Strikeforce 'Payback' Review: Ludwig avenges loss

Strikeforce is an organization on the rise. In fact, every time a new MMA outfit starts off they seem to reference the Strikeforce model, one that starts off with strong local talent and expands from there. Said another way, besides the UFC the only MMA organization that's known to be making money out there is them.

This particular installment of Strikeforce came to us all live from the Broomfield Event Center in Broomfield, Colorado. Solid fights like Frank Trigg vs. Falaniko Vitale and Duane "Bang" Ludwig vs. Sam Morgan were on the card. Good stuff.

Now let's get to it.

Before Ricky Johnson took on Tyler Toner in the first televised bout of the night, he said, "little kids fight over candy, and Tyler Toner's in the way of my candy."

The fight started off with several blocked strikes before Toner connected with a hard left- right combination. Soon after, the two worked one another over in the clinch against the wall and then separated. Later, Toner hit home with a very hard low kick. Both fighters then traded before Toner hit home with a high kick.

This guy has some nice kicks.

For the most part, the story on the rest of the round was that Johnson toughed it out, connecting every now and then with some solid shots; still, Toner continually hit home with the harder and crisper strikes, particularly kicks.

That is, until late in the fight when Toner dropped Johnson with a knee inside. Looking for the kill, he then was promptly dropped by a Johnson right hand. The round ended with Toner on top in side control. But it was a very good one.

In the second, after methodically breaking his opponent down with strikes, Toner landed another hard right knee that dropped Johnson. From there he followed his opponent to the ground and mounted him. The punches kept coming in bunches until the referee stopped the fight.

This was a fun one. Tyler Toner is a fighter to watch.

Tyler Toner wins via TKO at 3:44 of round two.

"I think she sees me as an 0-1. . . I step in there she's gonna realize that I'm not really what she signed up for. I trained really, really hard for this fight," said Tyra Parker before taking on the Karate Hottie Michelle Waterson. Of course, training hard doesn't always translate to a victory. So would it for Parker on this night?

Early in the fight, Waterson connected with some composed kicks while Parker came forward throwing big punches with a vengeance. Eventually, Waterson clinched with her adversary along the cage wall and started hitting home with hard knees to the body and face. Then she took her opponent's back and sunk in the rear naked choke as they slumped to the floor.

Waterson is good folks.

Michelle Waterson wins via rear naked choke at 1:20 of round one.

Next up was a bout between Muay Thai and former boxing champion Carlos Zevallos and Andre Walker. Said Walker beforehand, "I see this fight?me winning by knockout." Might be hard to come through with that prediction on his feet against a guy with the stand up pedigree that Zevallos has.

Or would it?

Early in the fight, Walker connected with a terrific left that floored his opponent. From there, Walker followed Zevallos to the ground and continued the onslaught. Zevallos managed to get to his feet, but all that served to do was allow him to take more punishment. Punch after punch landed.

But somehow, Zevallos survived.

Up until the 1:30 mark, Walker continued to connect in spurts. That said, the strikes became less powerful as the fight went on. At the 1:30 mark, however, Walker went for the takedown and Zevallos turned him over and eventually took the mount. There he landed strike after strike until the referee pulled him off. Though Zevallos's punches weren't all that hard, Walker wasn't really answering anything.

Carlos Zevallos wins via TKO at the 4:41 mark of round one in a great comeback.

Next up was a fight between Billy Evangelista and Luke Caudillo. Would Evangelista continue his undefeated ways, or would Caudillo prove to be his poison?

Right off the bat, Caudillo landed a huge left hand that dropped his adversary. Evangelista got up only to get dropped again. Then he got up again, all the while taking shot after shot. But somehow, Evangelista survived.

Story of the night so far.

After some separation time, Evangelista went for a takedown that fell by the wayside. Still, Evangelista began to connect with timely punches and kicks in spots. At one point, he caught a Caudillo kick and brought him to the canvas, even if his opponent was quick to get up.

Late in the fight, Evangelista connected with some hard knees and punches and then followed Caudillo to the canvas. From there, he took his opponent's back and started raining down unanswered punches on his adversary until the bell.

This one was close to being stopped. A tough round to call because of how it ended.

Early in the second, Caudillo caught an Evangelista kick and took him to the ground. Soon after, Evangelista turned him over and got to his feet. For the rest of the round, Evangelista connected with solid punches, low kicks, and occasional knees. Nothing that was knockout worthy, but clearly the round went to him.

The final round started off striking before Evangelista took Caudillo down hard along the cage wall. Then he started in with the ground and pound, some of which was quite strong. But during a momentary lull, the referee stood them up.

The rest of the round saw both fighters go for takedowns to no avail. Both guys also connected with strikes, but Evangelista hit home with more of them and the harder ones.

Clearly a decision win for Billy Evangelista.

Billy Evangelista wins via unanimous decision.

Next up was a fight between Donnie Liles and former UFC fighter Pete Spratt. "This fight for my career, I guess it's kind of pivotal for me," said Spratt beforehand.

After some thought, guess is that Spratt is right.

The fight started off with very little action. Still, Spratt did connect with a nice right before kneeing his opponent in the groin, giving both of them a rest. When the fight resumed, Spratt continued to throw hard shots. Though most did not connect, when they did it looked like it hurt.

After a moment where Spratt ended up on the ground after a push, the better grappler Liles inexplicably allowed him right back up. While up, Spratt connected with some nice shots in a burst.

Near the one minute mark, Liles connected with a couple of strikes and pressed his opponent into the cage wall looking for the takedown. Liles tried to throw him, but instead ended up with Spratt on top of him on the ground. Then came the bell.

Pete Spratt won this round.

In the second, Liles rushed forward after connecting with a couple of shots. Then he pulled Spratt into his guard. However, Spratt got to his feet.

Liles came inside and connected with a knee and then a kick upon separation. Spratt then connected with a hard body punch. For the rest of the round, both guys connected with strikes. Still, Spratt's tended to be the harder ones. But then Liles finally shot in and took Spratt down with about 30 seconds left. Then he mounted him and took his back.

Then the bell. This was a close round. It may have gone to Liles making this fight even.

In the third, Liles took Spratt down hard again. This time, his opponent got to his feet quickly. While in the clinch, Liles dropped down a level and took Spratt down with a double leg. Then he mounted him. Spratt turned his back and Liles took that back of his in succession. A couple of punches later and then came the rear naked choke.

Donnie Liles wins via rear naked choke at 1:59 of round three. Not sure what took Liles so long to start looking to take this fight to the ground. But once he did, he looked good.

Next up was one of the big bouts between Falaniko Vitale and Frank Trigg. "I would love to finish the fight early in the first round," said Trigg. Of course, being the veteran that he is, Trigg knows that's sometimes easier said than done.

In the first, Trigg rushed his opponent into the wall where he connected with several elbows and punches. Though none of the strikes seemed to do terrible damage, they sure did score points.

After a momentary separation and re- clinch, Vitale threw Trigg to the canvas. Still, Twinkle Toes got to his feet quickly. From there, Trigg connected with several shots. In general, he was looking good on his feet, crowding his opponent until the bell.

An easy round for Trigg.

The second stanza started off with Vitale landing a nice right. But Trigg once again crowded him and peppered him with punches along the wall. In fact, that was the story on this round until the very end when Vitale gained separation in the middle of the ring and connected with a couple of nice punches from a distance. Still, Vitale needs a stoppage in order to win.

In the third, Trigg did something different?perhaps what we all expected him to do right off the bat. He threw a couple of punches, dropped a level, and took his adversary down. But after some time, Vitale fought to his feet and landed some hard knees inside on him.

Up against the wall, the two were pretty inactive for a time, which caused the referee to separate them. While separated, Vitale landed a big right hand that sent Trigg into the cage wall. But he inexplicably didn't follow it up with enough speed. Trigg then connected with a couple of punches and ran Vitale into the wall. There, Vitale secured a takedown but Trigg was quick back to his feet.

Eventually, Trigg took Vitale down again and connected with some light stuff while on the canvas. Lots of boos, which was ridiculous?Trigg fought a nice fight.

Frank Trigg wins via unanimous decision.

Finally came the main event of the evening, a rematch between Sam Hoger and Duane "Bang" Ludwig. Why say anything other than in the end, someone is probably getting knocked out?

These two clinched early where Morgan threw Ludwig to the canvas. From there Ludwig got back up. Then the two clinched again with both being very active. Soon after, Ludwig tripped Morgan to the canvas and took the top position. Then Morgan fought to his feet.

Then came a huge left to the body by Ludwig. He followed Morgan to the canvas with punches in bunches along the way. Morgan couldn't answer.

And then the referee stepped in.

Duane "Bang" Ludwig wins via TKO in round one.

In the end, Strikeforce: Payback was a fun night of fights. Tyler Toner fought like a guy that we might want to see again, Michelle Waterson demonstrated what all the hype was about surrounding her, and Ludwig got his revenge. Frank Trigg and Donnie Liles also both had good nights.

A fun night of MMA all around.

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