NEW YORK - After months of deliberations, one of the most anticipated showdowns in mixed martial arts history will finally come to fruition when former UFC middleweight champion, Frank Shamrock, battles fellow knockout artist and consummate showman, “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni, for the vacant Strikeforce world middleweight (185 lb. limit) championship during the main event of “Judgment Day,” a live, Pay Per View televised Strikeforce-EliteXC cage fight card that will take place at San Jose, California’s HP Pavilion on Friday, June 22nd.
Also returning to action during “Judgment Day,” undefeated world San Shou kickboxing champion and middleweight mixed martial arts contender, Cung Le, will battle UFC veteran, Tony “The Freak” Fryklund. Strikeforce’s latest recruit, 2003 K-1 North America tournament champion, Carter Williams, will face the hard-hitting Paul Buentello in a heavyweight matchup. Off the heels of his stunning knockout victory over KJ Noons, Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett, will take on Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela.
Joey Villasenor and former Pride star, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, will lock horns with the vacant EliteXC middleweight title at stake. On February 10th, Villasenor pulled off a stunning upset by outmaneuvering and, eventually earning a unanimous judges’ decision over David “The Crow” Loiseau. Villasenor’s career is highlighted by a 15 fight winning streak that he put together between December 2002 and April 2006. A member of the famed Chute Boxe fight squad in Brazil, Rua was last seen in action on September 30th when he submitted British kickboxer, Mark Weir, with an arm triangle choke in the second round of their meeting.
Arguably the most physically gifted individual to ever step in the cage, the 34-year-old Shamrock, also a former King Of Pancrase, has been dubbed by the fight press as the “closest thing mixed martial has to Muhammad Ali” for his combination of versatile skills quick witted mind games that he has so often used to gain a sharp advantage over his opposition.
During his illustrious career, Shamrock has taken out the likes of UFC poster boy Tito Ortiz as well as mixed martial arts legend, Bas Rutten. His 16 second submission of former Olympic Wrestling Gold Medalist Kevin Jackson on December 21, 1997 set a new UFC record for stoppage of a fight.
On March 10th of last year, Shamrock ended a near three year hiatus from action and rekindled the sport’s oldest family rivalry when he faced longtime nemesis, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, Cesar Gracie, in the main event of the historic, first-ever sanctioned mixed martial arts fight card in the state of California that took place at the HP Pavilion. Before a sold-out, record crowd of 18,265, Shamrock decimated Gracie, sending him to the canvas with a hard right hand that set up a 21 second technical knockout.
Shamrock returned to the cage on February 10th of this year to meet another famed member of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s first family, Renzo Gracie. The contest ended in a controversial manner, with Shamrock being disqualified for throwing two illegal knee strikes to Gracie’s head while the two fighters struggled on the ground.
With his brilliant punching power and dynamic energy that triggers his edgy persona, the 30-year-old Baroni poses an imminent threat to Shamrock’s legacy.
In 2001, Baroni, a native of Long Island, New York, exploded onto the UFC scene and, one year later, established himself as a credible star by pummeling former UFC middleweight champion, Dave Menne, only 18 seconds into their matchup.
Of late, Baroni has been making noise with the Japan-based Pride Fighting Championship. During the organization’s first-ever fight card in The United States on October 21st, Baroni thrilled a packed house at Las Vegas, Nevada’s Thomas and Mack Center as well as a Pay-Per-View audience when he forced famed Japanese boxer, Yosuke Nishijima, into submission with a kimura hold.
Ironically, Baroni recently joined the world-class fight team at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), the former home of Shamrock. The alliance has thickened the bad blood between the two fighters.
“Judgment Day” is being co-produced by Strikeforce; ProElite, Inc, the parent outfit of EliteXC; and Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment.
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