SAN JOSE, Calif. – There's a saying that nobody goes into a fight at 100 percent. But at Friday night's Strikeforce show in San Jose, overcoming recent injuries seemed to be the theme.
Renato "Babalu" Sobral captured the first major championship of his lengthy MMA career by beating Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Bobby Southworth when longtime referee John McCarthy, officiating for the first time in a year, stopped the fight on advice from the doctor after the first round due to a deep cut over Southworth's eye.
Sobral had knee surgery in September, forcing him to postpone the first time he was booked with Southworth, and followed with suffering a cut in training, and then a toe injury in the weeks leading to the match.
While heavily favored going in, Sobral ended up facing a new Southworth. One month shy of his 39th birthday, Southworth showed up in the best condition of his career and for the first round, outgrappled one of the sport's most well respected grappler/wrestlers.
Southworth blocked every takedown attempt by Sobral and managed to take Sobral down twice. But their heads collided twice, and Southworth took a nasty elbow that bloodied his nose and opened the cut over the eye that caused the stoppage.
"Obviously I'm disappointed," said Southworth, 9-6, after the match. "Every time you lose a fight you're disappointed. I thought I was winning the fight and then to lose on a cut, I don't feel like I've lost the title. I'd like a rematch. Babalu's a legend. I think outside of the UFC, he's the top light heavyweight in the world. It was an honor to fight him."
"When I threw the elbow, I felt it was hard," said Sobral, 31-7, a former UFC headliner who main evented UFC 62 against Chuck Liddell.
"My elbow still hurts," he said more than a half hour after the fight. "I could feel the blood on me."
"The first cut came from a head-butt," said Southworth. "The second came from an elbow. We clashed heads one more time."
Even though he's a local fighter, Southworth has never been popular in San Jose, from fans who perceived him and Josh Koscheck as villains on the original season of "The Ultimate Fighter." But the crowd rose to its feet late in the round when he came back while bleeding heavily.
"I tried to take him down but couldn't," said Sobral. "He took me down, but I was confident in my submissions."
Southworth showed up with a new physique, noting that the sport has evolved and he didn't want to be left behind. He had a new team prepare him, monitor his diet and change his training.
"But when you get old your head opens up easier," he said. "I'm not a bodybuilder. I'd rather look like Fedor [Emelianenko] if I would fight like Fedor."
In the show's nominal main event, Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith lived up to his nickname with a shocking 24-second knockout of Terry Martin. Smith, the first main star of Elite XC to fight after the organization ceased operations, was recovering from a broken left hand, right below the thumb, in training.
"I told myself I wasn't going to throw a left, but then the fight started and it was left hook, right straight," he said in upping his record to 14-5, with one no-contest.
The right to the jaw put Martin, 18-6, out instantaneously.
Smith, who came in with the idea he was going to use a lot of kicks, won before throwing the first one.
He had a fight scheduled for Nov. 8 on Showtime against former Olympic judoka Hector Lombard when word came that Elite XC was canceling the show. The idea of fighting Martin was floated to him three weeks ago but it wasn't finalized until a week ago.
"I was broke," said Smith. "I've got a mortgage and kids. I needed that payday before the end of the year."
San Jose lived up to its reputation as probably the No. 2 MMA city in the U.S. besides Las Vegas, drawing 8,152 fans despite not having a major drawing local card or any kind of a marquee main event.
Smith talked about wanting to come back and face middleweight champion Cung Le, whose future as a fighter is in question as he has gotten more acting opportunities, or former champion Frank Shamrock.
"I'd like to fight Frank Shamrock, because he said I was fat," said Smith.
Kim Couture, Randy's wife, had her first pro win, in stopping an overmatched Lina Kvokov in 1:44.
Kvokov, 0-2, clearly wanted out, turning her head away from the action and even scampering away at one point. Couture showed improved stand-up, throwing punches and knees. Kvokov got tired quickly and started to take solid shots before it was stopped.
"I was trying to get a clean shot," said Couture, 1-1, finishing a three-week period where Randy, Randy's son Ryan and Kim all had fights. Both Kim and Ryan scored quick wins.
"It's hard to hit someone when they're turning their head around."
Kim Couture had suffered a broken jaw from the first punch in her pro debut June 20 against Kim Rose but went the distance in losing via decision. She credited that loss to forcing her to boost her game.
On the undercard, Joe "Diesel" Riggs stopped San Francisco's Luke Stewart in 2:05 of the second round after a flurry of punches. Riggs broke his hand on the first punch of the fight and spent the entire first round on his back after being taken down.
Other results: Zak Bucia def. Adam Steele via guillotine in :35 of the first round; Alvin Cacdac def. Jose Palacios with a choke at 3:10 of the second round; Darren Uyenoyama of the Japanese Dream promotion def. Brad Royster via an across the board 30-27 decision; Luke Rockhold def. Nik Theotikos in 3:06 of the first round via choke; Duane "Bang" Ludwig def. Yves Edwards via an across the board 29-28 decision; Brian Schwartz, a local kickboxer who was the most popular fighter on the show, def. Lemont Davis via punches at 2:22 of the third round; Kurt Osiander def. Josh Neal via punches at 2:16 of the first round; Eric Lawson def. Tony Johnson via choke at 1:28 of the first round; and Bobby Stack def. Cyrillo Padiiha via decision.
- Bobby Southworth
- San Jose