Three middleweight bouts have been added to the upcoming Strikeforce: “Champions” event on January 12th in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza looks for his third straight win when he faces rising star Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin.
In other 185-pound bouts on the card, multi-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Roger Gracie takes on Anthony “Lionheart” Smith, while former Strikeforce title challenger Tim Kennedy battles Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith. All three fights were officially confirmed by the promotion earlier today.
Souza (16-3-0, 1 NC) captured the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title in August 2010 and made one successful defence before losing the belt to Luke Rockhold in September 2011. He rebounded with a submission win in May, but it was a 41-second knockout of Derek Brunson in August that showed that Souza’s striking game was improving in a big way. Souza now steps in to replace an injured Rockhold, who was originally in line to face Larkin (13-0-0, 1 NC) on the January card. Larkin opened his career with 12 straight wins before losing to former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in January. The loss was overturned when Lawal tested positive for steroids and Larkin made a successful middleweight debut by defeating former EliteXC champ “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler in July.
Gracie (5-1-0) is widely regarded as one of the best grapplers in the world today and he has thus far enjoyed a successful career in MMA despite competing on an infrequent basis. Four of Gracie’s wins have come by way of submission and he most recently rebounded from the first loss of his career by defeating “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine in July. His opponent, Anthony Smith (17-8-0), has won 12 of his past 14 fights. He has yet to go the distance a single time in his pro career and most recently scored one of his biggest wins to date by submitting Lumumba “Heavy Hands” Sayers at Strikeforce: “Rousey vs Kaufman” in August.
Kennedy (14-4-0) has twice challenged for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship, but came out on the wrong end of Unanimous Decisions on both occasions. The decorated military veteran remains one of the sport’s top middleweights, however, and holds a number of key wins under the Strikeforce banner. He will look to get back on the winning track when he takes on Trevor Smith (10-2-0), who is 2-1 in Strikeforce fights and has never gone to a decision. Smith’s five-fight winning streak was snapped by Gian Villante in his most recent fight for Strikeforce, but he got back on track in June with a first-round submission victory outside of the promotion.
With the January Strikeforce event likely to be the promotion’s final show, all three middleweight bouts will be pivotal ones as fighters look to make the crossover to the ranks of the UFC next year.
In addition to the middleweight bouts, a heavyweight matchup between Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett (31-6-0) and Austria’s Nandor “The Hun” Guelmino (11-3-1) is also targeted for the card, according to a report from MMAjunkie.com earlier today. Barnett is coming off of a Unanimous Decision loss to Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, but he had won eight straight fights prior to the setback. Guelmino has won seven in a row and now makes his Strikeforce debut.
Strikeforce: “Champions” takes place on January 12, 2013 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The event is headlined by a Strikeforce Welterweight Championship bout between Nate “The Great” Marquardt and Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine.
Strikeforce: “Champions” Fight Card (to date; subject to change):
– Nate “The Great” Marquardt vs Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine [Strikeforce Welterweight Championship]
– Daniel Cormier vs Dion “The Soldier” Staring
– Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi vs Mike “MAK” Kyle
– Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza vs Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin
– Pat “Bam Bam” Healy vs Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal
– Roger Gracie vs Anthony “Lionheart” Smith
– Tim Kennedy vs Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith
– “King” K.J. Noons vs Ryan Couture
– Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett vs Nandor “The Hun” Guelmino*
*Not yet officially announced.
(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)