Strikeforce invades the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington tomorrow night for the second edition of their popular Challengers Series, and MMARising.com will be on-site to provide in-depth coverage, pictures and interviews from the event.
The card is a solid one, featuring a number of talented fighters from the Pacific Northwest as well as many of the top prospects in North America including Sarah Kaufman.
The main event of the evening pits former EliteXC title challenger "Smokin'" Joe Villasenor against dangerous striker Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos in a middleweight contest.
Though Santos has had a rollercoaster couple of years, with wins, losses and injuries, he has worked to develop other aspects of his game beyond his traditional brawling style. Having picked up a heel hook submission victory over Makoto Takimoto last year, Santos could shock everyone in attendance by submitting Villasenor.
More likely, however, this will turn into a slugfest, and few things seem to be able to stop the momentum of Villasenor right now. Though he came up short in a title bid against Murilo "Ninja" Rua in June of 2007, he has rebounded with three impressive victories, including stoppage wins over Ryan Jensen and "The New York Bad Ass" Phil Baroni.
Fireworks are all but assured in this one.
Next up is a middleweight bout between the often top-10-ranked welterweight, Nick "The Goat" Thompson, and U.S. Army Ranger Tim Kennedy.
It's no secret that Thompson will be looking to take this one to the ground, while Kennedy, who has not competed in a year and a half, would prefer to keep the fight standing. Kennedy's best chance for success in this fight is to avoid the crafty ground game of Thompson and look for the knockout. With a win here, especially in coming up in weight for the fight, Thompson would solidify his spot among the top 10 of world-ranked welterweights.
The next fight is a lightweight battle between former UFC star Jorge "J.G." Gurgel and Conor "Hurricane" Heun.
Gurgel has promised to fight smart fights in his new Strikeforce home, which will hopefully mean that he will not engage in 15-minute punching battles that he has no chance of winning. Gurgel has a world-class ground game, if he'd just use it once in a while, and should be able to submit Heun easily if he tries. Here's hoping that Gurgel puts on a great performance for the fans, but does it by actually using his best skills; submissions.
Moving on, we have a fight with future title implications written all over it, as undefeated female standout Sarah Kaufman travels south of the border to take on submission wizard "The Queen of Spades" Shayna Baszler.
Finally getting to compete under five-minute rounds, this will provide both women with more time to work their magic, but the game plans for each fighter could not be more clear. Kaufman needs to keep the fight standing and pressure Baszler with punches until she folds. Baszler needs to find a way to get the fight to the mat to work her ridiculous ground game and vast array of submission holds. This will be decided entirely upon where the fight takes place, but Baszler's struggles with powerful strikers are well-documented. Kaufman simply needs to stay on the feet and pound out a TKO victory.
The final main card fight pits middleweights Corey "The One" Devela and Luke Rockhold against each other to determine a future contender in the division.
Devela's last fight was going so well until Terry Martin knocked him out with a punch midway through round three. Until then, he'd been dominating Martin and was well on his way to a huge victory. Instead, he was thrown back into the pool of contenders and must now get past Rockhold, who has scored three straight submission wins. This is likely to be a tactical battle on the ground, and the fighter who can secure the first meaningful submission is likely to emerge as the winner.
Strikeforce Challengers 2 also features a solid undercard, including a welterweight bout between two-time Matt Hughes conqueror (in a combined total of 37 seconds) Dennis "Superman" Hallman and Cedric "Spider Marks" Marks.
Hallman should be fine wherever this fight goes, as he is very well-rounded and should prove to be too much for Marks. A 12-year veteran of the sport, Hallman has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in his career as of late and this is the latest chapter in his quest to get back to the top. This should be a good fight, but Hallman will almost certainly come out on top.
Also on the undercard, Bryan Caraway squares off with Alex Zuniga in a lightweight bout.
Zuniga is in well over his head here, as he gives up a massive experience edge to Caraway, but he could always pull off an upset. Caraway is looking to get back into title contention after Wilson Reis foiled his attempts to make a run for the EliteXC Lightweight Championship last year. With all 10 of his wins coming by submission, look for Caraway to make it 11 with this fight.
Moving on, we have what could be one of the fights of the night, as Lyle "Fancy Pants" Beerbohm looks to remain undefeated when he faces lightweight striking phenom Duane "Bang" Ludwig.
Beerbohm's story is an inspirational one, as just two years ago, he was in jail and recovering from a deadly addiction to crystal methamphetamine. Kicking his demons for good, Beerbohm got involved in martial arts and won all of his MMA fights as an amateur. He turned pro in August of 2007 and has racked up nine straight wins.
Ludwig is most famous for scoring the fastest knockout in UFC history when he defeated Jonathan "The Road Warrior" Goulet in just four seconds. The clock continued to run until the 11-second mark, but the fight had long been over by then. Ludwig also holds wins over Jens "Lil' Evil" Pulver, Genki "Neo-Samurai" Sudo and Yves Edwards, and competed against former #1-ranked lightweight Takanori "Fireball Kid" Gomi last March. Ludwig will be looking to give Beerbohm his first loss with a punishing knockout.
Also on the card, Landon "The Show" Showalter faces Travis "The Praying Mantis" Doerge, Len Bentley battles Marques Daniels and Steve Hadsel takes on Taylor Roberts.
MMARising.com will be providing exclusive content throughout the weekend, so check back in the coming days for pictures and interviews from the event.