Strikeforce Challengers, created by Showtime to house up and coming stars and veterans looking to reestablish their names, consistently delivers excellent bouts. Unfortunately, all too often, the show flies under the radar of even the hardest of hardcore MMA fans. Whether it's a marketing issue, a glut of MMA programming, or a lack of familiarity with the fighters, the show seems stuck in a ratings rut.
To the rescue comes MMA media pioneer Stephen Quadros, the legendary voice of the now departed, but still dearly beloved, Pride Fighting Championships. Quadros will call the action Friday night on Showtime alongside partners Mauro Ranallo and Pat Miletich, one of MMA's great announce teams. Quadros broke down the fights for SBNation.com, sharing his thoughts on what should be a night of great action.
Stephen Quadros, left, breaks down the fights. Photo by Rich Hundley III for Showtime
Adlan Amagov vs. Ron Stallings
This is one helluva way to kickoff the best little show that unfortunately very few people know about. Stallings is quick and sneaky with punishing single strikes from his southpaw stance. Amagov, like Stallings, has true one-shot crushing power with kicks and punches, but seems the more refined and meticulous striker of the two.
On the ground it will be BJJ vs. Combat Sambo, with Stallings using Lloyd Irvin inspired grappling to battle against the vicious G&P top game that Amagov inherited from his training partner Fedor Emelianenko.
Sarah Kaufman vs. Liz Carmouche
Kaufman is the former 135 pound champion, who lost the belt via submission, and Carmouche had the belt within her grasp with a shockingly dominant performance in her last fight before being done in by the same woman who vexed Kaufman; current welterweight queen Marloes Coenen. Styles make fights almost as much as wanting to get back on the winning track, so this battle has interesting aspects galore. Kaufman is the best technical female striker at 135 but Carmouche may be the strongest in the clinch. Sarah definitely wants to unload on the former US Marine (Carmouche) and use lots of side to side movement, but Liz has other ideas, like slamming the Canadian to the ground and dishing out damage with punches.
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Joe Cason
Ovince Saint Preux has been very successful in rebuilding his career after a relatively inauspicious start of 3-4 when he first transitioned from collegiate football into professional MMA. Now he's riding on a 7-fight win streak over the likes of Benji Radach, Antwain Britt and Abongo Humphrey. But some are questioning his finishing ability because those last three fights all went the distance. But finishing isn't a problem for OSP's undefeated (8-0) opponent, Joe Cason, who is also a former college football player. Cason has destroyed every man he's faced, all inside the first round. Saint Preux knows Cason is a threat early and will want to use kicks to keep the former wrestler and track star off of him until he sees the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Joe Cason on the other hand, has to just conduct "business as usual" by wading in and dropping bombs.
Lavar Johnson vs. Devin Cole
Both men are coming off of different kinds of losses: Johnson got submitted in his last fight by undefeated Shane Del Rosario in the first round, and Devin Cole lost a unanimous decision to also undefeated Daniel Cormier. But Cole had the better night in defeat, given that his will was very much intact even in the last moments of his fight with Cormier. These two big guys (both Johnson and Cole are 6'4") are complete opposites stylistically, so we can deduce that Lavar will definitely want to keep it standing and hurt Devin with long range punches, while Cole may surprise Johnson on his way into a takedown or a clinch with a big punch of his own.
Bobby Voelker vs. Roger Bowling III
So the saga continues: Bowling won the first contest by technical decision after trash compacting "Vicious" Bobby for two rounds, then was unable to see/continue after receiving an unintentional eye poke in the third, which caused the fight to go to the judges. The second clash saw Voelker use his experience to pick Bowling apart and stop him in round two. The third meeting will be the most competitive if both fighters are healthy (Bowling broke his hand and his leg early in the second meeting). With a nickname like "Relentless", it's just in his DNA for Roger Bowling to attack immediately, and his best chance is to get things done early. Voelker will not want to take the kind of shellacking he did in their first meeting, but instead drag Bowling into the deep waters of round three and go for the finish then.
Strikeforce Challengers will air Friday night, live on Showtime at 11 PM EST from the Pearl at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. TICKETS ON SALE NOW.