Sunday, September 12, 2010

UFC Vets Jardine and Sokoudjou Can't Swim with the Sharks

All eyes were on Amarillo, Texas last night as the Texas panhandle city hosted a top-of-the-regional-promotion-food chain event in Shark Fights 13. Ten UFC veterans highlighted the fight card, many of whom looked to use the event as a spring board back into major promotional action, but as last night's event has shown, it's sink or swim in shark infested waters.

In the main event former UFC light heavyweight title contender Keith Jardine met current Shark Fights Light Heavyweight Champion Trevor Prangley in a non-title bout. Prangley stunned Jardine with head-ringing knees from the clinch in the first round. The second round was molasses, drawing boos from the Amarillo Civic center crowd, but a jaw-dropping uppercut was enough to drop Jardine, giving Prangley another round. The third round showed a far more aggressive Keith Jardine but it wasn't enough to change the scorecards. Prangley took home the split win, handing Jardine his fifth consecutive defeat. Now, the futures of both Jardine and Prangley are thrown into obscurity. With this big win, will Prangley return to Strikeforce, where he suffered his last loss in an all-out war with Tim Kennedy? Will Jardine have any chance of a big stage return now that loss number five looms overhead? Or will both fighters continue their careers with the burgeoning Shark Fights promotion?

Houston Alexander made a guppy of Rameau Sokoudjou in the co-main event. A huge left hand set up a winning first round for Sokoudjou, but the Cameroonian Judo expert didn't have the gas tank to follow up in round two. Alexander used a punch-knee combination to drop Sokoudjou, finishing him off in classic Houston Alexander groud-and-pound style. Alexander officially drew the referee stoppage at 1:31 in the second round. The fight earned "Fight of the Night" honors.

World ranked welterweight Paul Daley walked away with the decision victory over American Top Team standout Jorge Masvidal, but he's shown no improvement in one major area of deficiency -- takedown defense. Daley's dominance in the striking department won a tough three-rounder, but even his power-packed punches couldn't fend off Masvidal's takedown attacks, as Daley was easily taken to the mat in all three rounds. Following the hand-raising, Daley was greeted with boos from the crowd, and didn't hesitate to return the love with this heartfelt comment: "This is my first fight back in America. You can tell all the fans love me with all the booing. There’s a difference between me and them, I'm getting paid a helluva lot more than them. Your tickets pay my wages,"

In other action Danillo Villafort made a stepping stone of the older, more experienced Elite XC and Strikeforce veteran Joey Villasenor. Isolating Villasenor's heavy hands was the key to a Villafort unanimous decision victory. On the undercard, Ronnie Mann and Douglas Evans engaged in a featherweight title war. Mann kept Evans' takedown strategy at bay with a violent striking effort, lead by shin-smashing leg kicks, to become the new Shark Fights Featherweight Champion via a not-so-close split decision.

The results of this star-studded event leave a huge question mark hovering above many of its participants. UFC vets Keith Jardine and Sokoudjou must re-evaluate their plans for a big stage return. Meanwhile, Trevor Prangley and Houston Alexander have validated their relevance, at least on the regional pro circuit level, but were their wins enough to convince the big dogs? Chances are we'll see these light heavyweights make their cases as free agents in two to three more fights before any big show dreams can be solidified. We may even see a Shark Fights 14: Prangley vs. Alexander light heavyweight title fight, and a Sokoudjou vs. Jardine redemption match might not be a far off possibility either.

On another note, some up-and-comers made a statement at SF 13. Fighters Tarec Saffiedine (10-2) and Danillo Villefort (12-3) had their way with more experienced fighters, gaining career defining wins over Brock Larson (32-5) and Joey Villasenor (27-8) respectively. Jorge Masvidal may not have left the cage with the "w," but he definitely made a showing against a world ranked opponent in Paul Daley. Masvidal earned Daley's respect with his takedown abilities. Although in the future, he must be more active following the takedown, his performance may have been enough to place him within spotlight range. Meanwhile, the Shark Fights promotion has placed itself in the big show spotlight, but as history has shown, producing major league cards is always a challenge for regional promotions. If Shark Fights can make it happen in the match making office and manage to bring Bas Rutten and Don Frye as color commentators (those two should be locked up -- hilarious), they could find themselves swimming amongst much bigger promotional fish.

SHARK FIGHTS 13 COMPLETE RESULTS:
Eric Davila def. Pete Spratt via submission (guillotine choke) in R2, 3:49
Daniel Straus def. Karen Darabedyan via unanimous dec.
Aaron Rosa def. Devin Cole via unanimous dec.
Ronnie Mann def. Douglas Evans via split dec. (wins SF Featherweight title)
Paul Bradley def. Johnny Rees via submission (RNC) in R1, 4:28
Tarec Saffiedine def. Brock Larson via unanimous dec.
Danillo Villefort def. Joey Villasenor via unanimous dec.
Paul Daley def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous dec.
Houston Alexander def. Rameau Sokodjou via TKO (punches) in R2, 1:31.
Trevor Prangley def. Keith Jardine via split dec.

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