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Strikeforce Prospects: How’d they look?

| September 11, 2011 | Reply

The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semi-finals last night wasn’t just about the big boys, but about the disproportionately large amount of prospects making promotional debuts. Some of these fighters brought nothing more than a record, while others came in with extraordinary expectations upon them.  The beauty of the fight game though, is that a hype train can be knocked off the tracks and burst into flames at any time, and we certainly saw plenty of that.

How did all these new players in Strikeforce fare last night? Let’s take a look at their performances and if any of these fighters have what it takes to progress from prospect to contender.

Amanda Nunes: A highly regarded Brazilian female, Nunes came into her fight with a strong record and a reputation for being a hard-nosed bruiser, similar to a smaller Cristina Cyborg Santos. Her opponent Alexis Davis was apparently unimpressed with her fanfare and shadow boxing though, as she weathered an early storm and picked her spots, finishing Nunes handily with a reversal on the mat and ground and pound.

How’d she look? Not bad, but not great.

The trend in MMA right now is that we’re seeing a flood of “can crushers”, and Nunes is another example of this. With the amount of people trying to enter the sport, a lot of young fighters are getting eaten alive by decent, yet one-dimensional pressure fighters. The casts of TUF 11-13 were prime example of this, with TUF 13 being most particular of all. Nunes falls cleanly into this mold, as her relentless striking and push fighting against the cage has seen her crush weak female competition thus far. While her record isn’t pretty, Davis has been in there with some tough fighters and knew enough to defend herself and pick her spots. Nunes showed she is seldom on the defensive herself at the end of this bout, being easily hustled on the mat and giving up to a meticulous ground and pound offense.  While Nunes has all the tools to crush lesser competitors, she’s going to need to polish up her game if she wants to hang against even mid-level fighters.

Yoel Romero: The fighter with the most underground hype coming into this card, Romero brought a 4-0 record and a silver medal into this fight, and left with far less fans than he started with. His unwillingness to engage in the first round nearly cost him a point for passivity, but his deduction was a moot point.  Attempting to initiate a clinch following a missed spinning heel kick by Rafael Cavalcante, he ran directly into a follow-up spinning back fist, starting a chain of strikes that ended in a TKO.

How’d he look? Not as bad as you all think.

The internet backlash on Romero was brutal, but only partially deserved. One must take into account that Romero came into a fight with a former champion renowned for his offensive abilities and takedown defense with essentially zero relevant fights under his belt. While a lot of people saw someone dancing around and afraid to engage, I saw excellent footwork and a game plan to make Cavalcante over-commit to attacks by hanging outside and taunting every strike Fejiao threw. Romero has the foundations of a tremendous fighter, but doesn’t yet have the striking ability to set up his takedowns, which were unsuccessful against the sturdy former champion. Romero will be a sleeper in his next fight, and given a proper opponent for his experience level, may show everyone a completely different side.

maximo blanco 133x200 Strikeforce Prospects: Howd they look?


Maximo Blanco: A world-class Freestyle wrestler who transplanted from Venezuela to Japan, Blanco came into his Strikeforce debut with a huge amount of expectations, facing short-notice journeyman fighter Pat Healy. His night would start well, be marred by blatant fouls and ultimately come to a crashing halt as Healy choked him to submission in the second round.

How’d he look? Like an overhyped Japanese MMA product.

Blanco certainly has talent, but he has just as many holes that would never be corrected in Japanese MMA. Having spent his career crushing smaller Japanese competition with a wall of striking offense, Blanco wasn’t ready for an intelligent opponent fighting at his correct weight class and with real-fight experience. Blanco’s striking was unorthodox and powerful as always, but looks to be fighting two weight-classes above where he belongs, as Healy completely dominated the wrestler at his own game.  The best thing Blanco showed in this fight was his takedown defense, which would have flustered anyone at an appropriate weight class, and would make his a real killer in time. Tempering his wild-style with legitimate striking technique and finding the right weight could make Blanco a serious competitor in Strikeforce, but work is certainly needed.

Marcos De Lima: A heavy-handed Muay Thai striker out of Brazil, De Lima came into Strikeforce off a win over the formerly impressive Paulo Filho, facing American boxer/wrestler Mike Kyle. In a confusing fight, De Lima looked in turns deadly and discouraged as he fought in spots to an eventual decision loss.

How’d he look? Not ready for the big show.

Similar to Amanda Nunes, De Lima looks to have made his career with fast offense and solid cardio, but isn’t ready for multi-faceted opponents. Kyle’s steady stream of jabs nearly broke him in the first round and De Lima’s lack of takedown defense was downright alarming in later rounds. While his power and technique are certainly a plus, De Lima needs a bit more work before he can hope to compete at this level of competition.

jordan mein 2 133x200 Strikeforce Prospects: Howd they look?


Jordan Mein: A fighter with a fantastic work rate, Canadian prospect Jordan Mein came in with far less acclaim than most, but was the only fighter on this list to walk away with a win. Taking on gritty striker Evangelista Cyborg Santos, Mein used smart movement, timing and accuracy to fluster Santos. With all the pieces in place in the 3rd round, Mein put together combination after combination, culminating with a spectacular standing elbow barrage that dropped Santos and gave him his first Strikeforce win.

How’d he look? Like a future star.

While we saw nothing of Mein’s ground game, his use of range and head movement alone will make him a curse on the majority of Welterweights out there right now. His strikes appeared to be snappy and hit with a fair amount of power, hinting at serious potential in the next few years. While his standing defense was sound, Mein needs minor work on leg kick defense, and needs to get out of the habit of “checking his work” at the tail end of combinations. This aside though, Mein is the best thing to come out of the sea of prospects, and the fighter I’m most looking forward to seeing again.

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Tags: Alexis Davis, Amanda Nunes, Evangelista Santos, Exclusive, Jordan Mein, Marcos Rogerio de Lima, Maximo Blanco, Mike Kyle, MMA, pat healy, prospects, rafael Cavalcante, Strikeforce, Strikeforce Grand Prix, Yoel Romero

Category: Exclusive, Featured, MMA, Opinion, Strikeforce

Mike Hammersmith (Staff Writer)

About the Author ()

I'm a 20+ year veteran of martial arts and a fan of MMA since UFC 1, when my world was thrown on its head by the budding sport. I'm obsessive in the pursuit of martial abilities and have competed across the country in everything from Vale Tudo to archery to Scottish broadsword. Once my body broke down, I picked up a pen and went in the direction of writing. I specialize in betting advice, predictions, and I'm a walking encyclopedia of MMA trivia. I own a cafe in Exeter, NH called Hammersmith Sandwich Company and write out of my office between customers.

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