Villasenor vs. “Cyborg” Santos to Headline Strikeforce Challengers in June


Joey Villasenor. Photo by Esther Lin/ProElite.

NEW YORK — Middleweight (185 pound) wrecking machines “Smokin” Joey Villasenor (26-6) and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (16-12) will face off in the main event of a Strikeforce Challengers mixed martial arts (MMA) card at the all-new ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington on Friday, June 19. 

Also enlisted for the card, thus far, are lightweight (155 pound) fan-favorite Jorge Gurgel (12-5), wrestling ace Dennis “Superman” Hallman (40-12-2), and Hallman protégé Cory “The One” Devela (9-2).

The live Showtime telecast of the event will begin at 11 p.m. ET/PT (tape delayed on the west coast) and will include up to five bouts.

The 32-year-old Villasenor, a member of Greg Jackson’s elite fight team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will look to extend his win streak to five consecutive bouts in what will be his first start of the year.  The Mexican American boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylist scored a punishing, first round knockout on “The New York Badass” Phil Baroni live on CBS’s “Saturday Night Fights” on May 31, 2008.

Likewise, Santos’ appearance will be his first of the year as well as his long-awaited debut in The United States.  To date, the 31-year-old distinguished member of Brazil’s famed Chute Boxe fight squad and husband of Cris “Cyborg” has terrorized opponents in a host of major organizations overseas including Japan’s now defunct Pride Fighting Championship.

Santos’ last effort, a matchup with Siyar Bahadurzada in Tokyo, Japan on September 28, 2008, was cut short by an elbow injury that the Brazilian sustained only seconds into the contest. 

Making his Strikeforce debut, the 32-year-old Gurgel, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt better known for his explosive, go-for-broke punching style, starred in the second season of Spike TV’s smash hit reality series, The Ultimate Fighter.  Gurgel’s start will be his first since he dropped a three-round unanimous judges’ decision to Aaron Riley at UFC 91 on November 15, 2008.

Hallman, a former UFC championship challenger is, perhaps, best remembered for his two, first-round conquests of MMA legend Matt Hughes. 

After a year and a half hiatus, the 33-year-old Hallman rekindled his rich, 12-year history in the sport with a first round submission of Danny Ruiz on March 21, 2009.  In his sole Strikeforce appearance to date,

Hallman made similar, quick work of Jeremiah Metcalf, forcing Metcalf to tap out to a heelhook at 1:39 of the first round of their meeting at San Jose, California’s HP Pavilion on November 16, 2007.

Hallman’s protégé, the 24-year-old Devela is looking to return to the win column after being stopped by Terry Martin at Strikeforce’s second event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California on September 20, 2008.  The loss brought the middleweight’s seven-fight win streak to an end.

Devela pulled off a stunning upset of Joe “Diesel” Riggs at the first-ever Strikeforce event in Washington State on February 23, 2008.  With a single slam in the first round of battle, Devela rendered Riggs unable to continue their matchup at Tacoma Dome.

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