Returning to competition for the first time since her destruction of Gina “Conviction” Carano, Strikeforce Women’s Lightweight Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos will battle Dutch standout Marloes Coenen at the tentatively titled “Cyborg vs Coenen” event on January 30th in Strikeforce.
While the fight has not yet been officially confirmed as the main event, it would mark the second straight headlining bout for Santos, who stopped Carano inside of one round in August. Coenen submitted late-replacement Roxanne Modafferi at Strikeforce: “Fedor vs Rogers” on November 7th.
Santos (8-1-0) captured the promotion’s 145-pound women’s title by overwhelming Carano and earning a TKO stoppage with just one second remaining in the opening round.
An injury prevented Santos from competing on the debut Strikeforce card on CBS in November, but she will be healthy and ready to defend her title in January.
Santos has not lost since her professional debut in May of 2005 and all but two of her victories have come by a form of knockout. She has emerged as one of the top 145-pound female fighters in the world, but tough challengers Coenen and Erin Toughill have their sights set squarely on Santos’s title belt.
Coenen (20-3-0) was set to face Toughill in a #1 contender’s bout on the “Fedor vs Rogers” card, but Toughill was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a medical issue.
In Toughill’s place, Roxanne Modafferi took on Coenen on just nine days’ notice, but succumbed to a first-round armbar. Coenen avenged a previous loss to Modafferi with the quick victory.
Known for her formidable striking and excellent ground game, Coenen poses a very serious threat to Santos’s crown and will also hold a significant experience edge over the Brazilian.
While Santos will have an advantage in the strength department, her battle with Carano exposed major holes in her wrestling and Coenen will not hesitate to capitalise on any mistakes that the champion makes.
Coenen has excellent submissions when working off of her back and will not panic if Santos manages to get her to the ground, but she is more than capable of holding her own on the feet as well.
Whether or not Santos will truly emerge as the next “unbeatable champion,” as some believe, will be determined by her ability to stop Coenen in emphatic fashion.
One way or the other, Erin Toughill will be sitting intently on the sidelines as she eyes a fight with the bout’s winner.
The event will also feature the MMA debut of former football superstar and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who signed a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce in late September.
The 47-year-old Walker, who is a fifth-degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do but has never competed in mixed martial arts, was met with criticism when his signing was first announced, but Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker stated that he observed Walker training and was impressed.
A recurring conflict of interest has risen, however, as Walker is the latest member of the American Kickboxing Academy to receive a prime spot on a Strikeforce card.
“Crazy” Bob Cook, a lead trainer at AKA, remains as one of the head matchmakers for Strikeforce, despite an obvious conflict that raised eyebrows earlier this year.
New “official” Strikeforce matchmaker Rich Chou has himself confirmed that Cook is still an integral part of the booking of Strikeforce fights, which likely explains why the aging Walker’s MMA debut will be a featured bout on one of the promotion’s prominent Showtime cards.
Walker’s opponent has yet to be announced, but will likely be someone with comparably limited experience so that Walker can ease his way into the sport.
The event, tentatively titled “Cyborg vs Coenen,” is set for January 30th. The remaining fights on the card are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.