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Strike Force: Houston review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on October 2, 2010, 10:43 AM

Strike Force: Houston

Houston, Texas

-Opening video package is almost totally focused on King Mo and Tim Kennedy with a little word about their Brazilian opposition towards the end. More on that later. On another note, theyíve finally removed any shots of Jake Shields from the highlight video now heís officially signed with the UFC.

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock. Iím not even going to bother to begin on this bunch of idiots. Well, Frank and Mauro arenít that bad I guess. They talk about the title fights, and then mention that Miesha Tate recently won a one-night tournament to face Strike Force 135lbs Womenís Champion Sarah Kaufman. Now, I wouldnít normally mention something like this as itís only leading to a poll about one-night tournaments....but Miesha Tate isnít even fighting Kaufman next, Marloes Coenen (whoís coming off a loss) is getting the title shot instead. This company is so incompetent sometimes.

Heavyweight Fight: Bobby Lashley vs Chad Griggs

Man, is there anyone in MMA as ridiculous as Bobby Lashley? I mean seriously, he claims he wants to be taken seriously and wants to face the best and yet for his sixth professional fight he ends up against Chad Griggs. No offense to Griggs of course but youíd think Strike Force would attempt to force Lashley into fighting someone a little higher up the ladder than a 4-1 fireman and paramedic at this point. Blah. I fully expected another Lashley squash here.

Fight begins and Lashley wastes no time in hitting a double leg to half-guard. Lashley immediately passes into side mount and lands a couple of punches, as Griggs tries to push off the cage with his feet to escape. No dice though and Lashley remains on top where he continues to punch. Griggs squirms from his back as Lashley appears to be looking for the full mount, but for the time being he remains in side mount. Scramble from Griggs allows him to his feet, but Lashley quickly drops for another takedown. Griggs tries to throw some wild strikes as Lashley works for the takedown, and manages to bring him down into side mount again. Into north/south for Lashley but Griggs again escapes to his feet. Good knee to the body from Griggs from the clinch, and Lashley forces him into the cage again. Little action in the clinch before the referee calls a break, and Lashley shoots on the restart, eats an uppercut but manages to slam Griggs down into guard. Lashley pins him into the fence and lands some solid punches, but it looks like heís cut as thereís blood pouring all over Griggsí chest. Into half-guard for Lashley now but the round ends there. 10-9 Lashley but the cut seems to be bothering him.

Round Two and Griggs pushes forward before Lashley shoots and elevates him, getting a BIG SLAM down to half-guard. For a big guy though Lashleyís ground-and-pound is pretty weak as it doesnít look like heís hurt Griggs yet. Griggs manages to slide into full guard for a second before Lashley passes again, and they exchange from the position with the crowd becoming a bit restless. Griggs tries to kick him away, but he moves into side mount and then north/south again. Lashleyís still bleeding quite heavily too. Full mount for Lashley and he sits up to drop some punches, but Griggs does a good job from his back of avoiding the brunt of the damage. He looks to buck free, but Lashley remains in the dominant position. Few shots to the body land for Lashley but heís looking a little tired now. Announcers are pointing out that the armbar or arm triangle are wide open but it doesnít look like Lashley knows what to do. Referee steps in and it looks like heís calling a stand-up, but itís actually a doctor check as Lashleyís left eye is badly cut and heís wincing. He decides to continue, but the ref restarts them on the feet. Huh? How can you call a stand-up when a guy is in full mount?! Griggs looks fresher now and comes forward, landing an uppercut as Lashley shoots, and he follows by sprawling and landing some punches to the head! Lashley ends up in the turtle position taking big hammer fists from a standing Griggs, and as the bell sounds he looks badly hurt. Referee Jon Schorle checks him over...and throws the fight out there!

Alright, first off, the referee made a major mistake there by standing them up when Lashley was in mount, as even if the guy isnít doing major damage, itís still a dominant position that never ought to warrant a stand-up. With that said though, Lashley looked pretty awful here, unable to finish a far smaller man despite gaining dominant positions time after time, and it looked like he couldnít deal with being cut and gassed badly too. Griggs fought well defensively, but didnít really show that much aside from a bit of aggression when he spotted Lashley was hurt, and the problem here is that Lashleyís lost his first fight and lost a lot of his lustre too, but the guy gaining momentum isnít a guy who could be pushed as a title contender, itís a journeyman who probably wonít beat any of Strike Forceís other heavyweights. Just terrible matchmaking overall and to be honest, a pretty crappy fight.

-Heidi Androl interviews up-and-comer Luke Rockhold, whoís fighting Matt Lindland on October 9th in by far his toughest test to date. Obviously Iím hoping he pulls off the win, hopefully by vicious KO that sees Lindland twitching like an epileptic again. Rockholdís a pretty soft-spoken guy to be honest though, doesnít really talk much trash. And he reminds me for some reason of a younger Stephan Bonnar.

Lightweight Fight: KJ Noons vs Jorge Gurgel

Well, Iíll be honest with you and say I canít stand KJ Noons. Donít really know why Ė maybe itís the silly boxing aspirations or the goofy haircut or the situation surrounding Nick Diaz...in fact it might just be that Iím a Nick Diaz mark. Anyhow, Gurgel has been a favourite of mine for five or six years now and I was really hoping heíd pull out the win here, but given that he has a tendency to stand-n-wang and his knees are so shot that he struggles with takedowns, the likely result was Noons picking him apart on the feet. Side note but itís a pity Gurgel isnít a more successful fighter than he is, because heís so likeable and charismatic that he could easily be a huge, huge star. Announcers mention during Gurgelís entrance that he got screwed by the judges against Billy Evangelista, which means he should be 2-0 in Strike Force, and thus this could well be the fight to decide who faces Strike Force LW Champion Gilbert Melendez next.

Round One gets started and Noons pushes forward, but Gurgel lands the first good shot, a hard right hand. Noons continues to push forward, putting Jorge on his back foot, but thus far Gurgelís doing a good job of avoiding any shots. Couple of jabs and a right to the body land for KJ but he takes a couple of leg kicks. Body kick from Gurgel is answered by a quick flurry from Noons. Vicious right hand to the body lands for Noons. Noons looks like heís finding his range now and he tags Gurgel with a few nice punches. Flurry misses for Jorge. Awesome counter right hook lands for Noons as Gurgel swings a right. Leg kick from Noons and Gurgel answers with one of his own. Combination lands for Gurgel. Body kick follows but he looks cut. Noons beginning to outland him now. One minute to go and a half-hearted shot is blocked by Noons. Two body shots land for KJ. Gurgel with a combo but Noons counters and lands a right hand flush. Gurgel is throwing three, missing two and eating one nasty counter almost every time now. Seconds to go and Gurgel opens up with a wild flurry to the body...but Noons DECKS HIM WITH A HUGE LEFT! Jorge looks OUT...but it also looked like the punch came after the bell. Referee Kerry Hatley ought to stop this methinks as Jorge looks done, but it ought to be a DQ too as the shot blatantly came after the bell. Not KJís fault but itís still illegal. Instead Hatley practically carries Gurgel to his corner and lets the fight go on. Come the fuck on!

Round Two and Jorge is clearly not right. He tries to exchange, but looks out on his feet and Noons lands a BIG RIGHT-LEFT that knocks him silly again! Somehow Hatley STILL doesnít stop it, and Noons lands some punches and a BIG ILLEGAL KNEE TO THE HEAD and finally Hatley steps in. Well, surely that HAS to be a DQ now? Nope. Somehow itís decided as a TKO for KJ Noons. Thatís insane.

Alright, so Noons fought the correct fight here and Gurgel didnít, but the bottom line is that KJ landed TWO illegal blows that pretty much finished Jorge off, and shouldíve been DQd if it were not for probably the most incompetent display of refereeing Iíve ever seen in the cage. Absolutely disgusting and I donít even want to talk about it further to be honest. Hatley should never referee again, point blank. And of course, has Noons been given a shot at Melendez, after two impressive showings at 155lbs? Of course not, heís been given a shot at Nick Diazís 170lbs belt instead, despite never fighting at 170lbs in Strike Force and in fact, I donít think heís fought at 170lbs in his career as EXCís division was 160lbs. Laughable.

Strike Force Middleweight Title: Ronaldo Jacare vs Tim Kennedy

When Jake Shields unsurprisingly signed with the UFC and abandoned the Strike Force Middleweight Title the initial plan was supposedly a tournament, but in the end they just went with this fight for the vacant belt. Jacare had certainly earned the opportunity by beating both Matt Lindland and Joey Villasenor, and while Kennedy hadnít got the wins of that calibre, he had looked excellent against Trevor Prangley in June. Coming in, the marketing seemed to be pushed towards Kennedy which is somewhat understandable given his army background (Special Forces Sniper!), but in all honesty Jacare was the huge favourite and probably shouldíve been pushed a little harder in my opinion. Oh, and LOL at Mauro saying Jake Shields was ďreleasedĒ. I know you have to tow the company line, but thatís hilarious.

First round and both men look tentative as they circle around early, throwing out some feeler strikes. Quick flurry lands for Jacare and they follow by exchanging from close quarters. Head kick blocked by Jacare. Leg kick from the Brazilian but Kennedy counters with a right. They exchange some combos with both men landing but not devastatingly so. Jacare seems to have the edge thus far. Good combination from Jacare as Kennedy steps in, really going to the body. Surprisingly no takedown attempts from Souza thus far. Kennedy pushes forward swinging and a left knocks Jacare down, but it looked like Jacare landed the better shot in the exchange and slipped to the ground rather than being hurt. Clinch is quickly broken, and Kennedy ends the round with a leg kick. Close round to score as it was quite uneventful, but Iíd go 10-9 Jacare.

Round Two and Kennedy misses a superman punch and eats a couple of counters from the Brazilian. Good combination lands for Kennedy. Superman punch attempt causes Kennedy to slip and he changes it to a takedown attempt, but Jacare avoids it. Pair of straight rights land for Jacare. One-two from Jacare, answered by a left hook from Kennedy. Good leg kick from Kennedy. They exchange into a clinch but Jacare quickly breaks with a short right. Surprising to see Jacare outstriking Kennedy thus far; even more surprising to see him not shooting for any takedowns at all. Finally he goes for the double leg, but Kennedy stuffs it and breaks off. Striking exchange continues and another leg kick lands for Kennedy. Front kick and a right hook land for Jacare and he avoids an answer from Kennedy to finish the round. Razor-close round to score. Hell, Iíll go 10-10.

-Heidi Androl is backstage with King Mo for another annoying interview between rounds. Not much of note said really.

Third round and Kennedy pushes forward with a leg kick and then clinches, but Souza quickly breaks. Nice left hand coming forward from Kennedy and he clinches again and forces Jacare into the cage with some knees. Jacare quickly breaks off though and they go back to striking. Superman punch almost lands for Kennedy but Jacare avoids it. Wild flurry from Jacare is largely deflected. Body shot from Kennedy but Jacare answers with a combo. Kennedy is cut over his left eye. Jacare opens up a little more now and lands a combination and then a clean right hook. Jacare pushes forward but Kennedy surprisingly gets a takedown to guard. He looks to pass, but Souza ties him up and then kicks away to escape to his feet. Kennedyís eye looks like hell. Big left hook misses for him and Jacare counters with a right and a jab. This is an unbelievably even fight. They continue to exchange shot-for-shot until the round ends. Another close one, this time I think Jacare landed the better shots and did the most damage with the cut, so 10-9 Jacare.

Fourth round and Kennedy opens with a leg kick as we look set for another slow round. Good right hand lands for Kennedy but has little effect. Leg kick into a right hand from Kennedy. Left hook glances for Jacare. Brief clinch is broken and Jacare lands with a right. Jacare ducks a right and looks for a takedown, but Kennedy shows some good defense and sprawls out to stuff it. Left hand into an overhand right land for Jacare, catching Kennedy on the forehead. Another right follows, but Kennedy lands a kick to the groin and Big John McCarthy calls time to allow him to recover. Looks like heís going to take his time, too. Finally they restart and Kennedy shoots on a single leg, but Jacare stuffs it. High kick blocked by Souza. Couple of jabs land for Jacare. Little action as the round ends. Better round for Kennedy, 10-9.

-Heidi Androl now cuts in with an interview with Rafael Feijao, who speaks great English for a Brazilian guy actually. He admits he questioned himself a bit after the Kyle loss, but heís tried to improve himself every day since. Cool. Except we nearly miss the beginning of the fifth round...

Fifth round and they get underway, with Kennedy pushing forward but Jacare kicking him away with a front kick. Both men miss with high kicks, and then they clinch briefly before breaking off. Left hook stepping in lands for Kennedy. Combination from Kennedy. Good counter right lands for Jacare as Kennedy wings an unsuccessful combo. Low single leg misses for Kennedy and Jacare makes him pay with a right hand. Kennedy swings his way into the clinch again, but Jacare breaks off. Good body shot from Kennedy. Another good counter right lands for Jacare as Kennedy steps in, and he forces him into the fence in the clinch. Kennedy lunges in with a punch but Jacare ducks and gets a rear waistlock off a scramble, but Kennedy manages to wriggle free. Beautiful right hand snaps Kennedyís head back as he comes forward. Kennedy really pushes with seconds to go, and then ends the fight with a big suplex! Close round again but Iím going with Jacare, meaning on my scorecard at least, its 49-47 for Jacare. Very close fight though.

Judges scorecards read 49-46, 48-47, 48-47 for the new Strike Force Middleweight Champion....Ronaldo Jacare Souza. Crowd boo, but it seems more because the crowd are so pro-Kennedy than anything else. I thought the right man got the nod at least. I might come across as a negative nancy here, but I was disappointed with this fight. There wasnít technically anything wrong with it per say Ė both fighters stayed active throughout and it was a close fight Ė but when you have possibly the best pure BJJ player in MMA fighting, you expect him to shoot for more than three takedowns, you know? I was hoping for a scrambling-style fight and while Jacareís clearly improved his stand-up to the point where heís more than a match for any Middleweight in the world in my opinion, I wanted to see his BJJ game, you know? Especially over five rounds. Ah well. On a side note, Kennedy complains about the decision post-fight and comes off really bitter, sorry.

Strike Force Light-Heavyweight Title: King Mo Lawal vs Rafael Feijao

With 205lbs (along with 170lbs) being the most UFC-dominated division in MMA, it was always a given that Strike Force would struggle to find a good challenger for King Mo, who had looked pretty great in taking the LHW title from Gegard Mousasi in April. I guess Feijao was the most qualified guy on the roster and a lot of people had forgotten that he was considered a big-time prospect about a year ago himself, but then losing to Mike Kyle will take away that sort of aura for sure. Despite Feijao being somewhat underrated I expected Mo to use his superior wrestling to handle him with little difficulties.

Feijao looks to be in very good shape here, much better than I can recall seeing him before. Looks absolutely HUGE for 205lbs, too. King Moís entrance is something to behold, thatís for sure. Guy is incredibly charismatic and if he can find his way into the UFC in the near future, heís going to be a major star.

Fight begins and Mo dodges a couple of early punches. His hands look dangerously low, though. The champion decides to swing for the fences himself, closing the distance, and as Feijao goes for the plum clinch Mo grabs a double leg and transitions to a rear waistlock as Feijao defends. Knees to the legs from Mo and he lifts Feijao up and LANDS A BACKDROP SUPLEX! Feijao shows some serious strength though, and quickly muscles up to his feet. Mo still has the rear waistlock and lands some more knees, but Feijao breaks off. Both men go to low stances and snap out jabs, before Mo lands a glancing overhand right. Stiff jab from the Brazilian. Couple more jabs land. No idea why Mo is hanging his hands like this. Mo pushes forward, but walks right into an uppercut and a hard knee. He walks through them though and goes for a takedown, but Feijao defends tremendously and gets to his feet right away. Right hand from the challenger and he follows with a pair of hard knees that have Mo on the retreat. He misses a left hook though and eats a lunging jab from the champ. Right misses for Mo and then he drops down into a taunting stance. Feijaoís having none of that though and just circles off. Heavy leg kick from Feijao. Bell sounds shortly after. Feijaoís round in my eyes, 10-9, despite Moís two takedowns.

2nd round and Feijao opens with a heavy leg kick. Mo swings his way into a clinch, but quickly gets shoved off. No idea why Mo looks content to strike with this guy. Mo pushes forward with a right hand and just ducks a big left. Flying kick lands for Feijao, but Mo grabs him and gets him down with a single leg. Some good punches land from the top for the champion as Feijao gets full guard secured and then explodes to his feet. Mo grabs a rear waistlock, but a spinning elbow breaks free. Mo appears to be struggling with the size and strength of Feijao actually. Rushing combo by Mo but Feijao blocks the majority of it. Another combo going to the body is more successful for the champ. Straight left to the body follows. Mo continues to look for body shots, but he keeps dropping his hands too. Head kick misses for Feijao. Mo looks for a combo, but Feijao uses a knee to make some distance. Nice jab from Feijao. Mo closes in with a body shot and looks for the takedown, but again Feijao shows some good strength to stuff it. Round ends with Feijao defending the takedown. Well, Mo landed the better shots there so he takes the round, but he isnít looking dominant here by a long shot.

Round Three and Feijao opens with a BIG STRAIGHT RIGHT that stuns Mo badly! Feijao looks to follow up as Mo gets on the retreat and then shoots, but Feijao stuffs it. Mo looks wobbled and eats some knees that wobble him a little, but he looks to swing right back. BIG uppercuts land to the body for Mo, but by doing so he drops his hands and eats a PAIR OF VICIOUS KNEES that wobble him again! Feijao follows up with a left-right and the CHAMP IS DOWN! Mo clings onto a single leg for dear life, and almost manages to drive Feijao off his feet, but the Brazilian gets his back to the cage and opens up with some nasty elbows to the head, and Mo goes out there! New champion!

Well, hats off, that was a great fight in my opinion. Feijao came in looking in tremendous shape and fought the fight of his life, using his size and strength advantage to prevent a great wrestler in Mo from keeping him down, and on the feet the experience of the Brazilian proved to be far too much for Mo who in a lot of ways is still a striking rookie. At first I thought Mo was choosing to strike with Feijao but looking at this again I think it had more to do with the fact that he couldnít get Feijao down as easily as heíd expected and couldnít hold him down at all, and so he was left with little option to stand up. Big upset in a way, but maybe it wasnít, as Mo really is still a prospect as opposed to an established champion, and only found himself in the role of champ because Strike Force didnít have anyone else for Gegard Mousasi to fight, and he happened to be excellent in the one area where Mousasi had serious weaknesses. I think heís still got a very bright future in the sport, but how he bounces back from this loss will be interesting to see. And Feijao-Mousasi next anyone? Itís not like Strike Force have anyone else really, is it?

-Announcers wrap up the night and we end there.

Final Thoughts....

Strike Force shows are hard for me to rate in a lot of ways, as even if the fights are spectacular, I tend to find myself shaking my head at some of the ridiculous promotional decisions and matchmaking they run with. Here for instance, despite both men being faced with very dangerous opponents, the marketing was all about Mo and Kennedy and when they both lost, it just seems to do more promotional damage than it would if they marketed the contenders equally. With that said, this wasnít a bad show Ė Lashley-Griggs was pretty crap and Jacare-Kennedy was a bit disappointing, but vile finish aside Gurgel-Noons was fun and I really enjoyed King Mo-Feijao, so I guess itís worth a look. Thumbs in the middle, leaning up.

Best Fight: King Mo-Feijao
Worst Fight: Lashley-Griggs

Overall Rating: **3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 116-119, Versus 2, Fight Night 22
WEC: 50, 51
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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