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Before the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title fight headlined at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday night, the two ladies vying for the next shot at the belt – Canadians Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis - put on a championship-level battle that was arguably one of the best female fights ever seen in mixed martial arts.
When it was over, Kaufman, the former 135-pound champion, scored the majority decision win.
“I knew she was gonna come in tough and come in to fight,” said Kaufman. “I’m gonna come to fight, I’m gonna have that title. It’s my title.” Watch Kaufman's post-fight interview
Scores were 29-28 twice and 29-29 for Kaufman, who improves to 15-1; Davis falls to 11-5.
Davis showed no fear of Kaufman’s striking attack as the bout opened, but Kaufman took advantage with some flush shots, including a hard left-right and a series of uppercuts at close range. Davis’ face showed the effects of this decision quickly, but Davis, as game as they come, wouldn’t back down. With 2:24 left, referee Jerry Krzys brought in the cageside physician to check out the cut over Davis’ left eye, but she was cleared to continue. Kaufman continued to fire away once the bout resumed, with Davis surprisingly not looking for the takedown. With under a minute left, Davis unleashed a blistering array of punches and kicks, returning the favor by cutting Kaufman on the forehead, capping off an action-packed round.
There was no let-up to the close quarters standup action in round two, and whether it was in the middle of the cage or against the fence, each fighter tried to one-up the other. As the round progressed, Kaufman’s solid punching fundamentals allowed her to edge ahead of Davis’ more kick and knee based attack, but there was no question that neither was going to back down anytime soon.
After nearly two minutes of compelling standup that matched the previous two rounds, Davis finally shot for – and got – her first takedown of the fight. Davis immediately scored with hard shots from side control, almost securing Kaufman’s arm, but the British Columbia native escaped. The two traded reversals on the mat, with Davis getting the last word by taking control with a furious ground and pound attack in the final minute. And while it wasn’t enough
BOWLING vs. SALING
Roger Bowling got more than he bargained for from late replacement Brandon Saling in a battle of Ohio fighters, but eventually the welterweight prospect showed his dominance on the ground and finished off the ultra-game Saling in the second round.
Bowling (11-2) tested Saling’s chin early and often, but the Byesville native passed with flying colors. A slugfest then ensued, with Saling (8-6) dropping Bowling with a right hand in the midst of the madness. Bowling soon decided that going toe-to-toe with his fellow Ohio native wasn’t the best course of action, so he took him down to the mat, where he could score with short strikes and wear his foe out. With under a minute left, Bowling locked Saling in the crucifix position and opened fire, cutting him in the process. Saling wouldn’t give in though, and the bell intervened.
The second round picked up where the first left off, with Bowling getting Saling to the mat and then locking in the crucifix again. This time, Saling wouldn’t escape, with a series of unanswered strikes bringing in referee Mark Matheny to call an end to the bout at 1:15 of the second.
HEALY vs. FODOR
Strikeforce’s resurrection man, veteran Pat Healy, did it again, winning his fourth consecutive bout by submitting tough rising star Caros Fodor in the third round of their lightweight matchup.
Fodor (7-2) came out swinging, perhaps looking to match the result of his 13 second win over Justin Wilcox last December, but Healy (29-15) immediately locked up with his foe as soon as he got in range. After a brief scrum, Fodor landed with some flush shots to the face, and moments later put Healy on his back to work his ground and pound attack. With under two minutes left, Healy got to his feet and then scored his own takedown, landing peppering strikes until the bell rang.
Round two was right up Healy’s alley, as it became a grueling grinder against the fence and on the mat. The fans didn’t necessarily approve, but Healy was controlling the action and fighting his fight, keeping Fodor from getting any offense going.
There was more of the same in the first half of round three, but then Healy started looking for an arm triangle choke. Fodor escaped the first one, but the second one was even tighter, and this time, the Washington native was forced to tap out at 3:35 of the final frame.
COUTURE vs. HEUN
Lightweight prospect Ryan Couture returned to the site of one of his father Randy’s greatest victories and he scored the biggest win of his own career, stopping veteran Conor Heun in the third round.
Couture impressed early on with a slick striking game, but after tagging Heun twice with crisp left hands, the two locked up against the fence. Couture was unrattled at close range, controlling the action before breaking loose and resuming his effective stick and move strategy. With 1:40 left, Heun got on the board with a takedown, apparently getting cut under his left eye in the process. Couture rose quickly and was taken down again, but after getting up a second time, he ended the round strong.
Heun’s frustration was evident early in the second, but eventually he got the bout back to the mat. Couture stayed busy on the bottom, working for a kimura and then an armbar. Heun responded with a front choke as the two rose, Couture escaping and then scoring with a takedown and a choke of his own as he took his opponent’s back. Heun battled free and hit the mat with another submission attempt, capping off a back and forth round where both men had their moments.
Fatigue began to play a role for Heun in the final round, yet Couture decided to forego his advantage standing in order to take the bout to the mat. Couture knew what he was doing though, as he nullified his opponent’s ground attack, and then after taking Heun’s back, he fired away with a series of unanswered strikes, prompting referee Jerry Krzys to halt the bout at 2:52 of the final round.