Strikeforce Contenders - Washington was an entertaining fast paced show featuring many great bouts. The card got off to a bang after a huge Luke Rockhold punch rattled Cory Devela, sending him to the canvas before Rockhold sunk in the winning rear naked choke just 30 seconds into the bout.
Army Ranger Tim Kennedy made a successful return to the cage after his recent 18 month deployment in Afganistan. The former sniper used grappling prowess to stay one move ahead of "The Goat" Nick Thompson. While Thompson looked to have a potential keylock/shoulder lock in the first, Kennedy used his strength to overwelm Thompson. In the second, Kennedy scored a nice takedown, then began to land clean ground and pound shots before causing Thompson to tap in the second round.
Jorge Gurgel and Conor Heun fought an action packed 15 minutes. The first two rounds turned into a kickboxing bout despite both holding BJJ blackbelts. Each fighter looked to land power shots throughout the fight, with Heun landing a couple uppercuts, and Gurgel landing big hooks and straight punches. The third round featured a brief glimpse of what each can do on the ground with reversals and Heun working the rubber guard. Eventually, the bout went to the judges who handed the unanimous decision to Gurgel in this close fight.
In the main event, Joey Villasenor and brawler Evangelista Cyborg brought some good kick boxing and ground work throughout the fight. Villasenor was coming back from elbow surgery and hadn't fought in a year. Smoking Joe may have eaten some leg kicks in the fight, but stayed strong and took the split decision.
Female fighters Sarah Kaufman and Shayna Bazler dueled it out for all three rounds. Kaufman was the more powerful fighter as she out-struck Bazler in lieu to a decision victory. Kaufman almost got into some trouble in the first round as Bazler had a knee and arm type choke that turned Kaufman's face red. However, the ref consistently called for action and may have altered Bazler's plans.
Overall, the refs called for action far too often in this card. Fighters would literally be on the ground for three to five seconds before action was called. This, despite the fighters actively trying for a submission or guard pass.
Here are the full results:
Joey Villasenor def Evangelista Cyborg via split dec
Tim Kennedy def Nick Thompson via sub(strikes) R2, 2:37
Jorge Gurgel def Conor Heun via unanimous dec
Sarah Kaufman def Shayna Baszler via unanimous dec
Luke Rockhold def Corey Devela via sub (rear-naked choke) R1, 0:30
Dennis Hallman def Justin Davis via sub (rear naked choke) R1, 0:20
Brian Caraway def Alex Zuniga via unanimous dec
Landon Showalter def George Stork via unanimous dec
Len Bentley def Marques Daniels via unanimous dec
Steve Hadsel def Taylor Roberts via KO (punches) R1, 0:17
Lyle Beerbohm def Duane Ludwig via sub (schoolyard choke) R1, 4:27- I haven't seen this fight, but it was reported that "Fancy Pants" Lyle Beerbohm had the submission of the night with a rare schoolyard choke victory. With the win, Beerbohm is now 10-0 as a pro, after amassing a 12-0 amateur record.
(Tim Kennedy pictured)