Roger Bowling (right) and Bobby Voelker will do it a third time. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
Nothing settles a rivalry like a rubber match, and with welterweights Bobby Voelker and Roger Bowling settling their score -- hopefully, once and for all -- Strikeforce “Challengers 17” offers a solid main event on Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Throw in the ever-exciting Ovince St. Preux taking on unbeaten Joe Cason and the heavyweight clash pitting Lavar Johnson against Devin Cole, and you have a Challengers lineup as stout as any in recent memory. A bout between women’s welterweight contenders Sarah Kaufman and Liz Carmouche also finds its way onto the card.
Here is a closer look at the fights, with preview and picks.
Roger Bowling (9-1, 2-1 SF) vs. Bobby Voelker (23-8, 3-1 SF)
The Matchup: Rubber matches carry their own unique flavor, and this one has the taste of unfinished business. After splitting their first two fights -- the second in October, with Voelker taking out Bowling with punches in the second round -- the third and final one will settle it. Voelker showed improved standup in the second match and figures to come in confident. Bowling will have to make adjustment
Voelker’s vast advantage in experience makes him a difficult guy to get rid of, even in a fight where he is not the most talented competitor. Bowling presents the picture of the better athlete, but Voelker’s ability to make him expend energy in the second bout was a perfect example of veteran savvy. Tying up Bowling on the ground, making him constantly exert himself in every fashion possible, he was playing the percentages perfectly en route to exploding in the second round for the stoppage.
Young fighters in Bowling’s position, coming back from a hard loss in a career spent mostly dominating people, often hit a crossroads career-wise. It either exposes them to the need to evolve tactics, or their confidence can be irrevocably dented. Facing the same guy that he has never cleanly beaten -- the eye poke stoppage in their first bout left the judges’ scorecards to decide the fight, giving a decision to Bowling in May 2010 -- is a tough task. We will find out if Bowling can get over the hump.
Bowling will need to pace himself and work intelligently from top position, while Voelker sprawls, brawls and punishes him with each attempt to take it down. Voelker definitely got some payback in their second match, and it is hard to see Bowling overcoming the huge statement made there.
The Pick: Voelker by third-round knockout in a rollicking back-and-forth bout.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Devin Cole vs. Lavar Johnson