by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
In what is being touted as the best non-UFC card in recent months, Strikeforce and EliteXC have put together a strong effort as they present Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Baroni. In the main event, former UFC Middleweight Champion Frank Shamrock finally meets outspoken Pride and UFC veteran Phil Baroni for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. In the co-main event, Pride veterans Joey Villasenor and Murilo “Ninja” Rua face off to decide the first ever EliteXC Middleweight Champion. The main card is available on Showtime pay-per-view and the undercard streamed for free on ProElite.com, while the live event is held Friday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
STRIKEFORCE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
FRANK SHAMROCK VS. PHIL BARONI
In the main event, former UFC Middleweight Champion Frank Shamrock finally meets outspoken Pride and UFC veteran Phil Baroni for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. Shamrock has a 21-8-1 record in MMA and trains out of Shamrock Martial Arts with Brian Ebersole. Baroni has a 10-7 record in MMA and trains out of Xtreme Couture with Mike Pyle. Shamrock comes off an embarrassing disqualification loss to Renzo Gracie at EliteXC: Destiny. Baroni recently submitted Yosuke Nishijima at Pride 32 in Las Vegas.
This is probably one of the most anticipated fights of the year. After months and months of slinging insults at each other, they will finally settle the score. More then likely this is Shamrock’s last chance to see whether or not he can match up with the fighters of today as he faces the toughest opponent he has fought since he defeated Tito Ortiz many years ago. For Baroni, he gets the first crack at a title in his MMA career and will doubt take full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
The fight comes down to two simple things, what kind of chin Shamrock has and how good is Baroni’s cardio coming into the fight. Shamrock has never faced anyone that hits as hard as Baroni does, so whether or not he can take Baroni’s punches could very well decide the fight. Baroni has been known to have suspect cardio in the past, but with the biggest opportunity in his career, it seems that he has stepped up his training to another level. If this fight goes past the third round, Baroni is in big trouble, but he should be able to finish the fight before that. Shamrock’s downfall will be his lack of competition in the past several years and it will catch up to him come Friday night.
Prediction: Phil Baroni by TKO in the third round.
ELITEXC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT:
JOEY VILLASENOR VS. MURILO “NINJA” RUA
In the co-main event, Pride veterans Joey Villasenor and Murilo “Ninja” Rua face off to decide the first ever EliteXC Middleweight Champion. Villasenor has a 23-5 record in MMA and trains out of Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Diego Sanchez. Rua has a 13-7-1 record in MMA and trains out of the Chute Boxe Academy with his brother, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Villasenor comes off a dominating decision victory over David Loiseau at EliteXC: Destiny, while Ninja quickly dispatched of Alex Reid at Cage Rage 21.
This fight has fireworks written all over it. With about a week left until the event the fight was called off due to medical reasons, but now that those issues are resolved, the fight will go on as scheduled even after another opponent was secured for Villasenor. Rua’s record is at an even five hundred since dropping down to middleweight, but it seems that he is now comfortable at his new weight and looks to bring the fight to Villasenor. Villasenor was coming off two losses in Pride before he dominated David Loiseau and earned his shot at becoming the EliteXC Middleweight Champion.
Both fighters match up evenly as neither seems to have much of an advantage over the other. Ninja will try to keep a high paced fight, while Villasenor will look to make it into a technical battle. As long as Villasenor can effectively counter Ninja’s wild strikes with precise counters, I see him eking out a close decision in what should be an all out war.
Prediction: Joey Villasenor by decision.
CUNG LE VS. TONY FRYKLUND
San Shou legend Cung Le takes on UFC veteran Tony Fryklund. Le has a 3-0 record in MMA and trains at the American Kickboxing Academy with Jon Fitch. Tony Fryklund has a 14-7 record in MMA and trains out of Las Vegas with Ken Hahn. Le enters this fight after a quick stoppage victory over Jason Von Flue at Strikeforce: Triple Threat. Fryklund took a vicious beating at the hands of Duane “Bang” Ludwig at the same show and is looking to bounce back.
Its been debated whether or not Cung Le is the real deal or not, we will find out on Friday night. Le’s competition in MMA up to this point has been lackluster for a fighter of his caliber, but he faces a real test in Fryklund. Fryklund is coming off two losses and needs a win to reestablish himself as a fighter that should be reckoned with.
Le has been training intensely on his ground game in the past months and it could finally be put to the test on Friday. If Fryklund can’t get this fight to the ground, it could very much look like his last fight and that wouldn’t be a pleasant thought for him. Le should get by Fryklund in much the same fashion that Ludwig did at the last Strikeforce event.
Prediction: Cung Le by TKO in the first round.
Heavyweight Bout: Paul Buentello vs. Carter Williams
Former UFC heavyweight contender Paul Buentello meets former K-1 U.S. Champion Carter Williams. Buentello has a 22-9 record in MMA and trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy with Cain Velasquez. Williams has a 3-1record in MMA and trains with Team Voodoo in California. Buentello comes off a destruction of last minute replacement Ruben “Warpath” Villareal at Strikeforce: Triple Threat. Williams last fought in MMA at Rumble on the Rock 6, stopping Tom Howard with strikes.
This fight is going to be an all-out slugfest. Buentello is one of the best heavyweights in the world that isn’t in the UFC, with his only hiccup being a loss to Andrei Arlovski. Williams is one of K-1′s best young talents, but has yet to fulfill his potential.
No doubt that the edge on the feet goes to Williams, as he is a world-class kickboxer that has been in the ring with some of the best. Buentello needs to get the fight to the ground before taking too much punishment, but I see him having a hard time in doing so. Williams will slowly be able to pick apart Buentello with precise strikes before ending it late in the first.
Prediction: Carter Williams by KO in the first round.
DUANE “BANG” LUDWIG VS. PAUL DALEY
UFC and K-1 Max veteran Duane “Bang” Ludwig takes on Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion Paul Daley. Ludwig has a 15-6 record in MMA and trains at Jackson’s Submission Fighting with Nate Marquardt. Paul Daley has a 14-6-2 record in MMA and trains at the Roughhouse Gym in England. Ludwig comes off a submission victory over Shinya Kumazawa at Ring of Fire 28. Daley, meanwhile, dispatched Paul Jenkins with a brutal shot to the body at Cage Rage 21.
In what should turn out to be the fight of the night, two of the most exciting strikers in MMA collide. Daley has become one of MMA’s rising young stars over the past year; having earned a reputation for being a dynamic striker that always loves to bring a show. Ludwig has faced some of the toughest strikers in the kickboxing world and will no doubt face his toughest test on the feet in MMA.
Expect this fight to be a high-paced war with very little time spent on the ground, as both fighters will no doubt look to knock the other out. Ludwig should win a close decision over Daley in a classic war on the feet.
Prediction: Duane “Bang” Ludwig by decision.
JOSH THOMSON VS. NICK GONZALEZ
Charismatic lightweight Josh “The Punk” Thomson takes on K-1 Max veteran Nick Gonzalez. Thomson has an 11-2 record in MMA and trains at the American Kickboxing Academy with Josh Koscheck. Gonzalez has an 11-4 record in MMA and trains out of the Vasquez Academy in Texas. Thomson comes off a hard fought decision win over Nam Phan at Strikeforce: Triple Threat. Gonzalez TKO’d Adrian Sanchez with strikes at Xtreme Fight Championships 7.
This is a bad style match up for Gonzalez’s debut in the MMA spotlight as he deals with one of the best lightweights in the world. Gonzalez will have the edge on the feet but Thomson is a pretty good kickboxer of his own. It’s on the ground, where Gonzalez will have his major problems. He is nowhere near the level of Thomson on the ground and if he stays there too long with Thomson he will be submitted. Thomson should take this fight quickly to the ground and work his magic, catching Gonzalez with a submission.
Prediction: Josh Thomson by submission in the first round.
VICTOR “JOE BOXER” VALENZUELA VS. JAMES EDSON BERTO
King of the Cage veteran Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela takes on late replacement James Edson Berto. Valenzuela has a 5-1-2 record in MMA and trains out of Millennia Jiu-Jitsu with John Alessio. Berto has a 10-3-1 record in MMA and trains with his father, Dieuseul Berto, at Team Tiger in Florida. Valenzuela recently submitted Scott Ayres at King of the Cage: Sinister. Berto stopped John Shackelford with strikes at EliteXC: Destiny.
Berto is a late replacement for Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett, who was originally scheduled to face Valenzuela, but was removed from the fight when he was arrested and unable to secure his release from jail in time. Berto is a more technical and precise striker than Bennett and hits with same amount of power. This is a tougher opponent for Valenzuela, as Berto is a serious fighter who will be looking to make a name for himself on Friday. Valenzuela will come out swinging but it will only be a matter of times before Berto lands a huge punch that puts Valenzuela out for good.
Prediction: James Edson Berto by KO in the first round.
OTHER FIGHTS SCHEDULED FOR THE UNDERCARD INCLUDE:
-Jason Von Flue vs. Luke Stewart
-Mike Pyle vs. Aaron Wetherspoon
-Rex Richards vs. Steve Jester
-Anthony Figueroa vs. Chris Cariaso
-Seth Kleinbeck vs. Sam Spengler