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Historic first Strikeforce women's tournament announced‏

    Thu, 2010-07-22 09:48 — Mike Afromowitz

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (July 22, 2010) - Four women, three fights, one night!

    With a world title shot on the line, STRIKEFORCE Women's welterweight prospects Miesha "Takedown" Tate, Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm, Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano and Maiju Kujala will compete in the first-ever STRIKEFORCE Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) women's single-elimination tournament at STRIKEFORCE Challengers on Friday, Aug. 13, from Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., live on SHOWTIME®.

    The draw to determine the semi-final matchups for the two-round tournament will take place at the Official Weigh-In on Thursday, Aug. 12. A complete list of tournament rules will be provided in the coming days.

    The SHOWTIME telecast (live at 11p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast) will begin with the two semi-final bouts. The winners of each bout will compete in the tournament final later that night, just before the main event matchup of Joe Riggs vs. Louis Taylor. Each of the three tournament fights are scheduled for three, 3-minute rounds.

    "We are going to fast-track these four talented prospects in a quest to determine the best in this deep women's division," STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker said. "Having all four women square off on one night with the chance to separate themselves from the pack is what STRIKEFORCE Challengers is all about."

    The tournament winner will become the official No. 2 contender in the competitive STRIKEFORCE women's welterweight division. This Friday, July 23, live on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast), current world champion Sarah Kaufman will risk her 135-pound crown against top-ranked challenger Roxanne Modafferi. The winner of that title fight will face Marloes Coenen next. The tournament winner will be the next in line.

    "Marloes has made the move down to welterweight and she will get the next title fight," Coker said. "She has proven that she belongs in the cage with our champion. So, after the tournament, we'll have another legitimate contender to challenge for the title.

    "We will have some terrific women's matchups at 135 pounds in the next several months. It all starts this Friday with Kaufman and Modafferi, which is an excellent fight."

    The 23-year-old, 5-foot-7 Tate (9-2), of Olympia, Wash., is known for her superior skills, athleticism and determination. She notched her eighth professional victory on March 26, 2010, by submitting previously unbeaten Zoila "The Warrior Princess" Frausto with a textbook armbar in the second round (4:09) of a hard-fought bout during a STRIKEFORCE Challengers event on SHOWTIME at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

    As a teenager, Tate joined her high school boys' wrestling team in order to compete in a fast-paced, aggressive sport. She was introduced to MMA by a friend in college and, soon thereafter, her desire to challenge herself led to the birth of a professional career.

    Recently, Tate began using her MMA skills for a noble cause - rape prevention. Last month, she began production on a DVD in which she and MMA legend Frank Shamrock thoroughly demonstrate MMA techniques that can be used by women to effectively defend themselves against attackers.

    Damm (15-3), a 31-year-old resident of Brazil and sister of STRIKEFORCE veteran Rodrigo Damm, has been dubbed "Barbie Girl" by the Brazilian media because of her striking appearance. While competing in Japan in 2006, the 5-foot-4 Damm gained widespread public notoriety and was featured in a clothed pictorial for the Japanese edition of Playboy magazine.

    A student of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since the age of 15 and a professional mixed martial artist since 2004, Damm enters the tournament on a stellar 10-fight win streak. Her last victory, a first-round TKO (punches) over Aline Serio, came last Feb. 27 in Brazil. The Aug. 13 tournament will mark Damm's third start in The United States. On April 3, 2008, she submitted (armbar) Sophie Bagherdai in the second round (1:52) in Los Angeles. One month later, she crushed Lashonda Knox with a knee strike in just 11 seconds in Racine, Wisc.

    Akano, a 35-year-old who fights out of Tokyo, Japan, is a former champion of the Japanese women's promotion Smackgirl and is an expert in submission holds. Fifteen of her 22 career victories have come by way of submission.

    In her professional MMA debut in Tokyo on Nov. 26, 2004, the 5-foot-4 Akano lost a unanimous decision to Megumi Yabushita, but bounced back and reeled off seven straight wins, the last of which was a unanimous decision over American star Debi Purcell in Smackgirl on Feb. 15, 2006.

    On April 11, 2009, Akano made her STRIKEFORCE debut when she moved up in weight to challenge the No. 1 female fighter in the world, Cris Cyborg. Despite giving up size to the naturally bigger 5-foot-7, 145-pound Cyborg, Akano fought valiantly and took the hard-hitting Brazilian into the third and final round before being stopped via strikes.

    Three months after the loss to Cyborg, Akano rebounded and forced Miki Morifuji to tap out from an armbar in the second round (4:17) in Tokyo.

    A woman of many talents, Akano is known for using "Between the Sky," a song she wrote, as her entrance music.

    Kujala (4-1), a native of Imatra, Finland, has already been victorious in tournament competition, winning a single-elimination tournament in The Netherlands on March 27. In the semifinal round of the event, Kujala submitted Akvile Vitkauskaite with a rear-naked choke in the second stanza (4:12) and, in the championship bout, she earned a unanimous decision over Titiana van Polanen after 10 minutes of battle.

    Kujala brings a three-fight winning streak to the STRIKEFORCE Challengers cage. Her sole loss came to Aisling Daly via unanimous decision on Nov. 7, 2009.

    Tickets for the STRIKEFORCE Challengers event are on sale at the Dodge Theatre Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at (800) 745-3000, and online at www.livenation.com and www.STRIKEFORCE.com.

    In the main event, Phoenix native and MMA star Joe "Diesel" Riggs (32-12) will square off with knockout artist Louis Taylor (6-1) at a catch weight of 182 pounds.

    A former super heavyweight who once competed at over 300 pounds, the 27-year-old Riggs is now a dangerous threat in multiple STRIKEFORCE divisions. He holds the rare distinction of having competed at heavyweight, light heavyweight, middleweight and welterweight during the course of an eight-year career.

    Taylor, of Chicago, has rattled off two consecutive knockout wins since the STRIKEFORCE and M-1 GLOBAL: Fedor vs. Rogers event in Chicago, Ill. on Nov. 7, 2009. The 5-foot-11 Taylor has scored knockouts in four of his six victories and has only gone to the judges' scorecards once in his pro career.

    Dodge Theatre doors will open at 5:15 p.m. MT for the STRIKEFORCE Challengers event. The first preliminary bout will begin at 6 p.m. and the first main card bout will begin at 8 p.m.

    The SHOWTIME telecast will begin at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast.) STRIKEFORCE Challengers, where tomorrow's champions are born, is a proving ground for up-and-coming MMA fighters. The series is designed to provide today's top prospects with the opportunity to step-up their level of competition and demonstrate their ability in a nationally televised event.

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