- Brett Okamoto
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SAN DIEGO -- Jab, clinch, takedown, armbar, tap.
It all took just 54 seconds for Ronda Rousey.
The Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion successfully defended her belt for the first time -- and maintained her perfect record -- on Saturday in typical Rousey fashion. Sarah Kaufman barely had time to react as Rousey swarmed her with jabs, took her down and transitioned to the same armbar that's now finished all six women who have stepped in the cage with her.
After the fight, Rousey (6-0) wasted no time calling out her next opponent, former 145-pound Strikeforce champion Cris "Cyborg" Santos.
"I need to send out a challenge to Ms. Cyborg, there," Rousey said. "People want to see you have the first fair fight of your life. I'm the champ now. The champ doesn't go to you. You go to the champ. Come down to 135 and let's settle this."
Santos (10-1) was widely considered the top female fighter in the world until she was handed a yearlong suspension last December by the California State Athletic Commission when she tested positive for the steroid stanozolol. Since her suspension, there has not been a 145-pound female fight in Strikeforce.
The Brazilian recently expressed interest in fighting Rousey when she returns, but did not seem keen on cutting to 135 pounds.
In addition to recording her sixth straight win via armbar, Rousey's streak includes all first-round finishes. Former champ Miesha Tate (13-3) remains the only opponent to make it out of the first minute with Rousey, eventually tapping at the 4:27 mark. Kaufman (15-2) loses for just the second time in her six-year professional career.
Jacare mauls Brunson, secures first knockout of career
Souza (16-3) recorded the first knockout win of his professional MMA career, dropping Brunson with a counter-right cross that probably should have ended the fight. Brunson (9-2) fell face-first to the mat and managed to get up slowly only after Souza stood back to allow referee Mike Beltran to stop the fight. When Beltran allowed the action to continue, Souza dropped Brunson again with a two-punch combination.
A final right hand thrown from over the top of Brunson's guard was the final blow. The official time of the stoppage was 41 seconds.
"All my training partners talk about my hands," Souza said. "I came very prepared for this fight."
The win could catapult Souza back into title contention against current champion Luke Rockhold. The two met last September, with Rockhold claiming Souza's belt via unanimous decision. Earlier this month, Rockhold expressed interest in a rematch with the Brazilian.
Saffiedine outpoints Bowling, moves closer to title shot
Tarec Saffiedine continues to build his case for a shot at the welterweight belt.
Saffiedine (13-3) secured his third straight win with a unanimous decision over Roger Bowling. The Team Quest member is now 5-1 in Strikeforce and knocking on the door of a shot against current champion Nate Marquardt.
"Roger is very tough and he's a brawler so I knew this would be a long, hard fight," Saffiedine said. "I threw a lot of knees because he has a tendency to lean in and I saw the opening when I was creating my game plan. I've had three wins in a row and I think it's about time for a title shot."
Saffiedine weathered an early storm from Bowling (11-3), who nailed him with several hard left hooks to the body early in the fight. Saffiedine's superior skill level showed as the fight wore on, however, as he mixed his striking up well with a variety of knees and effective leg kicks. Bowling tried several times to take the action to the floor, to no avail.
A final unsuccessful takedown attempt by Bowling led to a dangerous position in the third round, when Saffiedine scrambled to his back and ended the fight in search of a rear-naked choke. All three judges scored the bout 30-27.
Smith uses triangle choke to upset Sayers
Smith (17-8) never looked like an underdog, scoring an early takedown of Sayers (6-3) and quickly transitioning to full mount. Sayers, who had been listed as high as a 3-to-1 favorite, escaped the bad position but quickly found himself in trouble on the ground again.
After slipping as he threw a punch, Smith went to his back and Sayers willingly followed him to the ground. With Sayers in his guard, Smith threw up a quick triangle attempt and almost immediately locked it in to force the tap. The end came at 3:52 of the first round.
"My triangle is awesome and I'm glad I could display my ground game," Smith said. "I catch world champions in that triangle and if you give me wrist control, I'll definitely finish you on the ground."
Smith, who trains out of Omaha, Neb., improves to 2-1 under the Strikeforce banner, including a knockout finish over Ben Lagman in his July 2011 debut.
St. Preux rebounds with one-punch knockout
It was a devastating, straight left hand out of the southpaw stance that led to the highlight-reel knockout. St. Preux (12-5) broke forward after dropping Cook but quickly realized his opponent was down for good and stepped away. The finish came 20 seconds into the round.
"Every time I had him out and tried to finish, he would get back up and hang in there," St. Preux said. "I saw the opening for the overhand and when I connected, I knew that was it."
St. Preux took charge early, dropping Cook (12-5) in the first round with a short right hand. Cook turtled up near the fence and the fight appeared to be over; however referee Mike Beltran allowed the fighter to work slowly back to his feet. After resetting near the center of the cage, St. Preux took Cook down late in the round and eventually worked to full mount in the closing moments.
Things slowed down in the second round, with St. Preux visibly slowing the pace after the action-packed first. He picked it back up in the final frame, however, and secured the finish.
The win puts St. Preux back in the win column after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Gegard Mousasi last December. Prior to the loss, St. Preux had won eight straight. Cook drops to 1-2 in Strikeforce.
Ronda Rousey continued her perfect streak of first-round submissions by armbar, taking out former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman.