Two Strikeforce belts are on the line Saturday night in Houston, with King Mo Lawal making the first defense of his light heavyweight title, and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Tim Kennedy squaring off for the middleweight belt that Jake Shields vacated. We've got the full preview and predictions below.
What: Strikeforce: Houston
Where: Toyota Center, Houston
When: The Showtime televised card begins Saturday at 10 PM ET.
Predictions on the four televised fights:
Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal vs. Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante
Strikeforce desperately needs to build up some home-grown stars rather than import expensive stars from the UFC, and the smart and personable Lawal is the Strikeforce fighter who has the best chance of becoming a home-grown star. He looked great against Gegard Mousasi in April, taking down Mousasi and using his superior wrestling to control the fight, and I believe he'll do the same against Feijao, a good striker who doesn't have much of a ground game.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Tim Kennedy
Strikeforce has mishandled its middleweight division all year, putting champion Jake Shields in a fight the promotion thought he'd lose, then having no plan in place when Shields upset Dan Henderson and bolted for the UFC. Now the middleweight belt is on the line between Jacare and Kennedy, a fight I like but would like a lot more if it were a first-round fight in the middleweight tournament Strikeforce has promised us, rather than a title fight. But now that I've got all that off my chest, I'll say that I think Jacare, with his world-class Brazilian jiu jitsu, is going to be too much on the ground for Kennedy, the Army veteran who has really come into his own as a complete fighter in the last year. Kennedy has never been submitted, but I think Jacare will be the first.
KJ Noons vs. Jorge Gurgel
Noons has put on two impressive fights since returning to MMA this year after taking a detour to pro boxing in 2009, and his fight with Gurgel should be a third. Gurgel is a great Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner who often eschews the ground game in an attempt to make his fights exciting, and I think that's exactly what he'll do against Noons. He'll regret it.
Bobby Lashley vs. Chad Griggs
Griggs has a decent stand-up game and is probably the best opponent Lashley has faced in his MMA career, not that that's saying much. I'll be surprised if Lashley doesn't take Griggs down and beat him up on the ground.