MMA: Billy Evangelista

Notes and Nuggets from Columbus

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
1:23
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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videoCOLUMBUS -- Ronda Rousey has rapidly become the voice and weathervane of women’s MMA. She’s a mean judoka who has Olympic bronze on her résumé. She’s a pistol, she’s a mystery, and she’s headlining a fight card in which the direction of women’s MMA is quite literally in her hands.

Not bad for somebody with two minutes, 18 seconds of professional fighting experience.

Rousey will challenge Miesha Tate for the bantamweight title on Saturday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET). There’s a storminess between the two, which gives the whole thing the kind of hypeable dimensions that Gina Carano and Cristiane Santos had back in 2009. But there’s also a “let it all hang out” feel to this fight because, after Tate/Rousey sort things out, what's left?

With her suspension for using anabolic steroids, featherweight champ Cyborg Santos isn’t looming, and Carano is done with the racket. Which leaves Alexis Davis and Sarah Kaufman -- who are facing off on Saturday night as well -- and then an otherwise pretty empty field.

And that’s where things stand with the women’s roster on Strikeforce. In short, pretty much business as usual. Only this feature attraction has some nice friction going, and the murky future happily gives way to the here and now.

Tate is tired of hearing about the arm collection that Rousey has going, and Rousey is warning that what few reels we’ve seen of her are either pretty accurate or entirely misleading.

“The less that everybody knows, the better for me,” she said at the prefight news conference. “I feel very fortunate that they have very little footage of me and very little knowledge of everything that’s in my arsenal.”

Tate, a seasoned grappler with a tenacious ability to dictate a fight, will be up against a larger opponent than she’s used to. And so far, an immovable one. Rousey has finished all four of her pro fights via first round armbars, and she did it all in 2011. Since we know of her strength on the ground, this means we’re left to speculate about potential holes in her stand-up game. Tate will have to find out if that’s where Rousey has a weakness.

But that’s only part of the curiosity with this fight. With Rousey’s longest cage adventure lasting just 49 seconds against Charmaine Tweet, deep water may come in the form of something as simple as a second round. It may come in the form of frustration of finding herself in a fight. The bottom line is, she hasn’t been challenged yet. How does she respond to somebody who thwarts her game plan? How does she adapt as a fight goes on?

“I think the thing about Ronda is she’s a very kind of self-righteous person,” Tate said. “She cares more about herself than she does about the sport of women’s MMA and I think what’s she’s done is all about her and marketing herself. She’s talked her way into a title fight in my opinion, and she’s not the No. 1 contender at 135 because she’s never ever fought here. At 4-0, what she’s done is what she’s done. It’s been moderately impressive, but she’s never fought anyone of my caliber, and I think it’s going to be a true test for her.”

The main event, ladies and gentlemen.

Thomson expects best from foe Noons
Josh ThomsonEsther Lin/Forza LLC/Getty ImagesJosh Thomson, above, might be in line for a title shot -- if he can get by K.J. Noons.

In what easily is the best-looking match-up of the night on paper, lightweight Josh Thomson will take on K.J. Noons with plenty on the line. As everybody knows, champion Gilbert Melendez is without a fight right now, and there’s a pretty epic back-story to Thomson and “El Nino.” Thomson has been on a little bit of a bumpy ride of late, having split his last four fights. But should he get by Noons, there’s a good chance that Strikeforce will look to book Thomson/Melendez III, since it’s a rubber match.

All that talk, though, is premature for Thomson, who is expecting to get the best version that anybody’s seen of the obstacle in front of him.

“I think what everyone should understand is that I’m going to get the best K.J. you guys have seen,” he said.

“I think you saw a little bit of it in his fight with Billy [Evangelista]. He’s obviously been working on his wrestling, and working on his wrestling defense. He’s also been working on his kickboxing, not being a flat-footed boxer. So to be honest, it means a lot me to know that, nobody else in Strikeforce has fought the K.J. I’m going to fight. And so for me to get a win over him, it’s going to be great. With a good showing, I definitely think it should be a title shot next. But that’s just obviously my opinion.”

Kazuo Misaki appears in U.S. for only third time
Kazuo MisakiEsther Lin/Getty ImagesKazuo Misaki will be fighting in the not-so-friendly confines of the U.S. for only the third time.

Though he’s stood across from some of the fiercest guys in MMA, Japanese fighter Kazuo Misaki has only fought twice before in America -- at Pride 33 against Frank Trigg (a decision loss), and in his last Strikeforce appearance against Joe Riggs in 2009 (a win via TKO). Now he’ll go against welterweight contender Paul Daley in a fight with plenty of intrigue.

“He represents threats from everywhere,” said Daley. “If you look at his record, like [Strikeforce president] Scott [Coker] said, he’s a tough guy. He’s beat a lot of big names, and I consider him an all-arounder. His stand-up is kind of crazy and a little bit unpredictable. I’m taking this fight very seriously, and he’s a dangerous guy.”

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