As the promotion prepares to begin its long-awaited 135-pound women’s tournament later this summer, MMARising.com can exclusively reveal four of the participants in the eight-woman bracket. Among them are Brazilian star Carina “Beauty But The Beast” Damm and former Strikeforce title challenger Marloes “Rumina” Coenen.
Verbal agreements are in place with multiple fighters and official bout agreements may be distributed as early as next week. Strikeforce representatives would not comment on the ongoing negotiations.
An official announcement regarding the tournament and its participants is expected to follow this Saturday’s “Fedor vs Werdum” event, but multiple sources have confirmed with MMARising.com that Damm, Coenen, Strikeforce veteran Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano and 2010 Upcoming Glory Champion Maiju Kujala will all compete in the 135-pound tournament. Both Coenen and Kujala have verbally agreed to take part, but have not yet officially signed.
Coenen (17-4-0) will drop down to 135 pounds after previously challenging Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight (145-Pound) Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in January. Coenen came up short in the title fight, but has won nine of her last 12 fights and remains one of the sport’s premier female fighters. With nagging health issues no longer plaguing her career, Coenen has gradually lowered her weight and does not foresee any issues with making 135 pounds.
Kujala (4-1-0), a native of Finland, earned her spot in the tournament earlier this year by winning the one-night Upcoming Glory Tournament in the Netherlands. One of the top female prospects in Europe, Kujala will now look to test herself against the best 135-pound female fighters in Strikeforce. Kujala’s lone defeat came via decision in a November 2009 bout with undefeated recent Bellator signee Aisling “Ais The Bash” Daly, and she has since won three straight fights.
Akano (15-7-0) makes her return to Strikeforce after over a year’s absence and will compete at a more comfortable weight in the tournament. A natural 128-pound fighter, Akano was one half of a disastrous bout with Cristiane Santos last April. The fight, universally panned by both fans and critics alike, saw a vastly undersized Akano battle valiantly before succumbing to third-round strikes from Santos, who added to the size disparity – reportedly upwards of 30 pounds at fight time – by coming in overweight. Akano is coming off of a decision loss to Hiroko Yamanaka in March.
Damm (15-3-0), perhaps the most surprising entrant in the tournament, had originally signed with Bellator to be part of the promotion’s 125-pound women’s tournament. When Bellator adjusted its tournament to 115 pounds, Damm opted against competing. The Brazilian star holds wins over Vanessa Porto, Miku “Supernova” Matsumoto, Jessica “Jag” Aguilar and Ana Maria “India.” She has competed in a variety of weight classes and will move up slightly for the 135-pound tournament. Damm has won ten straight fights, but remains a question mark after her positive steroid test two years ago.
Other rumoured and probable tournament participants include Miesha “Takedown” Tate, Freestyle Cage Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler and Kerry Vera. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker previously stated that Tate and Vera would likely take part in the tournament, though neither fighter’s participation could be officially confirmed as of this evening. Vera previously withdrew from a planned May bout due to injury.
Baszler may bypass the tournament entirely and face the winner of the upcoming title fight between Sarah Kaufman and Roxanne Modafferi, but that is also not confirmed. The submission ace has already faced both Kaufman and Modafferi, dropping a decision to Kaufman in Strikeforce last June and submitting Modafferi in just 68 seconds in October of 2006.
MMARising.com has learned that Japanese standout Takayo Hashi, who dropped a one-sided decision to Kaufman in February, is not expected to be included in the Strikeforce tournament. Hashi was reportedly dropped from her contract following a lacklustre performance against Kaufman and has given no indication that she will be returning to Strikeforce this summer. Further updates will follow.
No dates have been announced for the tournament, but Coker previously informed MMARising.com that it would begin “no later than August 15th.” The full tournament lineup is expected to be made public next week, but MMARising.com will continue to follow the ongoing story and will release additional information in the coming days.