No matter what Strikeforce’s big shots have to say about it,
Emelianenko is the biggest blow the UFC has taken in years. And
while this Saturday’s “Carano vs. Cyborg” event may not feature
MMA’s golden goose, it is the promotion’s first chance to cash in
on the buzz surrounding its name.
Great timing on the part of Strikeforce, as Gina Carano
is one of the promotion’s most recognizable stars and fans have
been clamoring for her to take on Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos for
what seems like an eternity now.
Backing up that momentous showcase for women’s MMA is an interim
lightweight bout pitting Gilbert
Melendez against the man who handed him his first professional
loss, Japanese sparkplug Mitsuhiro
Ishida. Throw in the hotly anticipated light heavyweight title
bout between Renato “Babalu” Sobral and another new acquisition,
division-hopping ace Gegard
Mousasi, and this is Strikeforce’s best chance yet to carve out
a piece of the pie the UFC has been hoarding.
How that shakes out is anyone’s guess, but everyone lucky enough to
get price gouged by their local cable company for Showtime will
have a chance to find out for themselves.
The Breakdown: After years spent relegated to fringe
Japanese promotions and local barnhouse shows, women’s MMA finally
gets a chance to win over the mainstream crowd with its first
stateside superfight. Cover girl Gina Carano
will finally take on “Cyborg” Santos in the fight that fans of the
nascent division have been begging for. If you’re the type who gets
freaked out by ladies hitting each other, turn away because both
Santos and Carano have built their names on striking skills that
have left the rest of the 145-pound division kowtowing to their
Who emerges as the alpha female on the feet is what this fight
hinges on. Carano uses a precise, varied striking style that
overwhelms opponents while Santos is a pure brawler with the power
to turn the lights out on just about any featherweight, male or
female. If Carano can use her movement and accuracy to frustrate
Santos, she has the inside track on the win, but that means
surviving a full-blown onslaught from the brutal Brazilian bomber.
That is a feat no one has managed thus far.
The X Factor: The most underrated aspect of Carano’s game is
her jiu-jitsu, which has been a literal lifesaver on more than one
occasion for the undefeated champion. While the lone loss on
Santos’ ledger came via submission, that was in her MMA debut.
Regardless, Carano has to keep the mat in mind as her escape route
if Santos starts turning her face into a scale model of a Jackson
Pollack. For Santos, she still has to prove her jiu-jitsu is not
the liability it once was.
* * *
The Bottom line: It’s no secret that Strikeforce and the now
deceased EliteXC protected Carano while building her into a star,
but those days are thankfully over as Santos is one of the most
dangerous female fighters at any weight. That will become apparent
early on, as Santos savors the opportunity long denied to her by
blitzing Carano and scoring a knockout that will announce her as
the division’s new matriarch.