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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief Alright ladies and gentlemen, it's time for the debut ShoMMA event for Strikeforce, "Strikeforce Challengers." With Mike Aina vs. Billy Evangelista as our main event of the evening and Miesha Tate vs. Sarah Kaufman also on tap for tonight there's plenty of action to be had tonight. Be sure to check out Shawn Ennis' report on the MFC event live on HDNet tonight as well.
-I really like the low key, gritty opening video for "Challengers." It gives a nice contrast to the more polished videos for the main show. Mauro Ranallo introduces the show in voiceover format and runs down the night's five fight main card. Stephen Quadros joins him on commentary and he throws it into a sound byte from Billy Evangelista on the pressure into the main event. They quickly run down both Evangelista and Mike Aina and get a sound byte from Aina as well. Pat Miletich is the third man in the booth once again for Strikeforce. He talks up what this show is about, fights for young up and comers getting a chance to showcase their skills.
FIGHT ONE: BAO QUACH VS. TITO JONES (FEATHERWEIGHT)
PRE FIGHT: Tito Jones equates the lifestyle of MMA fighters to that of surfers, as in their passion and dedication. He says Strikeforce is where he wants to be. Quach says he needs to show his skills and prove he's no gatekeeper. He says he wants to break Jones. He wants to be #1, and he's very confident and says he knows he's going to win. They've got the videos separated and have the fighters come out after their respective clip, which I'm not sure if I'm a fan of. I like the separated video clips but they waste a lot of time with pacing by having them come out like this. They could cut out a lot by throwing to the video as they're walking to the cage if they're going to show the in-cage intros as it is.
ROUND ONE: Jones lands a body kick early as Quach came forward early. They feel each other out a bit early. Quach lands a leg kick and Jones throws a side kick. Quach with another leg kick. The southpaw of Jones looks to be frustrating to Quach early on. He continues to throw the leg kicks but nothing much is going on outside of that. They both trade leg kicks. Quach with another leg kick. And another. Jones tries to throw a right but it's blocked. Jones comes in with a body kick and Quach lands another leg kick. Quach is countering with leg kicks now as Jones is trying to come forward a little bit. Jones with a nice hook combination. Quach lands a nice kick to the body. Quach with another leg kick and Jones pushed him back with a body shot. Jones clinched up as Quach came in and threw a few knees to the body. Quach threw a few knees himself and the round comes to a close.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Quach. Not much to that round at all. Very tentative and neither fighter really wanted to engage much at all. Quach takes the round almost by default for the continued use of leg kicks.
ROUND TWO: Quach comes out with a couple of leg kicks right off the bat. He continues to come in and out with that but it's another tentative start. Jones fires a couple of leg kicks of his own. Good leg kick to the thigh lands from Quach. Quach gets in a combo of shots. They start taunting each other which is unnecessary when neither is doing much of anything. Quach gets in more leg kicks here and there. More leg kicks more often coming from Quach here. Jones finally throws a couple of punches but Quach covers up nicely. Quach goes for a high kick but it's blocked. Jones gets in a left counter that lands but he doesn't follow it up. Quach keeps coming with the leg kicks. Jones lands a right hand after a kick. Quach is content at breaking down the lead leg of Jones right now. Quach lands a body shot and another leg kick. Straight body kick from Quach and Jones tried to counter with a combo but again it's covered up by Quach. Jones gets in a left hand. They trade leg kicks again. The round comes to a close with the crowd booing.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Quach. More of the same, although Quach was getting a bit more aggressive. Jones is just standing and taking the punishment to his leg right now.
ROUND THREE: Quach again with more leg kicks to start off. Jones comes in with a nice right hook. Jones gets into Quach's face and then knocks him down with a shot. He follows him to the ground and tries to get in a guillotine but Quach gets out and gets back to his feet. Jones follows Quach around the cage. After a long time circling he drops Quach with another big shot. Quach again gets back to his feet but he's almost out on his feet. Jones is not at all going for the kill. Quach is starting to recover a little bit. Jones needs to finish this if he wants to win this fight. Straight kick to the body lands from Jones. Quach went for a high kick and slipped as he missed. He got right back up. Jones is doing nothing again. He's going to lose this fight if he lets it go to the cards right now. Quach again throws the leg kicks. They trade some light shots. Jones catches a kick and lands a straight left hand. Miletich is talking about giving Jones a 10-8 on commentary but I don't see how you can justify that when he did nothing with the two knockdowns he had. It wasn't dominating enough. Jones lands a flying knee as the round ends.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Jones. I don't know what happened for Jones in that round but he may have beaten himself by not staying on Quach there. He had him out on his feet twice. He let him recover and it may have cost him the fight because he lost the first two rounds.
WINNER: Quach via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
POST FIGHT: The crowd is booing Quach as he gets interviewed after the fight. He believes he did enough in the first two rounds to win the fight. The crowd starts booing further as he says he'd give Jones a rematch anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
STAR RATING: (*+) There was a little excitement in the third round but that's about it. The crowd was booing Quatch for winning but I don't know if it was about that or the fight itself. Jones cost himself the fight. The crowd is booing through a video package, that's not a good sign.
FIGHT TWO: ANTHONY RUIZ VS. AARON ROSA (LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT)
PRE FIGHT: Rosa says he doesn't get himself too hyped up, he unleashes his fire when he wants to. Ruiz said he's a fireman and gets time to train at the station. He says he needs to deliver what he's got and show Rosa that he's the boss, the man and he's there to win.
ROUND ONE: Ruiz comes in and they start trading. THey both get in a few shots before Ruiz grabs a single leg and pushes Rosa to the cage. Ruiz throws some knees to the legs and some punches to the body. Rosa throws a knee to the body himself. Ruiz with some more knees to the legs of Rosa. Rosa gets in a couple of short punches. Ruiz breaks out with a big elbow and Rosa responds with a nice shot. Ruiz again tries a single leg but Rosa holds him off nicely on the cage. Ruiz goes for another elbow but misses. Rosa lands a good knee to the body. He grabs the Thai clinch briefly and gets one knee in before he loses it. Ruiz lands a nice short elbow. Rosa tried to get a judo throw in but Ruiz defended well and stayed on his feet. Rosa turns it over and gets Ruiz on the cage. Rosa picks Ruiz up and slams him. Rosa moves immediately into mount. Ruiz tries to get out and Rosa takes his back. He sits in a body triangle as he goes for the rear naked choke. Ruiz tries to fight this choke off for a long time. He refused to tap and he goes to sleep.
WINNER: Rosa via referee stoppage (rear naked choke) at 4:29 of the first round.
POST FIGHT: The crowd again boos the winner as their hometown guy got defeated. Rosa gives credit to his trainers. He said he let Ruiz get himself get tired and then turned it around.
STAR RATING: (**) Good strategic battle on the cage for the better part of this round and then a very good finish from Rosa. The slam and transition to the mount was really nice and then he did a great job locking the body triangle in when he took Ruiz's back. The ref should have stepped in earlier as on replay it was clear he was involuntarily twitching for a couple of seconds before the ref broke it up.
FIGHT THREE: LAVAR JOHNSON VS. CARL SEUMANUTAFA (HEAVYWEIGHT)
PRE FIGHT: Seumanutafa (say that name ten times fast) says he used to have anger problems, but MMA training calmed him down. He says a win gives him a high that lasts him all month. He says if there's a submission available he'll take it. Johnson says he stumbled into MMA by doing a toughman competition. He has his sons coming to his fights for the first time. Johnson says one of them is going to get knocked out in the first round.
ROUND ONE: Johnson works a jab a little bit. Seumanutafa shoots in for a double leg and Johnson knocks him out with a low uppercut. Holy hell that was quick! One punch. Wow.
WINNER: Johnson via ko at :18 of the first round.
POST FIGHT: Johnson said he thought he was in for a rough night and was surprised at the one punch knockout. He said he did exactly what he was told. Johnson said he'd love to come out and fight as long as he's getting the opportunity.
STAR RATING: (**+) This night's about giving fighters a chance to showcase themselves for future events, and Johnson did just that with a highlight reel knockout. This is one you'll need to search out a video for. Seumanutafa had a knee down and Johnson threw the uppercut under his armpit square to the jaw for the knockout.
-Ranallo welcomes Scott Smith at cageside to talk to him about the fight and his upcoming fight on June 6th against Nick Diaz. Smith says Diaz is tough to put away, but so is he and it should lead to a good fight. He said he's ok with his style not being the best for longevity (a question posed by Ranallo). He said you've got to be prepared for everything in this game.
FIGHT FOUR: SARAH KAUFMAN VS. MIESHA TATE (WOMEN'S BANTAMWEIGHT)
PRE FIGHT: Tate says the sport gives her a real sense of self worth for going out there and proving what she can do. She says this is an important time for women's MMA, with them really starting to get more attention with fighters like Gina Carano, etc. Kaufman says she thinks she's got a fighting style and she knows she needs to entertain the people watching. She gives her team credit for getting her where she is. She thinks she hits pretty hard.
ROUND ONE: Kaufman's all smiles as the fighters are introduced. The two shake hands after touching gloves before the bell. Tate comes in with a jab off the bat. Kaufman throws a short combo. Tate lands a body kick. The two trade shots. Kaufman lands some big shots in a combo there. Tate comes in with some nice jabs of her own. Kaufman's got some power behind these shots here. They clinch up. Tate's getting some nice shots in herself. Kaufman stalks Tate down and lands a bunch of shots. Tate tried to shoot in but Kaufman held her off. She lands a couple more shots and Tate again comes in, only to get sprawled again by Kaufman. They clinch at the cage. Kaufman rocks Tate with a big left hand. Tate lands a few shots of her own. Kaufman comes in again with a shot. Tate counters with a double leg takedown late but doesn't have time to do anything with it as the round closes. Great start to the fight.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Kaufman. Tate got the late takedown and landed some nice shots of her own, but Kaufman did more damage and had the more powerful shots. Great first round.
ROUND TWO: Tate threw an early leg kick and tried to stave Kaufman off with a jab. Kaufman came in anyway with some rocking shots. Tate shoots in for a takedown. Kaufman holds it off early but she eventually gets the takedown and gets in the half guard. She starts throwing rights to Kaufman's face. Tate traps an arm and throws more rights. Tate's nose is bleeding here. Kaufman gets back to the full guard. Kaufman holds Tate tight in her guard. Kaufman is really keeping Tate under control here now. Tate lands a good body shot.Tate postured out and threw a big shot. Kaufman got to her feet and Tate tried to take her back. They grappled like that for a short moment before the bell.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Tate. Great takedown and early ground and pound from Tate. Kaufman neutralized her late, but Tate did a lot there in that round. This is a fun fight so far.
ROUND THREE: Kaufman lands a couple of jabs early. Tate again went for a takedown but that got blocked. Kaufman gets in a couple more good punches as Tate throws a few of her own. Kaufman sprawls and stops another takedown attempt. Tate stays with it but gets pushed against the cage. Kaufman breaks out and throws a big shot. Tate again tries a takedown that gets stuffed. Kaufman lands a couple of nice precision right hands. Kaufman with another big right as Tate looks for a single leg. She's in desperation mode now. Kaufman is in a modified mount as Tate tried to roll through to pull guard. Kaufman rained down a ton of shots. They get back to their feet and Kaufman landed a bunch of shots again as the round closes. And Kaufman goes the distance for the first time in her career.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Kaufman. Tate can hang her hat on having a good chin, but she wasn't able to get the takedown in that third round and took a ton of punishment from Kaufman in that round. Really good women's fight here though. They really need to give them full five minute rounds, I could have watched a lot more from those two.
WINNER: Kaufman via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
POST FIGHT: Kaufman says the three minutes are really fast and doesn't give much time to keep anything going. She gave Tate credit for her effort and thanked her last minute sponsors. She called for "five minutes all the way."
STAR RATING: (***) Hell of a back and forth women's fight. Tate gave one hell of an effort but Kaufman proved too powerful in this one. She did a great job in holding off the takedown attempts in the third round and was good throughout in dishing out punishment to Tate. Very good fight.
FIGHT FIVE: MIKE AINA VS. BILLY EVANGELISTA (LIGHTWEIGHT)
PRE FIGHT: Both fighters came in heavy for the fight and have agreed to fight at their weight. Aina says he has shown he can hang with top tier fighters. He says he's going to enjoy every minute of being in the main event. Evangelista talked about his three years in the Army preparing him for MMA by being able to stay composed with a lot of people shouting instructions while he's in the cage.
ROUND ONE: Evangelista goes for a one two combo and Aina responds with a few shots that miss their mark. Evangelista lands a nice leg kick and a right. Evangelista lands a few lef kicks and Aina barely misses a high kick. Evangelista comes forward with a few shots. Aina comes in with a big right kick. Evangelista comes forward and Aina then comes with the same, neither landing anything. Another leg kick lands from Evangelista. Evangelista shoots in and grabs a leg but Aina stayed on balance all the way to the cage. They clinch at the cage and trade a few knees and punches in the clinch. Hard body shot from Aina and a knee to separate. Jab lands from Aina. Evangelista again shoots in and he picks Aina up to drop him but Aina got right back up against the cage. Evangelista throws some knees to the body and legs of Aina against the cage. Aina throws a knee and Evangelista throws one right back. They continue to trade knees back and forth. Evangelista throws a nice short elbow. He goes for another takedown but is unsuccessful. Evangelista lands an inadvertent low blow as the round ends.
Penick's Scorecard: 10-9 Evangelista. That was a good back and forth round, and Evangelista's takedown and activity won it for him. Good start to the fight.
ROUND TWO: Evangelista gets in a good jab early after they trade kicks. Evangelista tries to shoot in but Aina stuffs it and lands a combination. Evangelista comes forward with a punch and leg kick combo. Big body kick lands from Aina and then Aina clinch's Evangelista. They trade knees and separate. Nice leg kick from Evangelista. Good jab lands from him as well. High kick from Evangelista gets blocked. Evangelista goes in for the shot and this time gets the takedown. He lands a couple of nice left hands from the guard. Aina tries to get to the cage and work up but Evangelista holds him there. He throws a bunch of body shots and more shots as Aina tries to get out. Evangelista with more shots to the body. He throws a knee to Aina that rocks Aina when he had a knee and hand down. Herb Dean separated them and Aina laid flat on his back. The doctor's were called in. I need to see a replay because they're saying he connected to the head but it was hard to tell on the live feed. The replay shows the knee hit him in the shoulder and the impact rolled through to his head. Bad stoppage. The fight's going to be stopped here and Evangelista's going to get screwed here because Aina's jaw got messed up from the impact. Evangelista did not knee him in the head. It did not connect.
RESULT: Aina via disqualification at 3:40 of the second round.
POST FIGHT: Aina claimed the knee hit him on the temple but the replay clearly shows it didn't come anywhere close. That's a copout. Evangelista has an appeal on that. Aina says if it's his choice he'll take it off his record. It was not an illegal shot, at all. Evangelista says he saw an opening and he thought he was down. They need to be looking at the screen while interviewing these guys because it's clear that it didn't hit him in the head. Herb Dean is then interviewed. He said the doctor assessed that his jaw may be broken. Awful line of questioning from Quadros and it's a little embarrassing. He asked Herb Dean if he thought it was an "intentional" knee. They're playing stupid as to what happened with the knee, and Pat Miletich came as close to calling out Aina as anyone by saying he didn't want to call Aina out for trying to find a way out of the fight.
-Very unfortunate ending to this debut "Challengers" event. Lavar Johnson and the women were the stand outs tonight. Aaron Rosa had a nice submission himself, but it was the quick knockout and the women's fight that shone tonight. Miesha Tate gave a good showing in a losing effort and Sarah Kaufman looked very good en route to a 9-0 record. Billy Evangelista's going to be extremely pissed off once he watches the video of that fight, and the announcers should not be playing dumb at a clear bad call. There's a case for review in certain situations, right there. Terrible finish to only a decent show. It's very unfortunate that it ended that way.
Well, thanks for checking us out again tonight for live event coverage, stay tuned throughout the weekend and next week as we get geared up for UFC 98 on the 23rd on pay-per-view. It's the UFC Light Heavyweight Title on the line next week from Las Vegas!
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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