Five months after their initial encounter, an exciting battle that ended prematurely due to an accidental poke in the eye, “Relentless” Roger Bowling will put his unbeaten record on the line one more time against “Vicious” Bobby Voelker in a collision of welterweights (170 pounds) in the main event of a STRIKEFORCE Challengers Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight card presented by Rockstar Energy Drink at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif., live on SHOWTIMEÂ® at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast), on Friday, Oct. 22.
Undefeated prospect and Fresno resident Billy Evangelista will make his long-awaited return to the cage when he faces Waachiim “Native Warrior’’ Spiritwolf in a 165-pound catch weight bout. Heavyweight star and Madera, Calif. native Lavar “Big” Johnson will continue his miraculous return to the sport in a matchup against an opponent to be determined.
A special pre-sale ticket purchase opportunity for the event will take place for “STRIKEFORCE Insider” e-newsletter subscribers (http://STRIKEFORCE.com/insider.html), beginning at 10 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and ending at 10 p.m. PT. on Thursday, Sept. 16. STRIKEFORCE Insiders will receive a special e-newsletter with the pre-sale code.
Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. PT on Friday, Sept. 17, and will be available for purchase at the Save Mart Center box office, select Save Mart Supermarkets, all Ticketmaster locations (800) 745-3000, Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) and STRIKEFORCE’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).
The 5-foot-8, 27-year-old Bowling (8-0), of Columbus, Ohio, won a unanimous three-round technical decision over the 6-foot, 31-year-old Voelker (22-8), of Kansas City, Kan., during a STRIKEFORCE Challengers presentation on May 21 in Portland, Ore., on SHOWTIME.
Bowling, who trains in Cincinnati with, ironically, Team Vision, was ahead by the scores of 29-28 on the three judges’ scorecards when an excellent, crowd-pleasing fight was halted at 1:38 of the third round after he could not continue due to an unintentional poke in the right eye he had received.
The talented, aggressive-minded Bowling entered the fight, his STRIKEFORCE debut, with high expectations and the rising star lived up to the billing and his nickname as he punished Voelker, particularly during the majority of the first two rounds.
This will be the first start since for Bowling, a pro since June 2007 who had won his seven previous fights inside the distance, six of which came in the first round.
Voelker, who was in the midst of a major rally against Bowling when the bout came to a disappointing end, has maintained a busy schedule since turning pro in February 2006. He has fought once since the Bowling match, winning a hard-fought, three-round split decision over Cory Devela last July 23 on STRIKEFORCE Challengers at Everett, Wash.
It was the eighth victory in 11 starts for the hard-trying, determined Voelker, who registered a dramatic, come-from-behind second-round TKO (punches) over Erik Apple at STRIKEFORCE: Challengers on Nov. 20, 2009, in Kansas City.
“It was unfortunate and frustrating my last fight had to finish that way,’’ Bowling said. “I felt it ruined the first couple rounds that I worked really hard for. But it was just one of those things that can happen. If you get poked in the eye, you can’t open it. And if you can’t open your eye, they’re not going to let you fight.
“Both Roger and I have great hearts and I’m looking forward to doing it again with him.’’ said Voelker, whose left eye was cut in the first. Like he did against Apple, Voelker showed an incredible chin, heart and remarkable resolve and resiliency by staging a dramatic comeback in the third stanza after absorbing an inordinate amount of punishment in the first two rounds.
At the end of the second round, a seemingly exhausted Voelker impressively managed to take down Bowling. It was still going Voelker’s way at the outset of the third as he rocked Bowling, who had never had a fight go past two rounds, with combinations.
But shortly thereafter, moments after the referee had separated the fighters when they were clinched against the cage, one of the seams on the outside of Voelker’s gloves grazed Bowling’s right eye. Unable to continue, the fight went to the scorecards and Bowling got a decision based on the strength of the first two rounds.
“It’s an unfortunate thing,’’ Voelker said. “We had a great war and we just wanted to end it with a great war in the last 3:22. Things happen, accidents happen. He wasn’t able to see and couldn’t continue. He won the first two rounds so he got the decision. There it is. We can do it again. We’ll both be back.’’
The start for Evangelista (10-0, 1 No Contest), a Muay Thai specialist, will be his first since Nov. 6, 2009, when the 5-foot-8, 29-year-old earned a unanimous decision over hard-hitting brawler Jorge Gurgel at STRIKEFORCE Challengers at Save Mart Center. An injury sustained in the bout with Gurgel has kept Evangelista sidelined.
In his outing before last on May 15, 2009, on STRIKEFORCE Challengers, Evangelista fought Mike Aina. The result was initially ruled a victory by disqualification for Aina, but it was later overturned and ruled a no contest by the California State Athletic Commission after Evangelista appealed. Replays showed Evangelista’s knee struck Aina in the shoulder, not the head, as the referee originally believed.
Spiritwolf (8-6-1), a resident of San Diego, Calif., will make his debut for STRIKEFORCE. A two-fight winning streak and three-fight unbeaten streak (2-0-1) in 2010 ended for the 5-foot-8, four-year pro when he lost a decision to Delson Heleno on Sept. 4.
A Native-American who is of Navajo and Yaqui descent, Spiritwolf registered an impressive first-round TKO over Crafton Wallace in his outing before last on May 22.
Johnson, a second-round TKO (punches) winner over then-undefeated Lolohea Mahe last March 26 in the main event of STRIKEFORCE Challengers at Save Mart Center, will be making his second start since he was gunned down while attending a family barbeque during the July 4 holiday in 2009.
The 6-foot-2, 33-year-old Johnson survived three gunshot wounds sustained during the walk-by shooting that led to the death of a cousin. A father of two boys, ages eight and five, Johnson spent 30 days in a hospital, fighting for his life, and several more months rehabilitating.
Taking all that into consideration, he was pleased with his comeback performance, “I felt great,” he said. “The whole comeback thing was rough, but I took baby steps and came along. Now, I’m ready to fight again.’’
Save Mart Center doors will open for the STRIKEFORCE Challengers event at 4:45 p.m. The first preliminary bout will begin at 5:30 p.m. PT. The first main card bout will start at 8 p.m.