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Muscle Sport Magazine

Woodley-Saffiedine Clash Highlights Strikeforce Challengers Jan. 7 Main Event

A long-awaited showdown between top welterweight (170 pounds) rising stars, undefeated Tyron Woodley (7-0), and hard-hitting Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine (10-2), will headline a STRIKEFORCE Challengers Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight card presented by Rockstar Energy Drink at Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., live on SHOWTIME® at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast), on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011.

Undefeated up-and-coming heavyweight prospect and former Olympic wrestling star Daniel Cormier (6-0) of San Jose, Calif., faces what could be his toughest test to date when he meets veteran Devin Cole (18-8-1) of Medford, Ore., in a feature televised contest.

In other televised fights formally announced by STRIKEFORCE for its initial presentation of the decade: undefeated Yancy “Frisson’’ Medeiros (9-0) of Waianae, Hawaii, faces John Salter (5-2) of Nashville in a middleweight (185 pounds) scrap, promising Julia “The Jewel’’ Budd (1-0) of British Columbia, Canada, faces Amanda “Lioness Of The Ring’’ Nunes (5-1), of Salvador, Brazil, in a women’s middleweight (145 pounds) match and Nate Moore (6-2) of San Jose meets Nate “Soulforce’’ Coy (8-3) of Portland, Ore., in a welterweight (170 pounds) fight.

A special ticket pre-sale purchase opportunity for the event will take place for “STRIKEFORCE Insider” e-newsletter subscribers (http://STRIKEFORCE.com/insider.html), beginning at 10 a.m. CT on Wednesday, Dec. 8, and ending at 10 p.m. CT on Thursday, Dec. 9. STRIKEFORCE Insiders will receive a special e-newsletter with the pre-sale code.

Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. CT on Friday, Dec. 10, and will be available at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium ticket office,  all Ticketmaster locations (800) 745-3000 including Kroger and FYE, Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) and STRIKEFORCE’s official website (www.strikeforce.com).

The first non-televised, undercard fight on Jan. 7 will begin at 7:30 CT. Doors will open at 7.

The unbeaten 5-foot-9, 28-year-old Woodley of St. Louis, Mo., is a two-time All-American NCAA wrestler for the University of Missouri. After notching three straight victories on the Challengers series, Woodley made his debut at a STRIKEFORCE championship series event, scoring a thunderous first round (1:48) KO over fellow prospect Andre Galvao on the Diaz vs. Noons card in San Jose last Oct. 9.

Woodley fought five times in 2009, winning all five of his starts by way of submission.  He was only forced beyond the first round on one occasion last year, submitting Zach Light with an armbar in the second round (3:38) of a STRIKEFORCE Challengers event on Sept. 25.

Woodley, who turned pro in February 2009, is a member of American Top Team. He won his initial start for STRIKEFORCE with a first-round submission (Brabo Choke) over Sal Woods in a non-televised, undercard bout on June 6, 2009, in St. Louis.

Like Woodley, Saffiedine, a 24-year-old, 5-foot-9 native of Brussels, Belgium, has been on a surge, winning all three of his bouts in 2010, and 9 of his last 10 fights.  Saffiedine’s only defeat during this stretch came via narrow, split decision against Dong Sik Yoon at DREAM 12 in Osaka, Japan on Oct. 25, 2009.

Saffiedine’s strong striking foundation stems from his teenage years when he took up Karate at age 16.  He now holds a black belt in Shihaishinkai, a form of Karate that combines striking, Judo throws and wrestling, and an amateur kickboxing record of 12-1-1.  After immigrating to The United States, he added Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to his repertoire.

To date, Saffiedine holds a record of 2-0 in STRIKEFORCE Challengers competition.  In his debut for the promotion last Feb. 26 in San Jose, he earned a unanimous decision over James Terry.  On May 21, Saffiedine scored a second-round (1:21) KO on Moore with a punch in Portland, Ore.

Cormier, a two-time JUCO national wrestling champion, six-time U.S. national champ, two-time Olympian and 2008 U.S. Olympic team captain, has been virtually unstoppable since turning pro on Sept. 25, 2009, winning all his fights inside the distance, all within two rounds.

The 5-foot-11, 31-year-old Cormier may be short in stature for a heavyweight, but he’s long on talent. His last five fights – all in 2010 — ended in the first round, the last three by submission. In his most recent outing, the exciting Cormier devoured Soa Palelei on Nov. 5. The farthest Cormier has been taken was in his pro debut when he triumphed by 3:39, second-round TKO (punches) over Gary Frazier at a STRIKEFORCE Challengers event on Sept. 25, 2009.

Cormier, who whipped Jason Riley in 1:02 in his last fight for STRIKEFORCE last Aug. 21, is a member of American Kickboxing Academy. One of his teammates and chief training partners at AKA is UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, whom Cormier helped get ready before Velasquez obliterated Brock Lesnar in November.

Cole is 6-1-1 in his last seven fights. Unquestionably, the most experienced fighter to face Cormier, Cole has fought several well-known, world-class fighters in a career that began in July 2003, including former STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, STRIKEFORCE star Mike “Mak” Kyle, Jeff Monson, Travis Wiuff, Krzysztof Soszynski, and Ben Rothwell.

An All-American wrestler at Oregon State, the 6-foot-4 Cole has been victorious inside the distance in 13 of his 18 victories, and has gone nearly two years without being submitted. An IFL veteran who’ll be making his STRIKEFORCE debut, Cole had a five-fight winning streak end in his last outing on Sept. 11 when he dropped a decision to Aaron Rosa.

About  STRIKEFORCE

STRIKEFORCE (www.STRIKEFORCE.com) is a world-class mixed martial arts cage fight promotion which, on Friday, March 10, 2006, made history with its “Shamrock vs. Gracie” event, the first sanctioned mixed martial arts fight card in California state history.  The star-studded extravaganza, which pitted legendary champion Frank Shamrock against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cesar Gracie at San Jose’s HP Pavilion, played host to a sold-out, record crowd of 18,265.  Since 1995, STRIKEFORCE, sanctioned by ISKA, has been the exclusive provider of martial arts programming for ESPN and, after 12 years of success as a leading, world championship kickboxing promotion, the company unveiled its mixed martial arts (MMA) series with “Shamrock vs. Gracie.”  In May 2008, West Coast Productions, the parent company of STRIKEFORCE, partnered with Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment (SVS&E), an entity created in 2000 to oversee all business operation aspects of the San Jose Sharks and HP Pavilion at San Jose.  In March 2009, STRIKEFORCE signed a multi-year agreement with SHOWTIME® to stage live events on the premium cable television network.  The promotion has since also produced two live, primetime events on the CBS Television Network.

Source: Mike Afromowitz/StrikeForce

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