Strikeforce Challengers 18 Headlined By Electrifying Lightweights, Gurgel, Duarte

Mixed martial arts fanatics everywhere will be treated to what promises to be a thrilling MMA card when Strikeforce Challengers 18: Gurgel vs. Duarte takes place live from The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada this Friday, Aug. 12 at 11:00 PM ET on Showtime television.

Strikeforce Challengers 18: Gurgel vs. Duarte
Where: The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, NV
When: Friday, Aug. 12
TV: Showtime at 11:00 PM ET

While this MMA event may not have the sheer ‘superstar’ drawing power that some of the bigger names in the sport consistently bring to the table, the 18th edition of Strikeforce Challengers won’t be lacking anything in crowd-pleasing department, big names or not.

That’s right mixed martial arts followers, the five-fight Strikeforce Challengers main card is chock full of terrific pairings that all look like they’re going to be knock-down, drag-out affairs that leave fight fans on the edges of their respective seats.

Headlining the event is the highly-anticipated lightweight matchup between Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists Jorge Gurgel (14-7) and Joe “Hybrid” Duarte (9-2). The grapplers will both be looking to take another step toward a future title fight by winning this matchup.

Gurgel looked very solid in pounding Billy Vaughan into submission (guillotine choke) at: 44 seconds of the first round at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson in March. Unfortunately, the former UFC fighter has also lost two of four since joining Strikeforce in 2009. Gurgel lost each of his last two UFC fights and three of four overall to get bounced out of the organization.

Joe Duarte has won four consecutive fights, including his Strikeforce debut in April when he defeated Saad Awad at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley via second round submission (armbar). Joe Duarte will be looking to pull off the upset here, but it’s not going to be an upset at all if you ask me MMA fanatics.

The co-main event will be a middleweight showdown between Danillo Villefort (13-3) and MMA veteran Nate James (12-7-1). Villefort will make his Strikeforce debut in this bout and bring with him a solid four-fight winning streak. James has won three of his last four fights, but isn’t quite in the same company as James.

Strikeforce Challengers will also feature a lightweight battle between mixed martial arts veteran Pat Healy (26-10) and Eric Wisely (17-5). Healy bounced back from a loss in his previous fight to beat Lyle Beerbohm at Strikeforce Challengers 14 in February to move to an impressive 4-1 in his last five fights.

Wisely brings with him, a four-fight winning streak that includes a solid win over former UFC veteran Hermes Franca. Wisely did beat Lance Wipf via split decision in May, so it’s not like he put on a commanding performance the last time out. Expect Pat Healy to walk away victorious here MMA lovers.

Strikeforce Challengers 18 also features an intriguing women’s bantamweight division fight with undefeated newcomer “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (2-0-0) looking to keep her record perfect when she battles Sarah “The Monster” D’Alelio (4-1-0) in her first MMA fight of 2011. Rousey has pounded both of her opponents into submission in less than two combined minutes while D’Alelio took a loss to the top-ranked Julie Kedzie the last time out.

The main card will actually get started with a light heavyweight division fight between Roy ‘The Wolf’ Jones Jr. (6-1-0) and Derrick “Caveman” Mehmen (11-3-0).

Jones Jr. (no, not the Hall of Fame-bound boxer) has recorded five of his six career wins in the first round but will also face an explosive finisher in Mehmen who has recorded nine of his 11 career wins via KO or TKO.

Jones Jr. lacks experience, but he’s the more athletically gifted fighter and I like him here in a thriller.

Here is a look at the full fight card.

Strikeforce Challengers 18
Main Card
Jorge Gurgel (14-7) vs. Joe Duarte (9-2)
Danillo Villefort (13-3) vs. Nate James (12-7)
Pat Healy (26-17) vs. Eric Wisely (17-5)
Ronda Rousey (2-0) vs. Sarah D’Alelio (4-1)
Roy Jones Jr. (5-1) vs. Derrick Mehmen (11-3)

Preliminary Card
Gian Villante (7-3) vs. Keith Berry (10-7)
Nah-Shon Burrell (6-1) vs. Lukasz Lez (7-2)
Mike Bronzoulis (12-3) vs. Chad Leonhardt (8-2)
Sterling Ford (13-4) vs. Milton Viera (12-7)