MMA Review: #391: Strike Force: Rousey vs. Kaufman

Strike Force: Rousey vs. Kaufman

San Diego, California

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo, Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich. Big discussion here is Ronda Rousey of course and how she’s become a megastar since beating Miesha Tate for the Women’s Bantamweight Title in March.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Ovince St-Preux vs TJ Cook

This was a bit of an odd one as Cook was coming off a loss to Trevor Smith on an earlier StrikeForce show, but I guess they wanted to rebuild OSP after his loss to Gegard Mousasi and a bit of a long layoff after that. OSP was the clear pick here but the question was how he’d rebound from his first loss in a long time. Referee here is the dude with the wild ZZ Top style moustache. Last time I remember him refereeing he did an awful job in Mousasi vs. Jardine.

Round One and OSP throws a head kick off the bat that Cook just about blocks. Cook fires back with a left to the body but misses a right hand. Good counter knee from OSP. Hard leg kick lands for Cook and almost takes OSP off his feet. Head kick from OSP and that has Cook reeling but he seems okay and he comes back with another leg kick. Cook wades into the clinch with some punches, but OSP clinches and forces him into the cage. Cook reverses position and breaks off quickly before landing a jab. Flurry from OSP fires back though and Cook does down off a hard left hook. OSP pounces and pounds away before nailing him with some more shots as Cook comes back to his feet. Cook does a great job of firing back somehow, but he’s swinging wildly and he’s still eating the bigger shots. He manages to clinch and lands some decent right hands and uppercuts before breaking. Wild exchange sees both men get tagged. Frank Shamrock keeps talking about Cook fighting Mousasi which is bizarre – I think he’s mixed up Cook and OSP somehow. Good counter left hook lands for OSP. Another shot wobbles Cook and OSP forces him into the fence before dropping for a single leg. Takedown follows and OSP lands in half-guard. OSP looks like he’s working for an Americana and it looks all but locked up, but he can’t quite get it tight enough to Cook’s body and Cook escapes. Cook rolls, giving his back, but he slips out the back door before OSP can get the hooks in and the round ends standing. Well, that turned into a great round. 10-9 OSP.

Between rounds it definitely looks like Cook went out for a second when he went down off the left hook and the referee probably should’ve stepped in, but c’est la vie.

Round Two and both men look a little tentative coming out this time, before OSP lands a glancing left body kick. Very little action in the opening round actually. Hard body kick from OSP and he follows that with a head kick that lands. Cook has a hell of a chin evidently as he just takes it and fires back with some punches. Snapping jab from OSP. Wild right hook glances for Cook as he comes forward. Crowd start to get a bit restless as OSP lands a couple more jabs. Kick lands low though and the ref calls time to let Cook recover. And of course Mr. ZZ Top fucks even that up and tells Cook he needs to decide whether he wants to continue or he’ll stop the fight. Mauro helpfully points out that the rules state that he has five minutes, but I mean, ZZ Top is too incompetent to remember a silly little thing like that I’m sure. Cook indeed decides to continue and catches OSP with a counter as OSP misses on a big head kick. Takedown from OSP follows though and he puts Cook in full guard by the fence. Into side mount for OSP and from there he moves to north/south to consider the north/south choke, but gives up on that to return to side mount. Arm triangle attempt now from OSP and he uses that to take full mount. Big punches from OSP and Cook gives his back. He rolls back to mount and OSP lands some more punches to end the round. 10-9 OSP.

Round Three and St-Preux comes out throwing left hands, and the second one LANDS FLUSH AND KILLS COOK DEAD. Holy fucking shit. Cook is completely stiff and the announcers seem genuinely worried for his safety with the way he went crashing down. Thankfully he comes round a minute or so afterwards and looks fine.

Nice win for OSP to come back from the Mousasi fight and really it should’ve been over in the first round had the referee been competent and spotted that Cook was out there. Don’t know where OSP’s ceiling really lies in the UFC – I doubt he makes the top ten or anything personally – but it’ll be interesting to find out as he’s usually quite exciting to watch. Fun opener overall.

-They air pre-taped interviews with Heidi Androl talking to Rousey and Kaufman, and Kaufman seems a lot happier to talk with Heidi than Ronda does, smiling rather than mean-mugging. Don’t know if poor Heidi stole Ronda’s boyfriend at some point or what, but she REALLY doesn’t seem to like her.

Middleweight Fight: Anthony Smith vs Lumumba Sayers

This was Smith’s return to StrikeForce following a couple of wins on the smaller circuit, while Sayers was coming off his upset win over Scott Smith on an earlier StrikeForce card. I’m sure one of these guys was stepping in as an injury replacement actually but fuck knows which one.

Fight begins and they circle before Smith lands a low kick and avoids a pair of counter punches. Big right hook misses for Smith and Sayers quickly takes the back and drags him down, but they scramble as they hit the ground and Smith somehow ends up in full mount. Smith keeps a low mount and lands some short punches, then manages to posture up to land a couple of elbows too. Sayers looks completely trapped from his back, not trying any hip escapes or anything. He gives his back though and manages to shoot out the back door, but Smith grabs a guillotine and pulls guard. Sayers escapes from that and in the scramble he manages to take the back and they come up with Sayers holding a rear waistlock. Smith walks towards his corner, then turns into Sayers and rolls into a kimura, but Sayers avoids that and tries a guillotine from a standing position. Smith gets out and cracks him with a left hook on the exit. They exchange a couple of strikes and Sayers is cut. Low kick drops Sayers for a second but he pops back up. Left hand lands for Sayers in an exchange and Smith goes down, but when Sayers pounces, Smith immediately locks up a triangle choke for the tapout.

Decent fight but to me it didn’t feel like elite-level (read, UFC level) MMA if you know what I mean. The exchanges were all fun but were a bit sloppy, particularly on the end of Sayers. Nice finish for Smith though as he didn’t mess around at all in locking up that triangle.

Welterweight Fight: Tarec Saffiedine vs Roger Bowling

Well, despite not having the best record I’ve got to say I’m a bit of a fan of Roger Bowling as his series of fights with Bobby Voelker had been pretty crazy and in his previous fight he’d thankfully sent neo-Nazi fighter Brandon Saling packing from StrikeForce too. This was a big step up for him though as the Belgian Sponge Saffiedine had only lost to Tyron Woodley inside the StrikeForce cage and looked on a real roll coming into this one.

First round and Bowling comes out throwing some combos that glance off the Belgian. Good combo backs Saffiedine up a little. Nice left hand into a leg kick from Saffiedine. Left hand connects to the body for Bowling. Good combination to the body follows. Bowling is looking great early on here. Leg kick from Saffiedine and he counters a Bowling combo with a knee. Good right hand into a low kick from Bowling. He looks to follow up with a flurry but Saffiedine cracks him with a hard knee to the body. Another nice combo answers for Bowling and he follows with a leg kick. They clinch up and Saffiedine connects with a couple of knees before forcing Bowling into the fence. They muscle for position and Bowling drops for a double leg, but Tarec blocks it and they break off. Good combo again from Bowling. Nice leg kick from Saffiedine. Plum clinch from the Belgian and he lands a pair of hard knees that force Bowling to drop for a takedown. Saffiedine does a good job of defending it and they stay on their feet, before Bowling breaks after taking a knee and an elbow inside .Combo from Bowling sets up a single leg and he almost gets Saffiedine to the ground, but again the Belgian defends nicely. Good knees inside from Saffiedine and he breaks with an elbow, but Bowling counters with a right hand. Seconds remaining in the round and Bowling glances on a left hook. Close round but Bowling was the aggressor for the most part so I’m going with him, 10-9.

Second round and Saffiedien lands with a heavy leg kick early on. Good left to the body from Bowling and Saffiedine slips but doesn’t go down. Body kick from the Belgian. Left to the body from Bowling but he takes an eye poke in the process and the ref has to call time. Doctor checks him over and he’s okay to go, and they restart and Bowling lands a hard body kick. Saffiedine fires back with a leg kick but Bowling answers with one of his own. Nice exchange sees Bowling tag Saffiedine with a one-two and he follows with a nice flurry, but Saffiedine starts to really push forward now, landing a front kick to the body and a leg kick. Beautiful one-two into a leg kick from Saffiedine and it looks like Bowling’s beginning to slow down. Left to the body from Bowling and he lands a left-right to the head as Saffiedine grabs the clinch to land a knee before forcing Bowling into the fence. Single leg from Bowling and he gets Saffiedine down for a second before grabbing a guillotine as he pops back up. Saffiedine easily exits that though and grabs the clinch again. Trip attempt by Bowling is blocked and they remain in the clinch. Saffiedine breaks off and lands with a nice low kick again. One minute to go and Bowling lands a decent right hand, but takes an uppercut from the Belgian. Nice left hook from Saffiedine. Big right hand glances for Saffiedine and he exits a clinch with a solid knee. Nice counter combo lands for Saffiedine and he ends the round with a leg kick. Saffiedine was really finding his range in that round. 10-9 Saffiedine and it’s 19-19 on my scorecard.

Third and final round and Saffiedine opens with a body kick and a sharp leg kick. Combination fires back for Bowling but Saffiedine grabs the plum to deliver a knee. Saffiedine forces him into the fence, and lands some knees before breaking off. Hard knee connects for Saffiedine to counter a combo from Bowling. Good leg kick lands for the Belgian too as he avoids a flurry. Left hook connects to the body for Bowling. Good jab from Bowling but he eats another hard leg kick. Good knee from Saffiedine as Bowling leans in. Another hard leg kick from Saffiedine and Bowling is looking really tired now, reduced to charging in with wild swings more than anything. Spinning back kick misses for the Belgian and Bowling grabs him to attempt a takedown, but Saffiedine defends nicely and they end up clinched. Bowling attempts another takedown but again gets stuffed. Good knees and a shoulder strike land for Saffiedine inside the clinch. Beautiful combination breaks off for Saffiedine but Bowling lands a body kick. Saffiedine looks the fresher man though and he lands some counters as Bowling comes in swinging. Takedown attempt from Bowling but Saffiedine sprawls and then spins to take the back. Two hooks in for Saffiedine and he lands some punches, but can’t flatten Bowling out. More shots land for Saffiedine and he attempts the choke, but the buzzer goes before he can close anything out. 10-9 Saffiedine and I think he takes it 29-28.

Judges all score it 29-28 for Tarec Saffiedine. Very fun fight though as Bowling really pushed Saffiedine hard and it was only when he gassed somewhat in the second round that the Belgian really pulled away with his tighter technical striking. Post-fight Saffiedine calls out Nate Marquardt to set up the fight that would turn out to be the final one in StrikeForce history!

-Mauro talks to Gilbert Melendez about his run as StrikeForce champion and his upcoming title defense with Pat Healy, which was of course cancelled. Melendez will instead get a UFC title shot and I think it’s probably easy to guess which one he prefers! Heidi then talks to Pat Healy who basically thinks he’s being overlooked. Well, no shit, but that was always bound to happen, no offense to the guy.

Middleweight Fight: Ronaldo Souza vs Derek Brunson

Brunson had initially been pegged to fight Jacare at the March StrikeForce event but had failed an eye exam and was pulled and replaced by Bristol Marunde, and since, he’d lost a fight to Kendall Grove, so I was sorta surprised when this fight was re-booked for this show. I guess they wanted someone for Jacare to crush though and so it made sense in that way.


Fight begins and Brunson throws a head kick that Jacare blocks. Couple of rights miss for Souza. Brunson steps in but walks into a MASSIVE RIGHT CROSS and goes down face-first. He’s CLEARLY done but of course ZZ Top ignores that because who cares about a man getting a concussion? They’re harmless anyway, right? Poor Brunson stumbles to his feet and Jacare drops him with another short right, and then knocks him totally unconscious before ZZ Top FINALLY steps in to call it.

Beautiful finish from Jacare and holy shit has his striking improved, but the finish left a REALLY bad taste and I really hope UFC never have to use such a terrible referee. Seriously, he’s the worst I’ve ever seen by far. Makes the Mazz look flawless. Replay shows he didn’t even stop the fight properly as Jacare actually stopped when he realized Brunson was unconscious. How did he even become a referee? Fuck that guy.

Strike Force Women’s Bantamweight Title: Ronda Rousey vs Sarah Kaufman

This one had been a long time coming and it had a good backstory too, as basically Kaufman had beef with Rousey because she thought Ronda had stolen her title shot against Miesha Tate earlier in the year and when Ronda had beaten Tate for the title, this was the obvious follow-up match. Pick was Rousey of course – how can you pick against her at this stage?

Round One begins and Rousey closes the distance right away and swings into the clinch. They muscle for position before Ronda hits a trip right into full mount. Kaufman tries to turn out but Rousey LOCKS UP THE ARM!~! Kaufman manages to defend initially, but Ronda keeps it locked up and rolls through, eventually extending it fully to force her to tap out. WOW.

Nowhere near as exciting as Rousey’s fight with Miesha Tate but it was still super-entertaining to see her get ANOTHER armbar so quickly to finish a really capable challenger in Kaufman. I would argue actually that this turned out to be the most important fight in StrikeForce history – or at least the most important since the Zuffa buyout – as it was Ronda rising up as a superstar and being able to draw a good rating for this show despite not having a really stacked card behind her that really convinced Dana White to make the moves to get her moved across to the UFC and in turn, fold StrikeForce up and absorb the roster into the UFC.

Post-fight Rousey calls out Cris Cyborg to come down to 135lbs to fight her. I’m still cynical of whether that fight will happen but if it does then its MONEY for the UFC.

-We hit the highlights and then the announcers wrap up the night’s action as Frank Shamrock compares Ronda to BJ Penn (!). Show ends there.

Final Thoughts….

Not the best card on paper, but this was really good in execution, with three great finishes in Rousey/Kaufman, OSP/Cook and Jacare/Brunson as well as a totally underrated high-quality fight in Saffiedine/Bowling. I didn’t think much to Smith/Sayers despite it ending in a cool finish, but I mean, the rest is definitely worth watching. Big thumbs up for this show.

Best Fight: Saffiedine vs. Bowling
Worst Fight: Smith vs. Sayers

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time…