First off, I want to give a big thanks to our site overlord Eric Gargiulo, who was kind enough to take over Fight Picking duties for UFC 112 in my absence. With that in mind, let the Spring of constant (and somewhat weekly) MMA shows continue with Strikeforce: Nashville on CBS. Despite the unbelievably corny, broadcast network promos for this fight, I must admit it’s cool to have 3 championship belts being decided on one main card…and yes, I really am excited to see the debut of the amazing fighter known as Gregard Mousasi (click on the link and pay close attention to the promo).
Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki – Lightweight Championship
I really don’t want to use the classic “striker vs. grappler” comparison, but…well…Melendez is the better striker and Aoki the better grappler. Problem solved! In all seriousness, Melendez avenged his previous loss to Josh Thomson by winning the Strikeforce LW belt at Strikeforce: Evolution this past December. Before that, he put away both Mitsuhiro Oshida & Rodrigo Damm with strikes. He’ll need to use some of that power advantage against the current DREAM LW/Shooto MW champ Aoki, who’s coming off an arm-breaking submission win over Mizuto Hirota at the Dynamite!!! 2009 New Years Eve show and beat Joachim Hansen at the DREAM FW Grand Prix Final Round via armbar. Even without those colorful pants, Aoki is Gumby-like with his jiu jitsu and can pull subs from the wildest of positions. Melendez gets the slight edge in the betting department at -160 to Aoki’s +130, but I think Aoki will find some crazy and creative way to get this fight to the ground where he wants it. New champ right of the bat.
Jay’s Pick: Aoki via submission, R3
Gegard Mousasi vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal – Light Heavyweight Championship
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Wait a minute…I thought his name was GREgard Mousasi. Oh, CBS. How your attention to detail slays me. Mousasi wisely chose to separate himself from those, as Dana White puts them, “crazy Russians” at M-1 Global recently. If that counts as a victory (and to some in the MMA community it is), his last physical victory was dominating Gary Goodridge at the Dynamite!!! NYE show. In fact, Mousasi, at only 24, is 28-2 and hasn’t lost since August 2006 to Akihiro Gono. Across from him is King Mo: 6-0 with 5 out of 6 fights ending by stoppage due to strikes or KO and a great wrestling pedigree with multiple collegiate wrestling accolades and 1st place in the 2005 World Team trials. He’s big, hits like a truck and can take you down. His previous opponents, however, were not as fast or resourceful as the veteran Mousasi. While I don’t think “The Dreamcatcher” will put King Mo away as quickly as he did Babalu, I think his experience and speed will be the determining factor.
Jay’s Pick: Mousasi via TKO, R2
Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields – Middleweight Championship
[adinserter name=”366 right”]And now we have the Main Event of our trio of title defenses. Unlike most fighters who leave the UFC because of a pink slip, Dan Henderson left over financial/title-shot disputes after knocking Michael Bisping halfway across the Atlantic at UFC 100. He is a former two-time Olympic wrestler having participated in the ’92 and ’96 games, is the only fighter to hold two belts in different weight classes simultaneously (was the MW & WW champ in PRIDE), and has been the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, and Rich Franklin. Oh yeah and he’s never been knocked out. Shields, a good wrestler in his own right and a black belt in BJJ out of the Cesar Gracie camp, won the vacant SF MW belt against Jason Miller this past November. Other notable wins include current UFC WW slugger Paul Daley, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, and Robbie Lawler. Shields will not be able to bully and out position Hendo like he did to Miller and I think Henderson will be able to muscle him around before putting him away.
Jay Pick: Henderson via TKO, R4
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