Strikeforce Challengers Preview and Predictions

Tarec SaffiedineThe first Strikeforce event of 2011 takes place on Friday in Tennessee, and it's a Challengers card that has a good array of young talent and five fights on Showtime that should do a lot to identify some of the up-and-coming contenders on the Strikeforce roster.

What: Strikeforce Nashville Challengers: Woodley vs Saffiedine

When: Friday, the Showtime broadcast begins at 11 PM ET

Where: Nashville Municipal Auditorium

Predictions on the five televised fights below.

Tyron Woodley vs. Tarec Saffiedine
This is a good example of exactly the kind of fight that Strikeforce should have headlining its Challengers shows. The 24-year-old Saffiedine is coming off the best win of his career, a decision over Brock Larson at the September Shark Fights card, and the 28-year-old Woodley is coming off the best win of his career, a beatdown of Andre Galvao in Strikeforce's October card in San Jose. Saffiedine has never faced anyone with Woodley's athleticism or wrestling pedigree, and I like Woodley to put Saffiedine on his back repeatedly and win a decision.
Pick: Woodley

Daniel Cormier vs. Devin Cole
Cormier was a great amateur wrestler whose decision to become a professional MMA fighter in 2009 was big news. Strikeforce and Showtime televised his MMA debut but have criminally under-promoted him since then, and it's good that he'll finally be back on TV on Friday night. Cole is 18-8-1 and a lot more experienced than Cormier, but he won't be able to stop Cormier's takedowns, and he'll get pounded out on the ground in quick fashion.
Pick: Cormier

Ovince St. Preux vs. Abongo Humphrey
St. Preux has been incredibly busy lately, with this fight making it the third straight Strikeforce card that St. Preux has appeared on. He's looked great in his last two fights, winning unanimous decisions over Antwain Britt in November and Benji Radach in December. I respect St. Preux for staying busy, as young up-and-coming fighters should, and I think it was smart of Strikeforce to put St. Preux, a former University of Tennessee football player, on a card in Tennessee. I like St. Preux to win yet another unanimous decision over Humphrey.
Pick: St. Preux

Julia Budd vs. Amanda Nunes
Strikeforce is desperate for someone to emerge as a legitimate threat to Cris Cyborg in the women's 145-pound division and hopeful that the winner of this fight could be that someone. Budd has a strong muay Thai background and looked very good in her MMA debut, beating Shana Olsen in October. But I think the 5-1 Nunes has more punching power and will win by TKO.
Pick: Nunes

John Richard vs. Rhadi Ferguson
Ferguson is a former U.S. judo Olympian and the cousin of Kevin Ferguson, better known as Kimbo Slice. Richard took the fight on short notice and is highly unlikely to give Ferguson any trouble.
Pick: Ferguson

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