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Friday, August 14, 2009

Watch live video Strikeforce Weigh-In Results: Gina Carano vs. Cris Cyborg


Isaiah Hill (156 lbs.) vs. Alex Trevino (156 lbs.)James Terry (169 lbs.) vs. Zac Bucia (170 lbs.)David Douglas (156 lbs.) vs. Justin Wilcox (154 lbs.)Scott Lighty (202 lbs.) vs. Mike Cook (205 lbs.)Mike Kyle (219 lbs.) vs. Fabricio Werdum (228 lbs.)Jay Hieron (169 lbs.) vs. Jesse Taylor (172 lbs.)Gilbert Melendez (155 lbs.) vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida (155 lbs.)Renato "Babalu" Sobral (201 lbs.) vs. Gegard Mousasi (204 lbs.)Gina Carano (143 lbs.) vs. Cris "Cyborg" (144.5 lbs.)

There are bigger matches this year than Saturday night’s Gina Carano vs. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos bout that headlines Strikeforce’s card at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
But in some ways, none may be more important for shaping the future of the sport. As big as Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir was last month, or B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre was in January, neither were matches that were going to change the face of the sport of mixed martial arts. The sport, or at least the Ultimate Fighting Championship brand name, had already made it. This year’s megafights grew the sport, but the sport and brand would have been plenty healthy even had they never happened.


As much as the undefeated Carano downplays her role, the popularity of the women’s version of the sport was built on her back, and every big step along the way bears her footprints.
In 2007, when Showtime started airing MMA, a proposed women’s match was suggested for the debut show and was not well received by the company. Gary Shaw, who promoted Elite XC at the time, pushed hard for the fight, believing that Carano had that special “it” factor that separates the people who can simply fight well, from those who people want to see fight.
Showtime gave tentative approval, giving the women one chance to sink or swim. After Carano and Julie Kedzie tore down the house with an emotional performance on February 10, 2007, opposition faded.
When CBS got into the game last year, Carano was the second-most heavily promoted fighter they used, behind only Kimbo Slice. Her appeal is unquestioned. In her last fight, when she defeated Kelly Kobold by decision on CBS on Oct. 4, from the start of her match until the finish, the audience grew by 1,643,000 viewers. It was the biggest audience gain for any MMA fight in the U.S.
Saturday’s fight establishes a few firsts. It will be the first time a women’s match is the main event of a major televised MMA event. And they are not just main eventers, but they are carrying the show from a promotional standpoint.
If the card is successful, it will be impossible to deny the headliners the credit. If the show isn’t successful, it will establish a stigma for women’s MMA. Fans will watch Carano in droves as part of the card, but if the numbers are disappointing, the stigma will be that women fighters, are not strong headliners.
Thus far, signs are good. Promoter Scott Coker predicted between 10,000-12,000 fans live, which would be the company’s largest crowd on a show not headlined by Frank Shamrock.
The event also creates the first women’s champion in a stable national promotion, with the creation of a 145-pound title.
But the real question is whether this match represents the novelty of a pretty girl who was marketed well, or is it the foundation for women in MMA to break through in a way women in boxing, wrestling and kickboxing have never to truly able to achieve?
“I don’t have to be there for the sport to be successful,” said Carano. “I’m doing the best with this opportunity to represent the sport. I’m doing everything I can do. But the sport is awesome. It’ll make it by itself. They don’t need me for it to be successful. I’m being given the chance right now for a period of time, and there’ll be another person with the chance next.”
Women’s boxing seemed in a similar situation in the 90s, with Christy Martin in the Carano role. Martin got all the way to the cover of Sports Illustrated, but as Martin’s career faded, so did the popularity of women’s boxing.
It still exists, as women’s MMA will a decade from now, but right now women’s boxing is not a major part of the sport, there is no superstar, nor match that could headline a major event.
Whether Carano, 27, is the next Christy Martin or the female Royce Gracie as someone who builds the foundation of a lasting sport, her looks can’t carry her if she’s not a top level fighter. A win would answer any critics of her fighting ability, because Santos (7-1) is no joke. She’s a 9-to-5 favorite on the Vegas books, and has been the most impressive woman fighter on the big stage since her debut a year ago.
Santos is ultra-aggressive, and has overwhelmed opponents similar to a prime Wanderlei Silva, with a relentless style. It’s a style that has allowed her to almost instantly win over audiences that had never heard of her going in.
It makes for a great dynamic. Santos, 24, appears to have stepped off the pages of a women’s bodybuilding magazine. Carano could pass for a Maxim model, and in fact, just recently had a spread in that magazine.
In every arena where both have appeared, there has been an obvious crowd reaction of anticipation that only the biggest fights of any era have.
Both fighters have had issues making weight. In Santos’ last fight on April 11, she weighed in at 152 pounds, seven pounds over the limit. The fight before, she weighed 148, which was what the fight was contracted for.
Carano has missed weight twice in her seven fights, and on two other occasions, was borderline. But her weight issues were all at 140 pounds, and she has always come in under 145. A lot of women fighters, and their camps, have been upset at both women, with the idea they aren’t respecting the sport by not making weight, and the feeling neither has been truly punished for it because of their star power.
On Thursday, the California State Athletic Commission sent a memo out to all fighters, but obviously meant for Carano and Santos. They said there is only one opportunity to weigh in. No allowances will be made, so both fighters must make 145 pounds, or there will be no championship match. They will not permit cutting of weight after missing weight a first time.
There is another first for both women, and that is the time limit. Both are used to fighting three rounds of three minutes. This fight is scheduled for five rounds of five minutes. That’s what makes predicting the fight more difficult. It’s the equivalent of putting two of the best 400-meter runners on the track, and then betting on who is going to win at 800 meters.
“Five rounds is going to be difficult,” said Carano. “It’s 16 more minutes than I’m used to. But, I feel like it gives you a different mentality. At the beginning, I was like, `What did we ask for?’ But now, I’m happy with it and I think that (it) could help me out in the long run.”
Carano has a strong Muay Thai base, and the fight looks to be someone who tries to overwhelm someone with an all-out style against someone better technically. But can Carano stand up to the ferocity, or will Santos come in with less in trying to pace herself? If Carano isn’t overwhelmed, and Santos doesn’t change her style because of the extended time, the longer match could favor Carano.
In other matches of note, Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1), riding a 12-fight winning streak, arguably the most impressive non-UFC fighter of the past two years, makes his U.S. debut when he challenges Renato “Babalu” Sobral (35-8) for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title. Mousasi, born in Iran but living in Holland, figures to have a strong edge standing. Sobral is the better wrestler and needs to turn the fight into a grappling match to have his best chance. Mousasi, a major star in Japan, was the Dream middleweight champion, who vacated the title to move to light heavyweight, has never faced a wrestler of the caliber of Sobral, so this is a real test.
The interim lightweight title will be at stake as Gilbert Melendez (15-2) looks for revenge against Mitsuhiro Ishida (18-5-1). Melendez was unbeaten and one of the highest ranked lightweights in the world when Ishida outwrestled him on December 31, 2007, en route to a unanimous decision.
Ishida is a late replacement for lightweight champ Josh Thomson, who wasn’t cleared to fight due to his broken ankle suffered four months ago not being fully healed. Ishida’s style is based on fast-paced grappling and controlling his opponent, often winning decisions. Melendez is primarily a wrestler, known for his takedown defense and conditioning.
The other televised fight is a heavyweight encounter pitting Fabricio Werdum (11-4-1) against Mike Kyle (12-6-1). Werdum was scheduled to face Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, who had suffered a hand injury fighting bouncers in a bar, which got infected and hadn’t fully healed. Werdum, with a win, would be in line for a bout with either Overeem or Fedor Emelianenko.

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