a title shot Ė Lawler for the MW Title, Babalu for the LHW Title. To be fair that doesnít make a lot of sense Ė why not have them fight #1 Contender fights in their own divisions? I mean, how do you give Babalu a shot at the 205lbs title as a reward for beating a smaller guy? Odd stuff.

Round One begins and they circle before Lawler glances with a right hook. Babalu closes the distance and looks for a takedown, forcing Lawler into the cage with some knees to the body, but Lawler does a good job of remaining on his feet and the ref calls the break. Nice straight left from Lawler backs Babalu up and he follows with a flying knee, but it doesnít land clean and Babalu forces him into the fence again. Lawler stuffs the takedown again and goes to work on the body, then breaks off. They circle off and Lawler counters a right hand with one of his own that lands cleaner than Babaluís. Good leg kick from Babalu and he shoots and this time gets Lawler down. Robbie pops right back up and avoids a guillotine to get to his feet, then lands a right hand. Body kick attempt causes Lawler to slip to his back, and Babalu gets on top in the full guard, but Lawler reverses to his feet and avoids a DíArce on the way. Hard leg kick lands for Babalu. Babalu pushes forward with some strikes into the clinch, then lands an uppercut, but Lawler slips free again. Good left hook from Lawler in an exchange. Babalu looks bloodied up a little. Round ends there. Close round to score but Iíd lean towards Lawler, 10-9.

-Once again they cut to an interview during a fight. Ugh. This time itís with King Mo who says it doesnít matter who heíll defend against in August....and then says heís pulling for Babalu as heís friends and training partners with him. Mauro then says that Mo and Babalu donít want to fight. But...isnít the fight going on RIGHT NOW trying to possibly build to Babalu vs. Mo? JESUS. These guys are fucking retarded sometimes, honestly. Itís no wonder Dana gets so frustrated.

Round Two and Babalu opens with a sick body kick. Lawler begins to push forward more, but he takes another leg kick. Couple of good punches from Lawler but Sobral shoots on a single leg. Lawler defends Tyson Griffin style, hopping around while landing uppercuts, and Babalu gives it up. Good left hand from Lawler. Big uppercut narrowly misses. Body kick from Sobral. Head kick glances off Lawler and he staggers and drops his hands, but when Babalu doesnít close in he reveals itís a RUSE and grins at the Brazilian. Ha, itís always hilarious to see someone playing possum. Babalu continues to push forward and another head kick lands. Another one almost lands but puts Babalu off balance and he falls down. He gets right up though and continues to press, and to be fair even if Lawler was faking, he has slowed down a lot now. Leg kick and a body kick land for Babalu and he goes for the takedown again, before switching to a plum clinch to land a knee when Lawler stuffs it. Good jab from Lawler but he misses a right hand. Nice right hook from Babalu, answered with a big one from Lawler, and he stuffs a takedown too. Leg kick lands for Babalu. Crowd begin a big chant for Babalu as he just about misses a head kick. Lawler looks to swing the right, but the buzzer sounds. Round goes to Babalu Sobral, so I have it even going into the third.

Third round and Lawler pushes forward as Sobral tries to work the kicks again. Single leg from Babalu but Lawler stuffs it. Left hand from Babalu and his striking looks better than I can ever remember. Another takedown is stuffed by Lawler and he fires with a left hand. Good leg kick from Babalu. Left hand glances for Lawler as he avoids the head kick. Spinning backfist from Babalu is blocked by Lawler. Not seen him bust that out in a long time. Lawler continues to chase him down but he isnít cutting the cage off. Big left head kick from Lawler backs Sobral up. Couple of kicks answer for the Brazilian. This is a really good fight. Body kick from Sobral backs Lawler up. Good combo from Babalu. Nice one-two from Lawler and Babaluís face is a mess. Couple of jabs land for him. Lawler is really pushing it with a minute to go, landing some good punches. Couple of straight rights snap Babaluís head back as he looks to get on the retreat. Crowd go wild as Lawler ends the fight with two right hands. I think Lawler mightíve stolen that fight with the last two minutes of the third round. I have it 29-28 Robbie Lawler.

Judges have it a unanimous decision, 29-28 all around for Renato Sobral. Well, Iíd have gone the other way, but the first and third rounds were close, the second was clearly Babaluís so I canít begrudge that. Excellent fight, at any rate, and both men looked pretty good in there. I donít think Lawler loses much with this as it was outside of his regular weight class against a larger guy, and hopefully he rebounds in the likely upcoming 185lbs tournament. Mauro mentions a possible Lawler-Jacare fight which would rule.

Post-fight interview is very difficult to understand as Babaluís English isnít the best and heís exhausted too. Mauro asks him about a title shot at 205lbs....and of course Babalu tells him he doesnít want to fight King Mo for the title because theyíre friends so he calls out Dan Henderson instead. Ha, they spend the whole fight pushing a title fight and then Babalu outright says he doesnít want it. Sort of sums up Strike Forceís matchmaking really doesnít it?

-Show ends with a plug for Fedor vs. Werdum, which feels like Fedor vs. a hand picked opponent at this point due to Strike Forceís promotion, and honestly thatís selling Werdum horribly short in my opinion.

Final Thoughts....

Overall, we had the usual Strike Force promotional issues, namely this time with the production, interview placement, and overall planning for future fights, but ignoring that and looking simply at the fights, this was a pretty damn good show. None of the fights were bad, and you canít really complain with a great brawl like Heun-Noons, two good finishes in Kennedy-Prangley and Cyborg-Zaromskis, and a strong main event in Lawler-Sobral making up a four-fight card. Wonít be the most memorable card of the year and it certainly wasnít earth-shattering, but then they canít all be. Thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Noons-Heun
Worst Fight: Prangley-Kennedy

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 111-115, Fight Night 21
WEC: 49
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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