Moose’s Pre-Event Picks: Strikeforce – Fedor vs. Rogers

The Moose is back after a two week layoff where you last saw me saving face in UFC 104 by picking winners in three out of four fights that I assessed, including an underdog winner in Patrick “Get Hype” Barry. Besides having one of the worst nicknames in MMA, Barry eventually caught Antoni Hardonk in their all-stand up battle – as I prophetically predicted – and scored a minor upset. Coupled with a razor-close win in Machida, and an easy winner in Joe Stevenson dominating an aging Spencer Fisher, the Barry win capped a nice night for those that took my advice. Only a poorly prepared Ben Rothwell prevented me from running the table in my prognostications. In regards to the Rothwell / Velasquez fight… I guess Big Ben didn’t think Velasquez would go for takedowns, huh? WTF! Although I’m still not convinced that Velasquez is truly at the top with Lesnar and Carwin in a solid UFC HW division, begrudgingly, I do have to admit that he looked dominant against Rothwell. Anyway, picking winners 75% of the time with an underdog winner mixed in will put some coin in the pocket, no matter what anyone says. Enough of the back patting, time to get cracking on this weekend’s Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers event.

As the event title implies, “The Last Emperor” returns to action against headhunter Brett Rogers in the main event, with nine other fights on the bill including some nice showdowns like Jake Shields vs. Mayhem Miller, Gegard Mousasi battling Sokoudjou, and Fabricio Werdum taking on Antonio Silva. From what I’ve seen so far, most sportsbooks are only taking action on four of the ten fights so far, but that’s OK – three of those fights are the ones that I like the most. The following consists of my recommended plays – time to cash in!

Moose’s Recommended Play: Emelianenko (-625) over Rogers (+425)

The 30-1 Russian takes on the relatively inexperienced, but heavy-handed Brett Rogers in the event’s co-main event. Emelianenko is most observers’ #1 ranked HW in the world and is essentially undefeated during his illustrious career – his lone “loss” was to Tsuyoshi Kosaka about nine years ago via cuts due to an illegal elbow in the Rings organization. He would later avenge the loss in Pride via brutal TKO, and now boasts wins over Minotauro Noguiera, Mirko Cro Cop, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Mark Hunt, Kevin Randleman, Babalu, and an under-sized Matt Lindland. Emelianenko’s competition has been somewhat uneven in the last five years, although Dana White tried to rectify that by unsuccessfully pursuing him recently. Some think he has the physique of an average Joe, but he’s a Combat Sambo expert (think Judo mixed with MMA) with explosive quickness and devastating strikes and has rarely been in any trouble during his fights. Brett Rogers enters the fight truly undefeated at 10-0, with nine of his fights ending by TKO or KO. Only two of his fights went past the first round. Rogers is a head hunter in the purest sense of the term – he’s swings for the fences, and if he catches someone, they go to sleep… quickly – Andrei Arlovski is still wondering what happened when he stood and traded with him last June. Although Rogers could conceivably catch Fedor – it better happen quickly – because I don’t think that Fedor will give him the chance. Look for Fedor to score a takedown as quickly as possible and to work his signature ground and pound for a stoppage. Although his camp will argue otherwise, Rogers is still, unfortunately, a fish on the ground.

Moose’s Recommended Play: Shields (-340) over Miller (+260)

Jake Shields is a Cesar Gracie BJJ Black Belt, a former Rumble on the Rock, Elite XC, Shooto, Grappler’s Quest, and Pan American Games Jiu Jitsu Champion, and took 3rd place at the prestigious ADCC Submission Wrestling tourney in 2005. Although he prefers fighting at 170lbs, he’s fought as high as 185, and, not coincidentally, is taking on Mayhem Miller for the interim Strikeforce Middleweight title previously vacated by Cung Le. Shields is riding a 12 fight win streak and has some nice scalps on his resume such as Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Nick Thompson, and Robbie Lawler. Primarily a grappler, his standup seems to improve a bit with each outing, even surprising Lawler with his strikes in their recent match up. He takes on the “colorful”, or as some say – just flat out crazy – Jason “Mayhem” Miller who is known to many as the host of the MTV reality series Bully Beatdown in which he challenges bullies to a fight with other professional MMA fighters. When not entertaining America’s “latchkey kids”, he’s a former ICON Sport Middleweight champ, has won 10 of his last 13, and amassed a 22-6-1 record overall with notable wins over Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy. At its core, Mayhem should have an advantage standing, and Shields should have an advantage while on the ground. Because Shields takedowns are so good, I see Shields securing multiple takedowns after trading on the feet and eventually grinding out a decision. Mayhem’s sub defense is strong enough to survive, but unless he catches Shields on the feet or with an out-of-nowhere submission, Shields takes a decision.

Moose’s Recommended Play: Mousasi (-650) over Sokoudjou (+450)

Gegard Mousasi (26-2-1) enters this fight on a 13 fight winning streak including a recent destruction of solid LHW Renato Sobral and an upkick KO of BJJ superstar Jacare at Dream 6. Mousasi is a silent killer – he has the demeanor of pal Fedor Emelianenko, but brings the wood and consistently pushes the pace, to – as Kenny Florian proclaimed – “finish fights”. Of his 26 victories, only two have gone to a decision. He’s fought at 185, but seems to have settled at 205 for now. He’s awfully well-rounded, but certainly considers technical striking among his greatest strengths. To even the most casual fan, he’s “today’s news” and among the “It” superstars in MMA now. Conversely, with the possible exception of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou’s camp, most now consider Sokoudjou “yesterday’s news”. Although the explosive 7-4 fighter has won his last two fights, he’s looked fairly unimpressive against top-tier talent like Machida, Cane, and even the aforementioned Renato Sobral in the last two years. Where he once was considered among the sports top 205ers (mid-2007), he’s now more of a gatekeeper. A Judo expert, he’s strangely almost completely abandoned that discipline during fights and now fights as a glorified kickboxer. Although powerfully built and explosive, Sokoudjou’s conditioning is suspect at times. As a result, Mousasi has to be licking his chops in this one. A huge favorite, if he can withstand potential bursts from Sokoudjou, he should be able to pick apart the shorter fighter with his reach and technical striking. If the fight goes beyond the first round or so, Mousasi should have the conditioning advantage to score a submission as a result.

Moose’s Recommended Play: Silva (+120) over Werdum (-150)

Upset special. “A good big man always beats a good small man.” An ex-juicer, Silva’s (13-1) huge – he’s fought at Super Heavyweight in the past, should come in at 265 lbs, and has freakish strength, while Werdum (who’s not exactly small), will probably weigh-in somewhere in the 230s. Giving up about 30 lbs shouldn’t be the only factor to consider here, because as a current ADCC 99 kg+ world champion, Werdum (12-4-1) obviously brings world-class BJJ into the fight, while Silva himself has a solid BJJ game, powerfulful strikes, and nice ground and pound. As long as Silva can avoid Werdum’s submission attempts, I think he’ll either punish Werdum standing or ride out a decision thanks to size-induced dominant position mixed with GNP. Case in point – 9 of Silva’s 13 wins are by KO or TKO due to strikes, while Werdum has been stopped via punches or decision in four of his last ten fights – albeit, to top-level opponents.

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