The last time we got together to discuss a Strikeforce Challengers card the discussion focused on the strength of said card, how some of those fights could have gone big time and how many of the players deserved to be moved up the ladder. Of course that show came and went and nothing really all that significant happened, Tyron Woodley rolled, as did Ovince St. Preux, Amanda Nunes lined herself up for an ass kicking by KOing Julia Budd but all told it was instantly forgettable. Flash forward to today, Strikeforce is coming off two shows (Diaz vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Silva) that received mixed reviews but brought in huge ratings for the company. They are less than a week removed from their most watched show in history as they head into Strikeforce Challengers 14 from Cedar Park, Texas and in this case the card offers very little of anything for anybody. Not to say that the show won’t rock, though the Challengers series sometimes does often feel muted, but personally my excitement level right now is kind of bottoming out. We’ll take a look at the five bouts scheduled now and see whether there is a case to be made for watching this show tonight at 11pm EST on Showtime.
Lyle Beerbohm (16-0) vs. Pat Healy (25-17)
As luck would have it the most intriguing contest of the night happens to take place in the main event slot as Beerbohm, one that many have predicted will be a breakout star for Strikeforce, puts his undefeated record on the line against Pat Healy. Healy, for his part, is no slouch and is coming off a tough loss to Josh Thomson where he was outmatched but also showed a lot of heart and made the fight more competitive than it should have been. Beerbohm was last seen in a Strikeforce cage back in May when he won a split decision over Vitor Ribeiro but he’s squeezed in two other fights since then. Both of these guys are capable of finishing out via strikes of submission though they are also both rather conservative in their fighting style. 15-0 is nothing to scoff at but besides Ribeiro, Beerbohm’s other “big win” came against Duane Ludwig so it will be interesting to see how he develops as he moves up the ladder. It’s a tough fight to pick as I feel somewhat blinded by the hype and the record on Beerbohm’s side but I feel as though stylistically Healy matches up well with him and will be able to shut down most of his offense through tough nosed grappling. Either way I see this fight going the distance but unfortunately I see the career of Lyle Beerbohm taking a step backwards tonight.
Pick: Healy via decision
Bryan Travers (14-2) vs. Carlo Prater (25-10-1)
Bryan Travers is somebody who is rather familiar with Pat Healy as one of his two career losses came to the man last May. Since then he has somewhat bounced back with a win over Rocky Johnson and now he gets to take on a man who is slumping to say the least. To his credit Carlo Prater did take part in the Shine Lightweight Grand Prix last September and did make it all the way to the finals but that was only because he was brought in as a replacement after being bounced in the first round. Also, bookending his participating in that tournament are losses to Antonio McKee and Reza Madadi meaning that in his last five fights his only win has come against some character named Charlie Brown. Good grief indeed. Although if we want to compare like opponents Prater does have an edge as he beat Healy back in 2005. Expect a slow-ish ground game here as Travers has an excellent wrestling game and will look to control the action there. Prater is nobody to sleep on and I think he’ll be able to survive deep into the third round, however picking him to win is just too risky. I think Travers will eventually wear him out on the ground until he is able to pass, mount and pound out.
Pick: Travers via. 3rd Round TKO
Ryan Couture (1-0) vs. Lee Higgins (2-0)
Nothing quite like watching two guys who have three professional fights between them duke it out on national TV, eh? Of course the man with one of those wins, Couture, is the heavy favorite and it is hard to decide if that is because of his skill level or because of his name. Probably more because of his name but also because we all know how Strikeforce books their shows and we can assume that the last thing they want for their boy wonder is an actual challenge tonight. Higgins, playing the role of jobber, began his pro career way back in November of 2010. Since then he has been able to choke out his two opponents and is really being given a golden opportunity here (of course for no other reason than they suspect he won’t be able to exploit it). It’s a gutless move, I know, but I have to stick with the heavy favorite. His training and corner work are obviously going to be light years ahead of whatever Higgins is bringing to the table and, truth be told, I found him sharp and impressive in his debut performance. An upset would be fun, and Strikeforce would deserve it, but as it stands I’m sticking with name value.
Pick: Couture via 2nd Round Submission
Erik Apple (10-2) vs. Ryan Larson (5-2)
There is obviously lots of talk in the community about ring rust and layoffs and how they affect a fighter, and with that in mind it will be interesting to see what Erik Apple looks like tonight as he enters the cage after a 15 month layoff. In fact, this is only his fourth fight since September of 2006 turning in a little bit less than one fight per year. And still the buff, oversized welterweight comes into tonight a significant favorite. Larson, making his promotional debut, is a submission fighter with a less than spectacular record. Apple only held a half pound advantage over his at weight ins but by the time he re-inflates he should have a noticeable size difference. Larson, on the other hand, will be fighting near his hometown and will certainly have the crowd on his side. I expect another cautious fight with neither one of these guys wanting too much to do with the other’s submission game. Apple holds the striking advantage but unleashing it will be the trick. The match is a hard one to call but I’ll take the underdog again thanks to his ability to control the action and attempt meaningful submission holds which will be enough to woe the judges.
Pick: Larson via Decision
David Douglas (5-2) vs. Nick Gonzalez (16-8)
Interesting matchup here as we get fresh faced knockout artist David Douglas taking on veteran challenger Nick Gonzalez. Douglas is a fairly highly touted prospect who lost recently to Justin Wilcox (no shame there) but redeemed himself at Strikeforce Challengers 11 with a TKO of Dominic Clark. In fact all five of his wins have come by way of knockout which means that Gonzalez, more of a grappler, will be looking to neutralize that aspect of his game. Gonzalez has been hanging out on the fringes for most of his career. He took a loss to Josh Thomson back at a Strikeforce-EliteXC card in 2007. He also took part in Bellator 1 and 6 but was unable to win either of those bouts. So it seems as though anytime he gets close enough to sniff the major leagues he blows it with a loss. Here he’ll have another opportunity but he comes in a pretty big underdog (+250) and I tend to agree with that assessment. Gonzalez with certainly have experience on his side but all that means a whole lotta nothing when you get popped in the face and I’m looking for Douglas to come out mean and hungry. The big shot might not come until late in the fight but I think we will get there nonetheless thus extending the rather sad journey of Nick Gonzalez.
Pick: Douglas via 3rd Round TKO
Tags: Carlo Prater, Josh Thomson, Lyle Beerbohm, Mixed Martial Arts, Pat Healy, Ryan Couture, Strikeforce