Hard-hitting veteran Jan “Cuddles” Finney has been tapped as the next title challenger for Strikeforce Middleweight (145-Pound) Champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos on June 26th. Sources confirmed plans for the bout with MMARising.com and it has since been verified by Strikeforce.
Finney had been set to compete in the finals of the Freestyle Cage Fighting Women’s Bantamweight Grand Prix at 135 pounds, but will now be replaced in the FCF tournament by Adrienna “AJ” Jenkins. FCF worked together with Strikeforce in permitting Finney to take the fight with Santos.
Santos (9-1-0) captured the Strikeforce title with a first-round stoppage of Gina “Conviction” Carano last August and successfully retained the bout in an impressive victory over Marloes “Rumina” Coenen in January. The powerful striker has looked unstoppable in recent outings and many feel that she will reign supreme at 145 pounds for quite some time. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker previously confirmed that Santos would compete on the June 26th Strikeforce/M-1 Global: “Fedor vs Werdum” event and the promotion is hyping the event as featuring the number one male and female fighters in the world.
Finney (8-7-0) began her career with a modest 3-5 record against tough competition and entered the HOOKnSHOOT Women’s Grand Prix in 2007. Following a razor-thin four-round battle with current Strikeforce star Miesha “Takedown” Tate, Finney suffered her sixth career defeat. She has since won five of her last six fights, with the lone blemish coming via three-round decision in a 2008 bout with Erin Toughill. Finney moved up in weight to face Toughill and will compete at 145 pounds when she challenges Santos. Finney has knocked out four opponents to date.
Freestyle Cage Fighting agreed to release Finney from her contract to allow her to compete against Santos on June 26th. Finney offered to return to FCF to face fellow tournament finalist Shayna “The Queen of Spades” Baszler at a later date, but with the possibility of Finney receiving a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce, FCF opted to replace her in the tournament with Adrienna “AJ” Jenkins. Finney and Jenkins fought to a Split Decision at FCF 40 on March 27th, with Finney earning the nod on two judges’ scorecards.
Finney had previously expressed a desire to challenge Santos and will now receive the opportunity to do so. She has only been stopped by strikes one time in her 15-fight career and is renowned as one of the toughest female fighters in the sport. Finney will enter the bout as an underdog, but had been training for the FCF final against Baszler and will make her Strikeforce debut in fighting shape. An upset victory would immediately position Finney as one of the premier females in Strikeforce.
Strikeforce/M-1 Global: “Fedor vs Werdum” takes place on June 26th at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. The event will air live on Showtime and Super Channel and is headlined by a heavyweight bout between “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko and Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum.
Update (11:30 P.M. PDT): Following tonight’s Strikeforce: “Heavy Artillery” event, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker officially confirmed plans for the Santos-Finney fight while speaking with MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani.