Friday, July 29, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.
The fight with the highest stakes at Saturday’s Strikeforce card in Chicago will come before the main event.
A heavyweight clash between Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson is arguably the most notable bout ever promoted by Strikeforce, but the only championship belt at risk at the Sears Center is in the women’s 135-pound division.
Miesha Tate (11-2 MMA, 4-1 SF) will challenge Marloes Coenen (19-4 MMA, 3-1 SF) for the title in the evening’s co-main event.
“I feel like I’ve evolved so much as a fighter,” the 24-year old Tate said. “She’s going to be watching video on the fighter I used to be and preparing for the fighter I used to be. I’m really, really not. I’ve worked so hard and I think she’s in for surprise.”
Although Coenen is a slight favorite in the match-up — the Venetian/Lagasse’s Stadium lists her at minus 130 (risking $1.30 to win $1) with Tate at even money — Tate is receiving most of the hype. The attention is somewhat because of the two women’s recent performances.
Tate has won five consecutive fights, stretching back nearly two years, through various methods, with one knockout, two submissions and two decisions. Coenen barely got past last-minute fill-in Liz Carmouche her last time out, rallying for a fourth-round submission after a rough 15 minutes to start the fight.
Tate was succinct when asked for her thoughts on Coenen’s last fight, saying she was not impressed. But it would be a mistake for Tate to overvalue one fight in Coenen’s 10-year career.
“Marloes Coenen is no joke,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “Miesha is going to have her hands full.”
The match-up could play into Coenen’s favor stylistically. Tate will look to wrestle and take Coenen to the ground, where the champion is comfortable and equipped with a diverse submission game. Tate could very well become a better fighter than the 30-year old Coenen in time, but Saturday may be too soon.
Pick: Coenen by submission
Check below for full betting odds from The Venetian/Lagasse's Stadium on the rest of the main card, which will air on Showtime via tape delay at 11, and a pick for every fight.
Heavyweight: Fedor Emelianenko (31-3 MMA, 1-2 SF) vs. Dan Henderson (27-8, 2-1 SF)
Line: Emelianenko -250, Henderson +250
Matchup: Henderson weighed in barely over the heavyweight cutoff Friday at 207 pounds. Emelianenko will have a 16-pound advantage on the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. But size is the only advantage Emelianenko may have when looking at recent fights. Henderson is a far superior wrestler, and probably a better striker at this point.
Pick: Henderson by decision
Middleweight: Robbie Lawler (18-7 MMA, 2-3 SF) vs. Tim Kennedy (13-3 MMA, 4-1 SF)
Line: Lawler +180, Kennedy -220
Matchup: The last two victims of Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza meet here. Kennedy took Souza the distance last summer, while Lawler lost via third-round submission this year. Kennedy hasn’t lost via stoppage since his first professional bout 10 years ago.
Pick: Kennedy by TKO
Welterweight: Paul Daley (27-10-2 MMA, 1-1 SF) vs. Tyron Woodley (8-0 MMA, 6-0 SF)
Line: Daley +180, Woodley -220
Matchup: These are the two best 170-pounders left in Strikeforce after champion Nick Diaz jumped to the UFC. But Daley, a muay thai striker, has never dealt well with high-level wrestlers. Woodley wrestled at the University of Missouri before becoming one of the top welterweight prospects in mixed martial arts.
Pick: Woodley by decision
Welterweight: Scott Smith (17-8 MMA, 3-3 SF) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (10-3 MMA, 2-1 SF)
Line: Smith +200, Saffiedine -250
Matchup: It’s time to find out whether the Belgian Saffiedine is a true prospect. A fight against Smith, an average-at-best veteran, should be telling. Saffiedine could out-grapple Smith, who is always looking for the knockout.
Pick: Smith by TKO