Strikeforce’s “Triple Threat” Crowned 3 New
Champions; Cung Le Wins Again
Jeff Townsend Bayareasportsdrive.com
Friday, December 8, 2006
Strikeforce stormed into the HP Pavilion in San Jose on Friday night with a vengeance, providing the nearly 9,000 fans with 13 bouts and three title fights. There was a little bit of everything – tapouts from submission holds, stoppages by the referee, the first female MMA fight for Strikeforce and an ugly, bloody cut which ended the main event.
Strikeforce consists of mixed martial arts (MMA) cage fighting inside a fenced ring where few tactics are prohibited. Most of the fights were three rounds, with a duration of 3 to 5 minutes per round. In MMA fights, fighters wear fingerless gloves which provide very little padding.
What made this MMA fight card extra special for the San Jose crowd was the large number of local fighters featured on the card. Half of the fighters on the card (13 out of the 26 fighters) live in the Bay Area, with 9 based out of San Jose.
In the semi-main event and what turned out to be the most exciting fight of the night, Josh "The Punk" Thomson (34-2-1) won a three round unanimous decision over rising star Nam Phan (12-3) to win the Strikeforce U.S. Lightweight Championship. Thomson, a former standout wrestler for Stanford University, was clearly the more experience fighter with 35 fights going into this fight while Phan had only had 14 MMA fights. In addition, Thomson had a big height and reach advantage since, at 5’10”, he was a full four inches taller than Phan (5’6”).
The fight started with both fighters coming out aggressively and Thomson was able to display his incredible quickness and agility. Several times, Phan took Thompson to the mat but Thomson was able to reverse the situation and take control. Thomson landed a hard kick to Phan’s head in the first round and hurt him again to start the second round. Phan got in some good punches but Thomson was clearly in control.
The third round saw Thomson doing it all – knee kicks, crisp punches, effective grappling along with a roundhouse kick that hurt Phan yet again. Thomson was able to mount Phan late in the round and pound away until the bell rang to end the fight.
The main event featured world San Shou kickboxing champion Cung Le (3-0) facing off against Jason "Live Wire" Von Flue (13-8), a contestant on season two of The Ultimate Fighter reality series, in a three round middleweight fight. Utilizing his kickboxing background, Le came out with a series of kicks to Von Flue’s head and body. Le followed that up with a hard kick to Von Flue’s forehead which opened up a very bad cut over Von Flue’s left eye. After the ring doctor came into the ring to examine the cut, the fight was stopped at just 43 seconds of the first round.
Heavyweight Daniel Puder (4-0), former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star and winner of the WWE's "Tough Enough IV" reality television series two years ago, quickly went for the takedown early in round one against Mike Cook (2-1) and spent the rest of the round grappling with Cook. Cook held his own and the round was very competitive. In the second round, it was clear that Puder saw his advantage to be a fight fought on the ground and he ended up securing a headlock while on lying on Cook’s back. That was enough to force Cook to tap out and the fight was over at 2:31 of the second round.
In a bout for the first-ever Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight championship, Bobby Southworth (13-4), a contestant on season one of The Ultimate Fighter, won a five round unanimous decision in a lackluster fight against Vernon "Tiger" White (15-13). Neither fighter pressed the action which prompted loud boos from the crowd. Southworth would gain control when the fight went to the mat but he seemed disinterested in throwing hard punches that could potentially end the fight.
Strikeforce’s first ever female MMA bout featured Gina Carano (3-0) facing off against Elaina Maxwell (1-1) in a lightweight match-up. These women were not just some sideshow, based on their previous accomplishments. Carano is a two-time Thailand champion, specializing in Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu while Maxwell is a two-time San Shou world champion. Their fight saw good back-and-forth action with Carano landing the better punches. Maxwell was able to take the fight to the mat but Carano seemed to possess the better all-around skills and was awarded a three round unanimous decision alone with plenty of cheers from the crowd.
Heavyweight contender, Paul "The Headhunter" Buentello (21-9), who has a win over UFC legend David "Tank" Abbott, faced late sub Ruben “Warpath” Villareal (11-10). The first round saw the fighters standing for the entire round, with Buentello throwing a large number of punches. Buentello turned it on in the second round and ended up landing two big right hands. This caused Villareal to stumble back and found himself up against the ring fence. Buentello unleashed a barrage of punches and knee kicks, forcing the referee to stop the fight at 3:57 of the 2nd round.
In a battle of the big boys, superheavyweight and San Jose Sabrecats lineman Rex Richards (5-0) made his opponent, Kyle Leviton (0-2), tapout at 2:02 of the 1st round via a submission hold. Richards, standing 6’5” and weighing in at 317, took the fight to the ground early on and utilized his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills to force a submission by the 6’8” and 273 pound Leviton.
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