Former Smackgirl openweight champion Hiroko “Cats Eye” Yamanaka (12-1) is set to make her Strikeforce debut Saturday night at Melendez vs. Masvidal in San Diego.
Her North American debut will be a colossal challenge. Yamanaka faces the seemingly unstoppable Cris “Cyborg” Santos (10-1), trying to wrestle the Strikeforce woman’s featherweight title away from her.
Seemingly all pundits and fans alike have put considerable odds in the favor of the Cyborg, but Yamanaka is not going to give up easily. The Japanese sensation is coming to fight and does not have anyone’s rankings or odds in her head.
“I don’t feel like I’m overlooked or anything; all that I have in my mind is to fight,” Yamanaka said on a recent Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal media conference call.
While she may not feel overlooked, everyone else has seemingly looked past her. Especially after all the talk of Cyborg potentially dropping down a weight class. One cannot sleep on Yamanaka, as she is a tough submission grappler with dangerous power in her knees.
The submission ace won two of her last three fights via submission and has defeated the likes of Molly Helsel, Yoko Takahashi, and Hitomi Akano. Yamanaka also has experience in kickboxing via Shoot Boxing, where she defeated Japanese fighters Mayumi Aoki and Megumi Yabushita.
Yamanaka has all the experience against tough females from around the world. With all the pressure on Cyborg to perform well, Yamanaka feels that her fight experience will shine through on Saturday.
“I do feel like my experience will benefit me. I feel like I have a lot of good experience and it will benefit me in this fight.”
Still, Cyborg is a force to be reckoned with. She likes to use her physical advantages to overwhelm her opponents. Yamanaka, however, will have the height advantage in this fight, which could prove significant if they get into a Thai clinch.
Saturday night will tell the tale on whether or not Yamanaka’s experience will be enough to overcome the force that is Cyborg.