When Strikeforce hits Chicago this Saturday, they will have one of the world's best fighters, Fedor Emelianenko, leading the card, but that doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of Windy City fighters in bouts at the Sears Centre. As is their custom, Strikeforce has filled the undercard with local fighters.
Leading the pack is World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Jeff Curran (pictured). He was cut from the WEC after losses to Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, Joseph Benavidez and Takeya Mizugaki. Along with Miguel Torres, Curran has a huge role in building Chicago's fight scene. Curran is the promoter for XFO, a group that puts fights on in Chicagoland and has featured many up-and-coming fighters from the area. He will try to end his losing streak against Dustin Neace.
Mark Miller is another undercard fighter who has long been a Chicago fight fixture. He fought for the Chicago Red Bears in the International Fight League, and now trains with Team Dino Costeas on Chicago's near west side. You may remember him from season nine of "The Ultimate Fighter," where he fought his friend Kevin Knabijan to get on the show, but then was knocked out by Nick Osipczak. Including the TUF fights, Miller has wins over Josh Neer and Brad Blackburn, and could use a win this Saturday over Deray Davis to get back on track.
Filling the card with local fighters is such a smart strategy by Strikeforce. It ensures local MMA fans will want to get to the fights early. Curran's gym is not far from the Sears Centre, and John Kolocsi and Miller's students, friends, family and fans won't mind the trip to the 'burbs to see the fighters on a large stage like this one.
At the same time, Strikeforce can use the undercard of these events to check out fighters to sign to their Challengers series. Tyron Woodley first fought for Strikeforce when he fought on the undercard of their show in his hometown of St. Louis. They wisely snapped him up, and he will headline the Challengers show in Kansas City on Nov. 20.