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Carano-‘Cyborg’ set to make history

Strikeforce show will feature the first-ever female MMA title fight

Image

Esther Lin/Strikeforce

Gina Carano, left, and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos face off during a photo opportunity on July 14, 2009, in New York. The two mixed martial arts stars will fight in the main event of a Strikeforce show on Aug. 15 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., the first time that women will headline a major MMA promotion.

Carano

Gina Carano, left, and Cristiane Launch slideshow »

STRIKEFORCE

  • What: First-ever female MMA title fight at 145 pounds between Gina Carano (7-0) vs. Christiane “Cyborg” Santos (7-1); Light heavyweight title fight: Renato Sobral (35-8) vs. Gegard Mousasi (25-2-1); Lightweight Interim title fight: Gilbert Melendez (15-2) vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida (18-5-1).
  • When: Saturday
  • Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif.
  • TV: Showtime (Main card starts at 7:30 p.m. PT)

Gina Carano

  • Age: 27
  • Height: 5-8
  • Weight: 145
  • MMA record: 7-0
  • From: Las Vegas
  • Last fight: Unanimous decision victory over Kelly Kobold at EliteXC: Heat on Oct. 4
  • Notable: “Conviction,” who competed for the American Gladiators under the stage name of “Crush,” will have UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture in her corner.

Christiane Santos

  • Age: 24
  • Height: 5-8
  • Weight: 145
  • MMA record: 7-1
  • From: Curitiba, Brazil
  • Last fight: Third-round TKO victory (punches) over Hitomi Akano at Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz on April 11
  • Notable: “Cyborg,” who competes side-by-side with her husband Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, was discovered on the handball courts of Curitiba, Brazil by famed Chute Boxe Academy trainer Rudimar Fedrigo.

Beyond the Sun

SAN JOSE -- History will be made Saturday night in San Jose, Calif., when the first-ever female mixed martial arts championship event takes place between Las Vegan Gina Carano and Brazilian Christiane “Cyborg” Santos.

The fight between the top two female fighters had been rumored for several months. When EliteXC folded, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker swept in to make the dream match a reality.

“When I first put this fight together, I realized it was big, and as a fan I was looking forward to seeing it even when I thought those two were going to fight each other in EliteXC, before I was involved,” Coker told AOL Fanhouse of the 145-pound, five-round title bout to be held at HP Pavilion and broadcast by Showtime.

“It’s something fans have gravitated toward because these are two great athletes. If you know Gina, she’s not just the girl next door with the pretty face. She can really fight. And when you look at Cyborg, she’s just going to bring it. They’re going to go into the cage and throw it down. This is the biggest fight in the history of women’s fighting, not just MMA.”

1. The face of female MMA

Carano, the daughter of former UNLV and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Glenn Carano, has become the “face” of women’s mixed martial arts because of her good looks and outgoing personality. Appearing in a steamy photo shoot for Maxim and starring on “American Gladiators” has branded Carano’s star power outside the cage, but the 27-year-old said she could care less about her celebrity appeal going into the toughest test of her undefeated career.

“I’ve learned to take the compliments when people are nice enough to say things,” Carano told the San Jose Mercury News at a training session earlier this week. “Maybe the way I look does get people watching. But hopefully when they see me in the cage, they’ll say: 'Oh, wait, she can fight.’ I’ve dealt with people not taking me seriously all my life.”

2. “Cyborg” the slugger

The Brazilian is regarded as the brawn of this two-woman fight as her ripped physique as been on display often during the pair’s media tour in New York and elsewhere. Santos — a disciple of the legendary Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, a gym that has helped train the likes of UFC stars Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua — enters the contest with seven straight victories after losing her first professional bout. Her style often is compared to Silva’s for her straightforward approach of trying to end fights via strikes.

3. Going the distance

If this one goes to a decision both fighters probably will be gassed. Unlike any bout either fighter has ever taken part in, the fight is scheduled for five rounds of five minutes each. Normal U.S. women’s fights feature three rounds at three minutes per frame.

“Five rounds is going to be difficult. It’s 16 more minutes than I’m used to. But, I feel like it gives you a different mentality,” Carano said. “I’m happy with it and I think that (my preparation for the extra time) could help me in the long run.”

4. Hieron just wants to fight

Xtreme Couture’s Jay Hieron wasn’t too happy being a casualty of Afflicition’s meltdown. But things certainly seemed to brighten up when he signed on with Strikeforce to fight Nick Diaz for the welterweight title.

Then it was deja vu all over again as the popular Diaz (much like Josh Barnett did with Affliction) had troubles passing a California State Athletic Commission mandatory drug test and is now off the card.

“I can’t control it,” said Hieron (17-4 MMA record), who will now fight

Jesse Taylor, a former “The Ultimate Fighter” cast off. “You know, everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to, and I can’t really stress about the situation. The good thing about it is that I’ve been through all this stuff before, and it helps me get through this.

5. Stealing the spotlight

UFC President Dana White and Coker always have had a cool relationship in the past, but the two rival promotions now appear to be bumping heads. After Strikeforce signed highly touted Fedor Emelianenko, White took a public shot at Coker’s business dubbing the promotion “Strikefarce” and saying the Russian heavyweight will run them into the ground.

Now White and the UFC are gonna try and steal some of the spotlight from the Strikeforce main stage Saturday by rebroadcasting several historic UFC 100 bouts, including the main event between Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir, free on Spike TV at the same time as Carano and Cyborg air on Showtime.

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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