by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy of Daisy Rosas/Strikeforce)

The inaugural Sho MMA: Strikeforce Challengers Series on Showtime was a strong opening effort, although the night at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., ended in a rather abrupt bout of controversy.

Following a round and a half of back and forth action with neither fighter gaining much of an upper hand, the main event bout between Billy Evangelista and Mike Aina was cut short due to a purported illegal knee to the head of a downed Aina.

The moment in question followed an Evangelista takedown and flurry of ground and pound that had Aina in some trouble. As Aina moved out from under Evangelista trying to get back to his feet, Evangelista fired off a knee that referee Herb Dean felt went to the head of Aina. At the time, Aina clearly had one hand, one knee, and one foot on the ground, making him a downed opponent, which would make the knee illegal.

Dean called a halt to the action. After examining Aina, the doctor deemed he could not continue. The bout was stopped and Evangelista disqualified for delivering an illegal knee to the head of a downed opponent.

It was an unfortunate end to a night of solid action, particularly when the replay clearly shows Evangelista’s knee making direct contact with Aina’s shoulder, not his head. The shot very well could have caused enough impact to injure Aina’s jaw as the doctor determined, but the replay was clear in that the contact was not to the head.

Neither fighter appeared happy with the result.

“If I had my choice, I’d take it off my record,” said Aina, even though the fight will go down as a win on his resume.

Miesha Tate did something no other fighter has ever done; take Sarah Kaufman all three rounds. She still fell short in the end, however.

Tate was never really able to use her wrestling skills, as the much stronger Kaufman shucked off her takedown attempts at nearly every try, save for round two. Not only did she stuff the takedowns, Kaufman unloaded on Tate with furious combinations that mounted over the course of the fight, wearing out Tate and bloodying her nose.

In the end, it would be Kaufman that scored a unanimous decision victory earning 29-28 on all three judges’ scorecards.

A bone of contention in women’s MMA for some time has been the three-minute time limit in their rounds when men are given five-minute rounds. Kaufman definitely isn’t down with the difference.

“Three minutes are very fast, so it’s hard to get anything going continuously,” she told interviewer Stephen Quadros after the fight. “Five minutes all the way, five minutes, come on guys!”

Whenever heavyweights fight, people want to see the knockout. Well, in Lavar Johnson and Carl Seumanutafa, they got it. Seumanutafa shot in right away, but left his head exposed and quickly had his lights turned out courtesy of a right uppercut from Johnson with a mere 18 ticks off the clock.

“I just came in, that was the gameplan, keep my jab in his face and counter off the takedown,” said Johnson afterwards, although he didn’t think the fight was going to be that quick. “Yeah, I thought I was in for a long night (coming into the fight).”

In light heavyweight action, Anthony Ruiz tried to turn his bout with Aaron Rosa into a street fight. His strategy worked early on as he was able to bully Rosa up against the cage and go to work with knees to the legs and punches to the body. But he wasn’t able to keep the fight where he wanted it as Rosa used a double-leg takedown to turn the tide.

Once he had Ruiz on the mat, Rosa eventually worked his way onto Ruiz’s back, locked on the body triangle, then proceeded to apply a rear naked choke that put Ruiz to sleep.

“I let him get himself tired trying to take me down,” recounted Rosa after the fight. “Finally, I turned him around and got the takedown myself… and I got the rear naked choke.”

The bout was officially scored as a technical knockout due to Ruiz going to sleep without tapping.

Tito Jones can easily chalk up his fight with Bao Quach as the one that got away. Neither featherweight did much in the opening round, but Quach took control in round two, punishing Jones with an onslaught of leg kicks that visibly affected the boxer.

In round three, however, it was all Jones. He finally got his punching going, dropping Quach twice with the lead right hook. But as close as he came to snatching the win, Jones really let the fight get away by not being as aggressive as he could have been in trying to finish Quach when he had him wobbling around the cage.

The fight ended up going the distance with all three judges scoring the bout 29-28 in favor of Quach. Despite being handily booed upon the reading of the scores, Quach took it in stride saying, “Go ahead and boo, I love you anyway.”

Main Card Bouts (on Showtime):
-Mike Aina def. Billy Evangelista by DQ (Illegal Knee to Head) at 3:40, R2
-Sarah Kaufman def. Miesha Tate by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), R3
-Lavar Johnson def. Carl Seumanutafa by KO at 0:18, R1
-Aaron Rosa def. Anthony Ruiz by TKO (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:29, R1
-Bao Quach def. Tito Jones by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), R3

Preliminary Bouts (Courtesy of Sherdog.com):
-Spencer Herns def. Chad Sutton by Majority Decision, R3
-Fabricio “Morango” Camoes def. Torrance Taylor by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:21, R1
– Thomas Diagne def. Kaleo Kwan by Unanimous Decision, R3
-Ben Holscher def. Cody Canterbury by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:47, R1