By MATT BOONE
MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer
Strikeforce: Houston took place on Saturday night, August 21, from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, airing live on Showtime with two world title fights and some great televised supporting attractions to round out the show. The event would have to be viewed as a success, as each fight delivered something worth talking about at the water cooler when everyone returns to work this coming week. In the next few pages we will preview some of the discussion that may come up during your thirst-quenching pit-stops on Monday, as we break things down one-fight at a time …
Bobby Lashley Suffers First MMA Loss In Brutal Fashion
The televised portion of the card opened with former WWE Superstar Bobby Lashley dropping his first professional MMA bout, losing in brutal fashion to relative unknown Chad Griggs by way of technical knockout after two rounds of action inside the cage.
Lashley was opened up early in the fight from an uppercut by Griggs and never seemed to mentally recover as the sight of his own blood pouring all over the mat seemed to lead to even more punishment for the former NCAA champion wrestler. Fans at this point witnessed what Lashley is made of, as he seemed to fold to adversity and switch into defensive mode for the rest of the contest. Unfortunately for Lashley his defensive mode didn't seem to help matters at all.
Griggs would continue to dish out punishment, with the remaining seconds of round two delivering the finish as Griggs hammer-fisted Lashley relentlessly until the bell sounded. After the bell sounded to end round two of their scheduled three-round fight, the referee needed only one quick glance at the former pro wrestler to determine the outcome of Lashley's night in Houston. The fight was immediately stopped, and rightfully so, as the look of defeat on Lashley's face mixed with his body language spoke volumes in terms of what condition Lashley was in. It was definitely all over for the big fellow.
Lashley's previously unblemished MMA record now has its' first flaw as he moves to 5-1 overall, batting .500 for Strikeforce with a 1-1 record in the promotion. Griggs on the other hand walked into the Toyota Center as an unknown being fed as a showcase match-up for a former pro wrestler, but walked out of the same building as a heavyweight prospect now, with an “all-of-a-sudden” impressive looking 9-1 overall MMA record.
Things were only warming up at this point, as the night would continue to get even more interesting during the three live fights remaining on the card.
Chaos-Filled Action During Noons-Gurgel Bout
Up next was the lightweight attraction, with exciting 155-pound contenders K.J. Noons and Jorge Gurgel squaring off in the final three-round, non-title fight of the evening. The small guys did not disappoint, delivering arguably the biggest “oh sh*t” moments in Houston's Toyota Center on Saturday night.
Concluding an action-packed first round, there was a knockout, but one that did not end the fight. Literally a split-second after the bell sounded to end the round, Noons landed a punch straight from the depths of hell to the unprotected face of an unprepared Gurgel, who would fall flat on his back – knocked unconscious. It came as no surprise that Gurgel's pride would not allow him to stay down for more than a half-a-second, as the Brazilian fighter popped back up to his feet almost immediately, stumbling to his corner to begin what would be a crucial recovery period.
Things didn't get a whole lot better for the former UFC and Ultimate Fighter veteran Gurgel, as he would endure further punishment from the two-sport combat athlete Noons, eating several big shots from the precise hands of the former EliteXC lightweight champion in the 19 seconds that he lasted in round two. Noons would go on to knock Gurgel down again, this time inside the allotted five minutes of the round, following up with a controversial series of strikes to end the fight and pick up the victory. In the midst of the fight-ending series of strikes, one illegal knee got through and quickly became the focus of many fans watching live in the arena and at home on television. There's no question the knee was illegal as Gurgel was on the ground during the moment of impact, but it seemed pretty apparent that Gurgel was on the way out – if not finished already – during that point in the fight. Unfortunately, Gurgel couldn't have fully recovered from the knockout he suffered after the bell in round one, so eating an illegal knee after an additional knockout punch while standing was just too much to endure.
Whatever the case may be, “a win is a win …is a win”, and Noons improves to 10-2 with the victory, putting himself in the top of the mix for a lightweight title fight in Strikeforce, whenever current champion Gilbert Melendez is back in action and whenever Strikeforce decides who his next official opponent will be.
With the loss, Gurgel moves to a 13-7 overall MMA record, with four losses in his last five bouts. Gurgel's Strikeforce record moves to 1-2 with the Noons defeat being his first fight that did not enter a third round dating all the way back to his March 2004 victory over Joe Jordan at the Extreme Challenge 56 show.
Jacare Enters Sacred Ground In Most Stacked Division
From the insanity of the previous bout and the shock of the TV opener, top middleweight contenders Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Tim Kennedy had their work cut out for them if they wanted to please the crowd with their 185-pound title fight in the semi-main event of the Strikeforce: Houston event. As things turned out, they did not disappoint.
The durable middleweights slugged it out for all five rounds, with each guy having their fair share of success in the striking realm, where the majority of the contest would be decided. It was Jacare, however, who pulled ahead in the first few rounds, getting the early jump on the scorecards. In the end every round in the bag would be an important one, as Jacare would go on to win a unanimous decision over the very game Kennedy. The decision was one that prior to the reading of the judges scorecards it was being debated amongst the Showtime television announce team, despite it being pretty apparent that the Brazilian grappling phenom would be getting his hand raised.
With the victory, Jacare is now the new Strikeforce middleweight champion, filling a void left by previous title-holder Jake Shields, who moves on to debut with the UFC later this year, returning to the welterweight (170-pound) division to challenge top contender Martin Kampmann (which he discussed in a recent MMANEWS.COM exclusive interview) on the undercard of the UFC 121 show headlined by Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. Of course the discussion has already started in many of the popular MMA forums across the web about how Jacare could have taken the 185-pound crown the traditional way – by beating the champion – had Shields not vacated the title to leave for a run in the big leagues at 170. That debate may remain eternal speculation depending on which direction the career paths of each combatant winds up.
On the other hand with Jacare moving to an impressive 13-2 overall MMA record and looking better each time he enters the cage, proving it on Saturday by taking out Kennedy with his striking attack more so than the ground game he is famously known for, we could potentially see Jacare follow in the foot-steps of Shields. With wins at 185-pounds over the likes of Matt Lindland, Jason “MayheM” Miller, Joey Villasenor and now Tim Kennedy, Jacare is as worthy of being mentioned at the very top of the overall middleweight MMA picture as any other contender in the sport, making him a desirable pick-up for the UFC. So much so that if UFC's 185-pound king Anderson Silva can get past Chael Sonnen again, and/or Vitor Belfort, there won't be many options left for “The Spider,” making the acquisition of a talent such as Jacare a much-needed coup for the UFC. Time will tell, but for now Jacare can set his focus on the Strikeforce title, as he is now champion of the one division in the promotion that is jam-packed with legitimate top contenders. Let us not forget that this title fight was made in part to ensure a true champion was established to enable the heavily-discussed Strikeforce middleweight tournament to materialize.
With the loss, Tim Kennedy snaps a four-fight winning streak, moving to a 12-3 overall MMA record. Kennedy doesn't fall too far out of the picture however, as depending on his health and availability, the potential to jump into a talent-filled middleweight tournament could be a good opportunity to take a short-cut en route to a rematch with Jacare for another crack at the gold.
“King Mo” No Longer Royalty, Feijao Now Wears The Crown
They call him “King” Mo, Muhammed Lawal. He shocked the MMA world with a relatively easy victory over the highly-touted Gegard Mousasi to become the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. With the same abrupt, “where did that come from?” type moment, “King” Mo was in a fight that shocked the MMA world on Saturday night, as he lost his crown to new 205-pound royalty: Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante.
Feijao took out Lawal by technical knockout in the third round of their exciting bout during the main event of the Strikeforce card on Saturday night in Houston's Toyota Center to become the fifth light heavyweight champion in the history of the promotion.
After entertaining the crowd with his flashy ring-walk, which he followed up with an absolutely impressive command of the action in the early portion of the fight itself, King Mo was reminded by Strikeforce's new 205-pound champ that it only takes one shot in the sport of MMA to change everything.
Feijao survived a hilacious beating from the former light heavyweight king, including some of the most vicious body shots ever displayed in MMA, to pull off a shocking come-from-behind victory over the previously unbeaten Lawal by way of an absolutely punishing technical knockout.
After being beat up for the ten minutes that elapsed during the two rounds that preceded the finish, Feijao found his spot and hit it with everything he had, dropping Lawal with a big shot in the early portion of the third round. From there, Feijao would go on to make the phrase “it's good to be king” completely untrue, elbowing Lawal repeatedly with hard shots for what seemed like an eternity. It was a definite “yell-at-the-TV” moment, with respected referee “Big” John McCarthy of all guys being responsible for the unnecessary amount of punishment that would ensue. King Mo took an insane amount of unprotected and unanswered elbows to the face, following a failed takedown attempt. When it was all over, the only thing that seemed to prevent Mo from laying lifeless on the ground was the fact that he was propped up against Feijao's body.
After the elbow-fest was finally over, Mo slumped to the canvas, losing for the first time in his professional MMA career. With the loss, Lawal moves to a 7-1 overall MMA record, while Feijao improves to the 10-2 mark, with a new gold belt to go along with the impressive statistic.
What Does The Future Hold Following Strikeforce: Houston?
So that's how things went down on a Saturday night in Houston. The card turned out to be a really entertaining show from start-to-finish and delivered on many levels, opening up some very interesting possibilities for the future.
The most lucrative possibility that comes to mind is a potential pro wrestling fans' dream match on a future Strikeforce card between Bobby Lashley and Batista, a fight that is now a possibility for early 2011. Batista was in favor of such a fight, while Lashley took the position that being Batista's first or second MMA fight would be a step backwards for his career. After the loss, the Batista fight could be an interesting prospect as it's arguably a fight he can't lose, and a guaranteed win in his next outing is something that Lashley would be wise to set up if he's able to. The dollar figure that could be earned from the bout, especially if it were presented on PPV as Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had discussed recently, would be another luring factor.
The much-talked about Strikeforce middleweight tournament is something fans can now view from a more clear perspective, now that we know who the champion of the division is and who the tourney winner would be fighting when it's all said and done.
The aforementioned lightweight title picture is one solid-contender deeper than it was at this time yesterday. It seems at least fair now to say Noons is a real challenger to a fighter like current champion Gilbert Melendez, or anyone else who can stand on a scale that reads 155 pounds 24 hours before fight-time.
How about the 205-pound class? We have a new champion, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, and a highly regarded contender, King Mo, both of whom saw their future path's change dramatically following their entertaining title tilt on Saturday. Could we see a King Mo vs. Gegard Mousasi rematch to set up the next title contender? Who else is in the mix at the top of the 205 pound heap?
There are many possibilities following a very entertaining Strikeforce card on Saturday night. Things are starting to get interesting for the silver-medalist of North American MMA promotions. In case anyone forgot, they also have this guy named Fedor loaming around after his first legitimate loss, looking to get back in the cage and regain his super-human aura of invincibility. It looks as though the opponent for Fedor's first match following his shocking defeat is not who we thought it would be, yet still a very interesting choice if it comes to fruition.
Complete Strikeforce: Houston Quick-Match Results
Here are the quick-match results for the complete Strikeforce: Houston event on August 21, including the live internet fights and non-televised preliminary portion of the card.
Live Television Fights (on Showtime)
-Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante def. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal via TKO (strikes) at 1:14 of Round 3 to become the new Strikeforce light heavyweight champion.
-Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza def. Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) after 5 Rounds to become the new Strikeforce middleweight champion.
-K.J. Noons def. Jorge Gurgel via KO (punches) at 0:19 of Round 2.
-Chad Griggs def. Bobby Lashley via TKO (stoppage between rounds due to strikes) after Round 2.
Internet Streamed Fights (on Sherdog.com)
-Andre Galvao def. Jorge “Macaco” Patino via TKO (strikes) at 2:45 of Round 3.
-Daniel Cormier def. Jason Riley via Submission (strikes) at 1:02 of Round 1.
Non-Televised Preliminary Fights
-Vinicius Magalhaes def. Rocky Long via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) after 3 Rounds.
-Adam Schindler def. Kier Gooch via Submission (rear naked choke) in Round 1.
-Reynaldo Trujillo def. Jose Santibanez via TKO (strikes) in Round 1.
-Chad Robichaux def. Humbert DeLeon via Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) after 3 Rounds.
-Arteneus Young def. Chad Cook via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) after 3 Rounds.