Saturday, June 6, 2009

Punch Drunk Predictions: Lawler versus Shields

Two nights of outstanding Mixed Martial Arts action kicks off tonight in St. Louis, as Strikeforce returns to the ring with an outstanding card, headlined by "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler and Jake Shields squaring off at a catchweight of 182.

Playing second fiddle on the show is the return to the ring for Andrei Arlovski, taking on undefeated Brett "The Grim" Rogers in his first bout since an ill-advised flying knee attempt resulted in Fedor Emelianenko laying the Belarusian out on the canvas.

Break downs and predictions after the jump.

Kevin Randleman (17-12) vs. Mike Whitehead (23-7)
There was a time when Randleman looked like he might be a major force in MMA. He was a collegiate wrestling champion, showed great power and held the UFC Heavyweight belt at one point during the early stages of Zuffa's ownership of the company. But as his 17-12 record and extended layoff illustrates, things haven't worked out that way.

Whitehead, on the other hand, has won 13 of his last 14 fights with the only defeat coming at Affliction: Banned to Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Renato "Babalu" Sobral. A win here could set up a rematch.

Phil Baroni (13-10) vs. Joe Riggs (29-10)
"Diesel" says he has something to prove after Jake Shields declined to fight him earlier in the year. "The New York Badass" always puts on a good show and has won three straight. As unscientific as this sounds, Riggs seldom strings together consecutive quality outings and he's coming off a win. I'm just sayin...

Nick Diaz (19-7) vs. Scott Smith (16-5)
There is always the chance that Scott Smith is going to knock you out. He really does have "Hands of Steel" and anyone who scoffs can call Benji Radach. But Diaz is actually better in all aspects, including the stand up battle, as his heavy bag work on Frank Shamrock's face last time out shows.

Andrei Arlovski (15-6) vs. Brett Rogers (9-0)
I like Brett Rogers. I think he is going to be a quality fighter and can appreciate the talent it takes to work your way to 9-0 in the heavyweight ranks. He's got a couple solid wins and will surely rack up more in the future. Tonight won't be one of them. Arlovski is too skilled, too quick, too talented.

Robbie Lawler (16-4) vs. Jake Shields (22-4-1)
I hate catchweight fights: they have built in excuses and don't really accomplish anything organizationally. Yes I want to see this fight, but couldn't Shields have made 185?

With that out of the way, Shields is a dynamo on the ground, as you would expect from a Cesar Gracie Black Belt. However, his stand up isn't nearly as strong. Lawler, in comparison, has outstanding striking and hasn't registered a submission win since a 2005 armbar made Jeremy Brown tap. Clearly, this will be a test to see who dictates where the fight takes place.

Punch Drunk Predictions
Record: 9-11 (Getting better after a 4-7 UFC 98 start...)

Preliminary Card
James Wade over Booker DeRousse
Dave Cochran over Pat Benson
Scott Ventimiglia over Lucas Lopes
Tyron Woodley over Sal Woods
Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante over Mike Kyle
Jesse Finney over Josh Baumgartner

Main Card
Kevin Randleman over Mike Whitehead
Joe Riggs over Phil Baroni
Nick Diaz over Scott Smith
Andrei Arlovski over Brett Rogers

And in the Main Event of the evening ...

"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler over Jake Shields

Touch gloves and come out swingin' ...

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