Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey preview

The Fight Network Ariel Shnerer
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Strikeforce is back Saturday with an exciting five-fight card from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, which is highlighted by female queen Miesha Tate taking on undefeated judo stylist Ronda Rousey in a heated grudge match.

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Here's what's in store for the televised main card:

Main card (on Showtime):

Miesha Tate (12-2) vs. Ronda Rousey (4-0)

One of the most anticipated clashes in female mixed martial arts history comes to fruition Saturday as the bantamweight champion Tate defends her crown against female judoka Rousey.

Tate, 25, scored a stunning submission win over Marloes Coenen to win the title last July. She carries a six-fight winning streak into her first title defense, including victories over Bellator champion Zoila Gurgel and former Smackgirl champion Hitomi Akano.

Tate suffered her last loss in May 2009, losing by unanimous decision against Sarah Kaufman during a period when female fights were still limited to three-minute rounds.

The Washington native trains out of Urijah Faber's Team Alpha Male, where her training camp coincided with UFC flyweight tournament participant Joseph Benavidez, who competes on the same day.

Nicknamed "Takedown," Tate is a stellar wrestler with strong control, submissions and conditioning. Her opponent, the 25-year-old Rousey, is undefeated in four professional fights with first-round armbar finishes of all four opponents within one minute.

Rousey earned a judo bronze medal in the 2008 Olympic Games, along with several gold medals in prestigious Pan American judo tournaments.

A pupil of Gokor Chivichyan, Rousey is a 4th dan black belt judoka with picture-perfect technique, thunderous throws and scintillating submissions.

Dropping to 135 pounds for the first time in her career, Rousey's conditioning could be her most vulnerable weakness. Tate will also be looking to test her chin as she possesses far more experience as a striker.

Inevitably, the action will spill to the canvas. Whether Tate secures a takedown or Rousey uses a judo toss, they will tangle on the mat. Tate's solid submission defense will be tested the moment Rousey isolates an arm.

If Tate can maintain her composure and implement a sound strategy, her experience will come in handy as she mixes up her offense, exhausting Rousey with carefully picked shots and damage in close quarters before putting her away with a slew of punches midway through the fray.

Verdict: Tate via TKO, Round 3

K.J. Noons (11-4) vs. Josh Thomson (18-4)

In a potential Strikeforce lightweight title eliminator, the former EliteXC champion Noons tangles with the former Strikeforce titleholder Thomson.

Noons, 29, burst onto the scene in 2007 and climbed to the top of the EliteXC lightweight division with a TKO stoppage of Nick Diaz and a 48-second trouncing of Yves Edwards.

Since joining Strikeforce, Noons is 2-3 with wins over Conor Heun, Jorge Gurgel and Billy Evangelista. The Hawaiian dropped his welterweight rematch to Diaz in a competitive five-round decision, while also losing on scorecards when he took on Jorge Masvidal last June.

A technically proficient kickboxer with a background in karate and Sanshou, Noons is always improving his skill set by working on his wrestling and submissions.

Thomson, 33, a Strikeforce staple since the promotion first launched in 2006, has not competed since a unanimous decision loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri in December 2010.

Injuries have plagued Thomson over the years, but he remains one of the sport's most competitive lightweights. The Californian is 1-1 in fights with Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, and he believes there's still a score to settle.

Under the Strikeforce banner, Thomson has amassed notable wins over Melendez, Gesias Cavalcante, Pat Healy, Nam Phan and Duane Ludwig. Meanwhile, his short-lived UFC stint between 2003 and 2004 saw him defeat Hermes Franca.

Based at American Kickboxing Academy, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt should effectively exploit some holes in Noons' takedown and submission defense. By using a diverse attack, Thomson should outwork "King Karl" over 15 minutes, earning a well-deserved unanimous decision.

Verdict: Thomson via decision

Paul Daley (29-11-2) vs. Kazuo Misaki (24-11-2)

Controversial British welterweight Daley returns to the Strikeforce cage against the debuting Pride Fighting Championships veteran Misaki.

Daley, 29, compiled a two-fight winning streak since his successive setbacks against Tyron Woodley and Nick Diaz under the Strikeforce banner.

A revered knockout artist, the British banger appropriately nicknamed "Semtex" has finished many foes in memorable fashion, including Yuya Shirai, Scott Smith, Dustin Hazelett, Martin Kampmann, John Alessio and Duane Ludwig.

The Team Rough House member has improved his scrambling ability and submission skills substantially, which have always stood out as fundamental weaknesses in his game. In his fight with Woodley last July, Daley even attempted an omoplata off his back.

Cutting weight remains an issue for Daley as he has struggled to make the 170-pound limit on multiple occasions. Ultimately, the former Cage Rage champion wants to return to the UFC, where he dropped his last fight to Josh Koscheck. Daley tried to punch Koscheck after the final bell, and UFC president Dana White had seen enough of the brash London native.

Daley's accomplishments are vast, and his potential is limitless. When he controls fights with his hard-hitting muay thai, there are few welterweights capable of withstanding his fury.

Misaki, 35, is dropping to 170 pounds after a long stint at middleweight, which included wins over Ed Herman, Phil Baroni, Dan Henderson, Denis Kang, Siyar Bahadurzada, Joe Riggs and Kazuhiro Nakamura.

After losing two classic battles against Jorge Santiago in Japan, the 2006 Pride welterweight grand prix winner has rattled off a pair of wins over Mike Seal and Akira Shoji.

At 170 pounds, Misaki could be a force to be reckoned with. A well-rounded fighter, Misaki's durability is his best trait. The Japanese "Hitman" can take a significant amount of punishment and dish it out as well.

This fight could come down to Daley's conditioning. Misaki will put him in precarious positions, and he will need to fight hard from bell to bell. If the Brit can maintain his composure and punish his Japanese adversary with knees and powerful hooks, he will score key points with the judges.

Verdict: Daley via decision

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-3) vs. Bristol Marunde (15-6)

The former Strikeforce middleweight champion "Jacare" takes on short-notice replacement Marunde.

Souza, 32, is coming off a disappointing decision loss to Luke Rockhold in December, losing his 185-pound title in the process.

The Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo brown belt remains an elite middleweight who owns victories over Alexander Shlemenko, Jason Miller, Matt Lindland, Joey Villasenor, Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler.

A product of Black House, where he trains with UFC champions Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos, Souza is one of the sport's most accomplished submission grapplers, having won the Abu Dhabi Combat Club tournament and the BJJ World Cup.

With 11 of his 14 career wins coming by way of submission, the Brazilian uses his bread and butter effectively to finish fights as quickly as possible.

Marunde, 29, the reigning Superior Cage Combat middleweight champion, carries a four-fight winning streak into his Strikeforce debut, including a triumphant five-round decision over UFC veteran Jay Silva in November.

The Alaskan IFL veteran fights out of Las Vegas' Throwdown Training Center, home to the likes of Forrest Griffin, Evan Dunham and Gilbert Yvel. Marunde is on a great run, and he will likely become a solid addition to the Strikeforce middleweight roster.

But "Jacare" is a different type of animal. Looking to rebound from his first loss since 2008, the five-time World Jiu-Jitsu champion will pounce from the get-go, finding the slightest opening to sink in his fight-ending submission of choice.

Verdict: Souza via submission, Round 1

Scott Smith (17-9) vs. Lumumba Sayers (5-2)

Facing an inevitable release if he suffers his fourth straight loss, the gutsy "Comeback Kid" Smith will need to put it all on the line against the emerging prospect Sayers.

The 32-year-old Smith was last seen this past July, dropping a one-sided decision to Belgian up-and-comer Tarec Saffiedine. The loss came at a bad time as he was coming off violent back-to-back knockout defeats against Paul Daley and Cung Le.

Smith, who returns to the middleweight division after an unsuccessful run at 170 pounds, will forever be remembered for his come-from-behind victories over Le, Benji Radach and Pete Sell. A valiant warrior with the courage to trade with the best of them, Smith may not own the best win-loss record, but his heart is unquestionable.

The former WEC light heavyweight champion is always content putting on a show for the fans, but he would be wise to fight intelligently to put himself in a position to win arguably the most important fight of his career.

Sayers is coming off his biggest career win — a 28-second knockout of Antwain Britt this past November.

The Denver-based Grapplers Edge product is a heavy hitter, but he often finishes opponents by submission, a testament to his well-rounded game.

This is a winnable fight for Smith if he can avoid Sayers' power shots and attack aggressively. Sayers is the younger fighter on the rise, but Smith has been involved in wars and knows what it takes to come out on top.

If Smith is going to win, it usually means he will absorb some vicious damage first. After a wild brawl for two rounds, Smith will rally for a late stoppage in typical "Hands of Steel" form.

Verdict: Smith via TKO, Round 3

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