Previewing Strikeforce Challengers 17

Sarah Kaufman. Photo courtesy of Showtime Sports.

Strikeforce will hold its first-ever show in the Las Vegas area with “Strikeforce Challengers 17”, which takes place this evening at the Palms Casino Resort, a frequent stop for the UFC’s “Ultimate Fighter” finales.

The event is headlined by the third meeting between rivals Roger Bowling and Bobby Voelker, who each have a win over one another heading into their rubber match. Also scheduled is a women's bout between former welterweight champion Sarah Kaufmann and former Marine Liz Carmouche as well as a light heavyweight attraction between rising contender Ovince St. Preux and Joe Cason.

The five-fight main card will be televised live on Showtime starting at 10 PM ET.

Roger Bowling vs. Bobby Voelker

The fight: Bowling and Voelker meet for the third, and perhaps final time in their respective careers. The two originally met at Strikeforce Challengers 8 in May 2010, with Bowling walking away with a technical decision win on the scorecards in the middle of the third round after Voelker unintentionally poked Bowling in the eye, with the latter being unable to continue. An immediate rematch saw Voelker score a second-round TKO win at Strikeforce Challengers 11 last October.

What to look for: Voelker entered the rematch with a new strategy that focused on making Bowling put his stamina to the test and it worked to a tee, as the seasoned veteran stopped the prospect with strikes in the second round. Bowling was able to out-work Voelker in their first meeting and he may be able to do so once again if his cardio is able to keep up with his work output this time around.

The pick: Voelker has much more experience than Bowling, despite their two prior meetings, and his crafty planning in the second fight leads me to believe that he will be able to make adjustments on the fly should trouble arise this evening. Voelker via unanimous decision.

Sarah Kaufman vs. Liz Carmouche

The fight: The Strikeforce women’s welterweight divisional picture may become a little clearer after tonight as two of its top contenders, former champion Kaufman and Carmouche, a former title challenger, will collide.

What to look for: A clear contrast in styles. Kaufman would look to keep this one of the feet, and while she is capable herself on the ground, she is clearly outmatched by the wrestling prowess of Carmouche, who gave Marloes Coenen all she could handle before falling victim to a last-minute submission.

The pick: Both fighters sport each of their only professional losses to Coenen, but it was Carmouche who gave the champion trouble while Kaufman struggled mightily. The trend should continue here. Carmouche via unanimous decision.

Devin Cole vs. Shawn Jordan

The fight: Cole, an IFL veteran that experienced a career resurgence over the last couple of years, gets a last-minute change of opponent in Jordan, a former collegiate football player and recent Bellator employee that has won ten of his twelve professional outings.

What to look for: This should be a clash between two decent wrestlers that can also handle themselves on the feet without diving into trouble. Cole looks to be the craftier of the two with a boatload of experience under his belt but Jordan has impressed during his short stint as a professional, winning two of his three bouts under the Bellator banner.

The pick: It’s hard not to pick Cole here, especially since Jordan is coming in as a last-minute replacement. Regardless of what kind of shape he’s in, it’ll be hard to enter the cage without any kind of a gameplan. Cole via TKO.

Ovince St. Preux vs. Joe Cason

The fight: After taking a much-needed break following three high-level fights in three months under the Strikeforce banner, St. Preux puts his seven-fight win streak on the line against Cason, a disciple of Duke Roufus that has won nine of his first ten as a pro.

What to look for: Cason is taking a considerable step up in competition. With the exception of UFC veteran Sean Salmon, who has looked absolutely terrible since his highlight-reel KO loss to Rashad Evans, only two of Cason’s career opponents have a single win. Meanwhile, St. Preux has taken out serviceable light heavyweights Benji Radach, Antwain Britt and Ron Humphrey in consecutive fights.

The fight: I don’t want to doubt Cason’s skills, especially since he’s training under Duke Roufus and alongside his students in Milwaukee, but the disparity in skill level could be eye-opening against St. Preux. I’m predicting a quick and brutal finish. St. Preux via TKO.

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