LOS ANGELES – It wasn't exactly a definitive ending, but Renato "Babalu" Sobral
did just enough to edge out Robbie Lawler
in the main event of Strikeforce: Live at the Nokia Theater in a rare Wednesday night event.
The catchweight bout turned out to be a back-and-forth affair, with Sobral doing more damage from distance and Lawler trying to load up for the one blow that would end it all.
While Lawler was successful in avoiding most of Sobral's takedowns, virtually negating the ground game entirely down the stretch, he wasn't quite as effective in the striking exchanges, and the result was all three judges scoring the bout 29-28 in favor of Sobral.
"I wish I could have pressed him a little more and finished him, but I thought the fight was close and I didn't want to over-pursue and let him slip under and get a stupid takedown," Lawler said in the post-fight press conference.
Lawler attributed the loss to a slow start that resulted in the fight ultimately going to the judges. When asked whether there was any particular reason he didn't get out of the gates quicker, Lawler replied, "I thought I was going to knock him out, plain and simple. I thought I was going to knock him out, but I wasn't able to get my hands on him."
Afterwards, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said Lawler would return to the 185-pound weight class for the foreseeable future, and intimated that Sobral might be headed for a showdown with light heavyweight champion "King" Mo Lawal.
When informed that Sobral had insisted that he absolutely would not take that fight due to the relationship between the pair, Coker shrugged it off and said it was a conversation he still intends to have with the Brazilian after his razor-thin win over Lawler.
In the welterweight showdown between Marius Zaromskis
and Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos
, the outcome was far more definitive than in the main event. Zaromskis set a brutal pace early on with punch combos and head kicks, but it was Santos who landed the big shots when it mattered most.
A left hook from Santos in the opening minutes backed Zaromskis up and momentarily halted his attack. It didn't take long until he reloaded and came back, charging at Santos with a jumping knee and catching a straight right in response that dropped him to the canvas. Santos wasted no time jumping on his injured opponent, and a few perfunctory punches were all it took to bring a stop to the bout at 2:38 of the first round.
Immediately after the win, Santos got a chance to celebrate with his wife, Strikeforce 145-pound women's champ Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, who picked him up and carried him around the cage as he reveled in the victory.
In the middleweight division, Army Special Forces soldier Tim Kennedy
put his grappling skills to work right away, quickly getting Trevor Prangley
to the mat after being on the wrong end of a judo throw, and then sinking in the rear naked choke submission as Prangley struggled to his feet at the 3:35 mark in round one.
After the bout Kennedy reminded the media that he's only recently been able to focus full-time on training, thanks to his position with the Texas National Guard, and he hopes to stay busy in the Strikeforce cage this year.
"This is the first time in 8 years that I'm training full time, and you have no idea the potential," said Kennedy. "It's only going to get worse. Well, better for me, worse for my opponents."