Tyron “T-Wood” Woodley (8-0) continued his streak of perfection, earning a unanimous decision over Tarec “The Sponge” Saffiedine (10-3) in a highly-anticipated showdown of rising welterweight (170 pounds) stars and the STRIKEFORCE Challengers main event Friday night, live on SHOWTIME from Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
The 28-year-old Woodley, a two-time All-American NCAA wrestler for the University of Missouri and St. Louis native, stuck to his game plan, pressing Saffiedine with repeated takedown attempts set up by aggressive strikes. Saffiedine’s balance and takedown defense were strong as expected, however,
Woodley neutralized Saffiedine’s stand-up game, pressing Saffiedine against the fence and striking whenever possible. Woodley’s ground game was superior for the most part as he remained in dominant position for much of the three round encounter.
“I did well,” said Woodley. “He’s got some power and some pop. I think I kept the pressure on him and got some strikes in there. For me, it was about getting out of his range and getting in there when I could. I think I did a good job tonight.”
Former University of Tennessee star linebacker Ovince Saint Preux (10-4) continued his recent surge, earning a unanimous decision over road warrior “Abongo” Humphrey (7-3) of Atlanta. His start made the 27-year-old Saint Preux, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, the first fighter in history to compete in three consecutive STRIKEFORCE events.
“I knew I had to win the third round to get this fight. He’s definitely a tough opponent,” said Saint Preux, a winner of seven straight bouts.
Saint Preux came out on fire in the opening round of action, mounting Humphrey three times while working aggressively on the ground. In the second stanza, Humphrey scored a knee strike that stunned his opponent and Saint Preux countered with a flurry that hurt Humphrey, but was still unable to finish the fight.
Looking somewhat fatigued in the third, Saint Preux fought off Humphrey well enough to win the round and earn the nod from all three judges.
Two-time United States Olympic wrestling team member Daniel Cormier (7-0) extended his perfect record by dominating a far more experienced Devin Cole (18-9-1) for three consecutive rounds.
It was the first time in his MMA career that the 31-year-old Cormier, who competed five times in 2010, was taken the distance of a fight. He displayed increased versatility in the cage, including a much improved kickboxing game, throughout the matchup.
Cormier was able to take Cole down repeatedly during the contest and control his opponent, but never able to finish Cole.
“He did an incredible job. He can take a shot. I landed some pretty decent shots on him,” said Cormier after the bout. “I want to continue to improve and make my way up the ladder.”
Twenty-two year old Amanda Nunes (6-1) of Patterson, New Jersey by way of Brazil stunned the crowd by decimating fellow prospect Julia Budd (1-1) just 14 seconds into the first round of their meeting.
Both Nunes and Budd who hails from Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada, came out swinging from the outset of the first round, but it was Nunes who landed the first big shot — a straight left hand, which put Budd flat on her back.
Nunes immediately pounced on her downed opponent, raining down on Budd with hammer fists until the referee stepped in and halted the action. The stoppage was Nunes’ sixth consecutive win by way of KO.
United States Olympic Judo player Rhadi Ferguson (3-0) shined in his STRIKEFORCE debut against John Richard (3-2), submitting Richard with a heel hook in the second round (2:00) of their matchup.
Richard, a late replacement for Ferguson’s original opponent, Ion Cherdivara, scored a hard leg kick in the second round that staggered Ferguson and put him in noticeable pain. After Richard charged forward, the fight went to the ground.
From his back, Ferguson looked for the submission, eventually working his way to the heel hook that forced Richard to tap out. Despite the convincing result, Ferguson expressed disappointment with his performance after the fight, stressing his need to gain more experience in the cage.
“I get a D minus,” he said. “I started my camp with a pulled groin and a pulled hamstring and John Richard was a tough opponent. I’m a neo fighter in this sport — I’m young and humble.”