At last, the first-round matchups for tomorrow night’s Strikeforce 135-pound women’s tournament are known. A random drawing at tonight’s weigh-ins determined that Carina “Beauty But The Beast” Damm will face Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano, while Miesha “Takedown” Tate faces Maiju Kujala.
Damm and Akano are no strangers to one another, as both share a common manager in Shu Hirata, but both travelled very different paths on their way to the tournament. Meanwhile, the odds-on favourite Tate will look to get back into title contention against Kujala, who makes her Strikeforce debut.
Damm (15-3-0) returns to competition in the United States for the first time in over two years, dating back to a 2008 suspension for steroid use. Looking to both win the tournament and also redeem herself in the eyes of some, Damm won’t have an easy task in the opening round of the one-night competition when she faces fellow veteran Akano (15-7-0) in a battle of technicians. Damm arguably holds an edge in the striking, while both are very skilled on the ground. The fighters share 18 submission victories between them and all but one has come by armbar.
Tate (9-2-0) enters the tournament as a favourite to emerge as the event’s champion, and perhaps rightfully so. She took current Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman to a very competitive decision in May of 2009 under a three, three-minute round format and would like another shot in a 25-minute title fight. She will first have to get past Kujala (4-1-0) in the tournament’s opening round and faces a relatively unknown but dangerous opponent. Kujala won the 2010 Upcoming Glory Tournament to earn her place in Strikeforce and is two victories away from shocking the world.
The inaugural Strikeforce 135-pound women’s tournament takes place tomorrow night at Strikeforce Challengers 10 from the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona. The televised main card will begin with the Damm vs Akano fight, with Tate vs Kujala to follow. The tournament final will take place following a men’s bout between Ryan Couture and Lucas Stark. A women’s reserve bout between Colleen Schneider and Liz Carmouche will be part of the unaired undercard.