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Strikeforce Has a Star It Can Build in Roger Bowling

Strikeforce's "Challengers" cards are supposed to be the shows that promote mixed martial arts stars of the future. Whether the Challengers cards actually accomplish that is open to debate, but the card Strikeforce put on Friday night in Portland certainly produced one fighter who looks like a star in the making: Roger Bowling.

Bowling, a welterweight from Ohio who had previously fought only on small cards in the Midwest, took a step up in competition and looked very impressive in defeating Bobby Voelker Friday night. If Strikeforce is smart, we'll be hearing a lot about Bowling as the promotion continues to put him in bigger fights against better opponents.

From the outset against Voelker, Bowling was an animal. He has talked about working on his wrestling, and it was impressive to see how quickly he took Voelker down, less than 10 seconds into the first round. Voelker was the bigger man, but Bowling had no trouble at all throwing him around.

But it's on his feet where Bowling is at his best. He can connect effectively with his punches and his kicks, has a powerful left hook and likes to use his right leg to kick to the body. He also moves his head well enough that even when he's standing in front of his opponent and trading shots, he's not getting tagged nearly as often as he's connecting himself.

Bowling was absolutely swarming Voelker for much of the fight, and it was just impressive that Voelker was able to stay in it. Unfortunately, Bowling wasn't able to finish it, and the fight ended in an unsatisfying way, with Voelker accidentally poking Bowling in the eye while the referee was separating them during a clinch.

That eye poke led to a long delay, and the referee and ringside doctor took forever determining what caused Bowling's eye injury and what to do about it. Eventually they correctly ruled that it was an accidental eye poke that Bowling couldn't recover from and that the fight would go to the judges, but during the long delay the fans got restless and began to boo.

They booed some more when it was announced that the judges had given the fight to Bowling by unanimous decision, and that led Bowling to apologize for the result during his post-fight interview. The whole thing had a negative vibe: We had just seen an undefeated prospect win another fight, and he ended up sheepishly telling the fans he was sorry they weren't happy with the ending.

Bowling had nothing to apologize for, though. He's now 8-0, and he's dominated everyone he's ever faced. Bowling isn't ready for the very top of Strikeforce's welterweight division -- he'll need at least another year of seasoning before I'd give him any chance against Nick Diaz -- but he's ready for almost every welterweight on the Strikeforce roster other than its champion. Whether they put him on their Challengers cards or on their bigger Saturday night cards, Strikeforce needs to keep putting Bowling in the cage and on TV. Bowling may be a star in the making.

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