Strikeforce Challengers 15 – the promotion’s first event since it was acquired by UFC parent company Zuffa – took place on Friday night in Stockton, Calif.
The most immediate, glaring difference was that Strikeforce fights now take place under the full scope of Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, which means that elbows to the head of a downed opponent are now legal in the promotion. That rule change in particular is one that several fighters, most obviously main eventer Justin Wilcox, took advantage of.
“I never set small goals, I only set big goals. On the way, small goals get accomplished, so I keep my eyes on the world title,” Wilcox told MMAWeekly.com leading up to the fight.
Friday night’s destruction of Rodrigo Damm, the latest in a string of six victories, is sure to keep him right on track.
Wilcox was relentless from the opening bell. He came out firing head kicks and heavy right hands, both of which landed frequently.
He dropped Damm midway through round one and never let up. Wilcox used the battering ram disguised as his arm to drive numerous elbows to Damm’s face. The more the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt tried to get up from the canvas, the more intense Wilcox became. He kept Damm down on the mat, using his crimson face to paint an abstract masterpiece on the canvas.
Damm made it to the bell, but staggered back to his corner, his face a mask of red. He tried to shake the cobwebs, but the ringside doctor recommended a stop to the fight.
“It’s messed up isn’t it? They let Silverback use elbows,” remarked Wilcox, whose last five fights have been under the Strikeforce banner. This latest was by far his most impressive, assuring his future with the promotion.
Carlos Fodor has three fights on Strikeforce Challengers cards, and that might just be enough. Fodor dominated David “Tarzan” Douglas from bell-to-bell, save for a brief burst of offense from Douglas in round one.
Fodor was better than Douglas in all facets of the fight. He used a strong clinch game early and a brutal dose of ground and pound in round two – including the aforementioned elbows to the head of a downed opponent – to wear Douglas down.
By round three, Tarzan wasn’t swinging from any vines. Fodor tied him up early in the round, accumulating knees and punches, primarily to the body, as Douglas’ stamina was non-existent. Keeping it standing, Fodor scored the TKO finish with knees to the body.
Fodor gave all the credit to his trainers, primarily Matt Hume, saying, “He’s been everything to me. I’m where I’m at today because of him.”
Strikeforce newcomer Lorenz Larkin may have found a new home with the promotion. The undefeated light heavyweight kept his record spotless with a tremendous promotional debut against Scott Lighty, a former training partner of UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell.
Larkin set the groundwork in round one, utilizing his speed and athleticism to keep Lighty on his heels. He dropped Lighty with a left hook and nearly finished him with follow-up strikes with less than a minute to go in the stanza.
Lighty managed to survive the round, but not the fight. Larkin picked up in round two right where he left off in the first. He dropped Lighty twice, the second time for good with successive left hooks to the temple.
“I didn’t want to lose and not be around no more. I wanted to come here; I wanted to stay here,” stated Larkin. With a performance like that, Strikeforce officials surely won’t let Larkin go anywhere else.
James Terry, trained by former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, told MMAWeekly.com before his fight with Josh Thornburg that he has become a better, more disciplined fighter recently. That showed on Friday night as he picked Thornburg apart with his boxing, but didn’t rush into a wild finish.
The end came soon enough, however, as he caught Thornburg with an overhand right to the jaw late in the opening round, sending him crashing to the canvas with one punch.
“Josh is tough, had a good chin,” Terry commented in his post-fight interview. “I’m really glad that I was able to finish this fight. That’s been my Achilles heel in my career.”
The victory was Terry’s third straight, likely giving him the push he needs to step into bigger fights on Strikeforce’s showcase events.
Damian Douglas and Wayne Phillips kicked off the televised main card. Douglas got off to a quick start, looking like he might finish Phillips off in the opening round with several submission attempts.
Douglas used most of his gas in that opening round, however, mounting a little more offense in round two, but fading quickly as the fight wore on. Unfortunately for Phillips, he didn’t have much more in his tank, and was unable to take advantage of a slowed down Douglas.
“He’s a real gamer. He’s got a lot of class. We fought like professionals,” Douglas said to a booing crowd after the fight, walking away with a split decision victory.
Main Bouts (On Showtime):
-Justin Wilcox def. Rodrigo Damm by TKO (Doctor Stoppage) at 5:00, R1
-Carlos Fodor def. David Douglas TKO (Knees) at 2:12, R3
-Lorenz Larkin def. Scott Lighty by KO (Strikes) at 3:15, R2
-James Terry def. Josh Thornburg by KO (Punch) at 4:38, R1
-Damian Douglas def. Wayne Phillips by Split Decision, R3
Preliminary Bouts (Non-Televised):
-Anthony Avila def. Rafael Rios by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Bobby Escalante def. Raul Sandoval by Submission (Armbar) at 4:10, R1
-Tristan Arenal def. Tom Peterson by Submission (Armbar) at 1:58, R1
-Ronald Carillo def. Adam Antolin by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:48, R1
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