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Strikeforce – Presented by Showtime: MMA Hits LA

By Gina L. Caliboso (At Ringside)

Los Angeles has been a hectic place to be the last couple of days, notably because of a certain now NBA Championship Lakers versus Celtics series to Game 7, the E-3 Convention, and last, but not at all least – Strikeforce, presented by Showtime and held at Nokia Live. In Wednesday night’s events, the main draw had each fight going 3 rounds at 5 minutes each. In Strikeforce, there are no knees, kicks, elbow strikes to the head of a grounded opponent.

The main event showcased Ruthless Robbie Lawler, 195 lbs, 17-5, 1 NC going up against Babalu Sobral, 193.5 lbs 35-8.

In Round One, I saw that Lawler fights in a right lead with good stand up ability. Lawler tried to grab the leg into a takedown because Sobral had him in an underhook, both fighters tried to knee one another to the ground. Eventually, Referee McCarthy broke up the action. Sobral got stunned and Lawler attempted a flying knee that didn’t connect. Both fighters remained at stand up and Sobral eventually took down Lawler, but Lawler worked out of it. Both fighters worked to the ground but neither fighter showed any dominating aggression. It was later announced that the winner of the fight gets a chance at a title fight within their own weight class.

In Round Two, Sobral continued to kick Lawler low and inside and tried to take Lawler down, but Lawler didn’t go down. Later, Sobral tagged Lawler and he looked a little stunned. Lawler was also protecting his left side and had a bad bruise. Sobral didn’t take advantage and he tried to shoot in, but with little success. Sobral got in a few knees in the clinch. The round ended with both fighters continuing to stalk one another.
Finally, in Round Three, Sobral tried unsuccessfully to shoot in and take Lawler down and show aggression. Lawler visibly protected his left said, but again Sobral didn’t take the fight to Lawler. At one point, Sobral executed a spinning back fist and connected, but Lawler didn’t do much and looked tentative. In the closing seconds of the round, both fighters turned on the aggression, but didn’t do much. Sobral was declared winner by unanimous decision.

In the first match of the Main Card, KJ Noons, 8-2, 159.5 lbs went up against Conor Heun, 8-3, 159.4 lbs.

In Round One, Noons kept Heun off with a good jab. Huen eventually shot in and Noons gave up his back for a brief moment and put him in a choke. Huen put down strikes on Noons and Huen got mount briefly. Noons gave up his back, but worked his way up from the ground. Huen eventually got caught with an uppercut and the end of round one saved Huen.

In Round Two, both fighters continued to fight stand up without much movement to take to the ground. Huen kicked but not well; both continued to exchange punches with Noons continuing to land more effective punches to the head and chin. Huen tried to spur Noons. Both fighters were swinging with reckless abandon but no strong connects. Huen tried to shoot in, but Noons was landing enough punches to cause Huen to bleed.

Finally, in Round Three Noons continued to punch effectively against Huen with a lot of blood coming from Huen. Noons has a good jab cross combo. Again, Huen managed to attempt to shoot, but not successfully. Meanwhile, Noons had missed on punches and continued to do stand up; Huen made more attempts to take Noons down, but couldn’t come up with the takedown. In addition to the blood, Huen also showed visible fatigue towards the end of round. Huen was visibly tired and even backed off.
KJ Noons was declared winner by split decision.

After the Noons – Huen bout, Tim Kennedy, 11-2, 185.5 lbs would face Trevor Prangley, 185.6 lbs, 22-5-1.

In Round One, Prangley took down Kennedy to the ground, but Kennedy fought him off. Both fighters tried to vie for the better position, but Prangley continued to fight Kennedy off for the takedown. Kennedy took Prangley down and worked side control – into half guard. Finally, Kennedy got full mount on Prangley and tried to strike on Prangley. Kennedy had Prangley and worked into a submission by choke
At 3:35 in Round One, Kennedy got Prangley to tap out by rear naked choke.

Following the Kennedy vs Prangley fight, Marius Zaromskis, 169.6 lbs, 13-4, would battle Evangelista Cyborg, 171 lbs, 17-13.

As Round One began, both fighters came out swinging; Cyborg stunned Zaromskis with a right cross but Cyborg didn’t capitalize. As the round began, each fighter were trying to find a rhythm or even an opening for their punching and kicking in order to shoot in to get to the ground. Zaromskis fought in a right lead with Cyborg showing obvious muay thai expertise. Zaromskis tried a flying knee, but Cyborg caught Zaromskis. The knee missed completely and Cyborg tagged him for a KO. The crowning moment occurred at the end of the fight when his wife, Strikeforce titleholder, Cristianne Cyborg kissed him in victory and picked him up to celebrate. At 2:30 seconds in Round One, Evangelista Cyborg declared winner by KO.

Undercard Fights:

The evening’s action started with two undercard fights. In the first bout, Marcus Kowal, 2-0 fighting out of Krav Maga in Los Angeles, CA went up against Hugo Sandoval, 1-2, from Riverside, CA. (Writer’s Note: I had covered Kowal in a fight at “Battle in the Ballroom.” Kowal is a strong, determined, and intelligent fighter. As Round One began, both Kowal and Sandoval started in standup when Kowal shot in for a single leg takedown. Kowal got caught in a choke, but soon worked out of it. Once on the ground, Kowal made great positioning and went to side control, putting in a couple of knees to Sandoval’s body. Kowal worked his way out of the choke into half mount with Kowal eventually on top. He continued to work the ground against Sandoval and he eventually went into Sandoval’s guard. Sandoval kept Kowal’s elbows pinned and Kowal eventually went to standup. Sandoval eventually gave his back to Kowal, but then worked out of it. Both fighters vied for the better position as the first round ended. However, there was a moment when Kowal might have taken a strike to the head and affected his vision for a moment. He shook it off and the round continued.

In Round Two, both fighters showed great stand up, but Sandoval caught Kowal with a punch and followed up with strikes. Kowal was down until the Referee called off Sandoval. Sandoval was declared the winner by KO 43 seconds into Round 2. I had the pleasure of watching Kowal in my first MMA event in the “Battle of the Ballroom” where he submitted his opponent within seconds of the bell ringing for round one. I am biased, but Kowal is an amazing fighter and will bounce back and stay in the MMA mix for many competitions in the future.

Following the Kowal – Sandoval bout, another LA fighter, Jeremy Umphries, 4-1, faced RJ Clifford, 3-1, also from Los Angeles.

In Round One, Umphries shot in for a leg tackle and brought Clifford down; Clifford tried to work his way out, but was brought to the ground by Umphries; Clifford gave up his back with Umphries striking down. He continued to hold on to Clifford. At this point, there wasn’t too much creativity or retaliatory tactics from either fighter trying to get out for better position. However, once in standup, Clifford finally worked his way out of Umphries takedown and got better positioning in Umphries’ half guard. Umphries held on with Clifford getting in a few strikes; Umphries survived the round. But more importantly, Clifford survived the round despite losing his back.

In Round Two, Umphries shot in again against Clifford. Both fighters were vying for the better position. They eventually went to the ground with Umphries getting Clifford’s back for the second round. But this time, Clifford couldn’t work out of Umphries dominant position. Umphries holds on to Clifford with a rear naked choke and gets the tap out by Clifford. At 2:27 in Round Two, Umphries declared winner by rear naked choke.

I’d offer that Strikeforce put together a great set of matches for the evening in both the main and undercard events. At final tally, the event brought over 5,000 to watch 6 great MMA fights showing great technical skill, strength, and dominance. There is a depth of talent within Strikeforce to include the evening’s winners, but much more to look forward to as the fighters and fights will only get better.

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