Strikeforce returns with another female-headlined card as fast-rising women’s star Ronda Rousey defends her Strikeforce bantamweight title against former champion Sarah Kaufman at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California this Saturday night on Showtime.
Other notables on the card include former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza looking for a second straight win against previously scheduled opponent Derek Brunson. Bouts featuring prospects Lumumba Sayers, Ovince St. Preux and Tarec Saffiedine will also take place.
Here’s a preview of the event’s five-fight main card, which can be seen in its entirety after the jump.
The fight: Rousey makes the first defense of her bantamweight crown against Kaufman, who has won three straight since losing the title at the hands of Marloes Coenen in October 2010. As is becoming the case with many of Rousey’s fights, a good amount of trash talk has taken place on both sides.
What to look for: While the hype around Rousey is warranted, she will be facing easily the toughest test of her career in Kaufman, who sports an aggressive style via hard strikes and suffocating top control. Rousey no doubt wants to take the fight to the ground and lock on her patented armbar. Will Kaufman give her the chance?
The fight: Souza and Brunson meet after originally being scheduled to fight in March. Brunson was forced out of the matchup after the Ohio Athletic Commission ruled that he could not compete with contact lenses in his eyes, a decision that ultimately forced Brunson to undergo Lasik surgery.
What to look for: Zuffa made a rare exception and let Brunson fight outside of Strikeforce for a one-off ShoFight title bout with Kendall Grove in June, and Brunson ended up on the wrong side of a razor-close split decision. One has to wonder where his confidence is at heading into this one. Souza dominated Bristol Marunde in his last showing but wasn’t able to finish the journeyman until the middle of the third round. That has to be frustrating.
The fight: Saffiedine and Bowling meet in a welterweight matchup that will move the winner further up the divisional pecking order. Both have each won their last two bouts under the Strikeforce banner. Other than Jason High, there aren’t any other options for Nate Marquardt’s first title defense besides these two.
What to look for: A stand-up war should ensue. The catch is how each fighter is going to react to the opposing style. Bowling is aggressive to say the least. Seven of his eleven pro wins are first round stoppages. Saffiedine on the other hand, is by far the more technical of the two. The majority of his Strikeforce wins have gone the distance, with Saffiedine frustrating his opponents with a high-work rate via strikes.
The fight: Sayers get a chance to improve his stock against Smith, who at 24-years-old has already racked up 24 pro fights. After struggling earlier on in his career, Smith has now won eleven of his past thirteen bouts.
What to look for: This one likely won’t go the distance, let alone out of the first round. Sayers has never even seen the second round and Smith has yet to have gone the distance. Both guys will be content to keep things on the fight and swing away until someone goes down.
The fight: St. Preux returns to action for the first time since a decision loss to Gegard Mousasi in December against Cook, who split a pair of fights under the Strikeforce Challengers series in 2011.
What to look for: The loss to Mousasi was St. Preux’s first since becoming a bonafide light heavyweight prospect by winning three Strikeforce fights in as many months. He’s been sidelined for nine months since. How much has he improved? And will Cook just serve as a showcase opponent for him?