Published Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009 | 6 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009 | 10:30 p.m.
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- Fedor signs with Strikeforce, M-1 to co-promote (8-3-2009)
- Xtreme Couture's Hieron to face Nick Diaz at Strikeforce show (7-30-2009)
- Female fighters a big hit in Big Apple (7-16-2009)
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The first female title fight in women's mixed martial arts history ended with one second left in the first round and plenty of second guessing from the 13,000 fans in attendance at HP Pavilion.
The one thing that was clear when ref Josh Rosenthal pulled Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos off Gina Carano a split second before the bell sounded was that Carano was in tons of trouble as the Brazilian striker was reigning down punch after unanswered punch during their action-filled, and crowd-approved four minutes and 59 seconds of fighting Saturday night in San Jose.
While Santos strutted around the ring after claiming the title, Carano lay on the canvas still covering her head and the crowd let out a collected boo.
Santos — who was carried out of the ring on her husband, Evangelista Santos', shoulders with her new 145-pound title belt secured to her waist — tried to quash the anger of the packed house that was disappointed with the timing of the decision, immediately thanking them afterwards.
"I want to thank Gina Carano for the opportunity, I want to thank all the fans because I train a lot and I do everything for the fans," Santos said immediately after the fight. "Everything I do is for the fans."
Before the ending though, the two female fighters treated those in the San Jose Sharks' arena and fans watching at home on Showtime to a slugfest.
The Brazilian Cyborg pressed the action from the opening bell, connecting with several quick punches. Carano recovered and landed a couple blows herself.
The Las Vegas-based fighter got out of trouble again when Santos dropped her and closed in on a tight leg lock. Carano actually rolled on top and landed several shots of her own and the crowd roared in approval.
The two traded exchanges over the course of the next minute, but when Carano went to her back again she really was in trouble. With about 15 seconds left, Carano covered up as Santos started delivering blows from a mounted position. Rosenthal gave Carano the benefit of the doubt for several seconds before stopping things with the TKO.
"Since the beginning, I knew this fight would be hard," Santos said. "That's why I trained so hard for this fight. The key for tonight was five years of training."
Main event (9:00 p.m.)
Gina Carano vs. Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos
Time for history. And just to be sure Strikeforce announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. tells the crowd: "It's time for the biggest event in mixed martial arts history." The lights go out.
Cyborg enters first to a smattering of boos, but the bumping rap music drowns out the sound. She's rocking black Hitman fight gear.
Carano's next as fireworks explode in the background as she makes her way to the cage. She's got a black fight shirt with white sleeves and her hair is braided.
Moments earlier on the lead-up video Carano praised her opponent and thanked the fans for the historical opportunity.
"Cyborg is one of the best fighters, and I want to fight the best in the world," Carano said.
Here we go. Cyborg pushes the action at the start, connecting with a flurry of punches as Carano backpedals. Carano gains her composure and lands a shot. The fight goes to the ground with Santos on top. She locks in a leg lock that looks to be trouble, but Carano escapes. Gina reverses the action and gains an advantage on top. The crowd is going wild, chanting "Gina, Gina." The two are in the clinch; Santos lands a knee as both exchange attacks. A little more than 30 seconds remain and Santos gets Carano to the ground. She has her in trouble landing a ton of blows to her head. Carano is covering up with less than 10 seconds to go.
The fight is stopped a split second before the bells sounds, Cyborg is the winner and first 145-pound champ. The crowd is disappointed with the split-second stoppage and boos ring out. Santos celebrates, Carano is still down.
Main card (7:30 p.m.)
Renato Sobral vs. Gegard Mousasi
Strikeforce has a new light heavyweight champion and it didn't take long.
The fighter from the Netherlands got the popular "Babalu" on his back and unleashed a series of combination punches while on his knees. A big right put Sobral to sleep just a minute into the fight.
"It feels good, there was some pressure fighting for the first time in the U.S.," said "The Dreamcatcher." "But I just wanted to perform well. I wanted to get him to stand up or maybe in the mount."
Gilbert Melendez vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida
Credit Ishida for showing a lot of heart in this interim lightweight title bout, but Melendez was just too much. The fighter out of San Francisco just missed on a couple of opportunities in the first round.
But by the second he had Ishida bleeding from a cut on his head. Melendez was relentless throughout the round, delivering several knees to the body and knocked the Japanese fighter down at the end of the round.
In the third, Melendez offered more of the same aggression as he got on top and was able to reign down blows. Ref Herb Dean stopped the bout at 3:56 when Ishida couldn't defend himself.
“I just had to be patient tonight. He is a very smart fighter," said Melendez, who improved to 16-2 and avenged his first career loss to Ishida. "It feels great. I’m a different fighter than I was in that first fight.
"I can’t guarantee victory, but I can guarantee that I'll always come out and perform for you."
Fabricio Werdum vs. Mike Kyle
Werdum was hardly in the cage long enough to get hit, but the Brazilian was sporting a fresh mark over his eye despite submitting Kyle a little more than a minute into their bout.
"I love America and now I live in America," said Werdum through broken English much to delight of the crowd.
Preliminary card (5:30 p.m.)
Jay Hieron vs. Jesse Taylor
They couldn’t even get his corner right before the bout. Hieron has had a ton of problems in the last two weeks since Affliction’s folding. Earlier in the week his title shot against Nick Diaz evaporated when Diaz couldn't complete a mandatory drug test. Even at the start of his bout, the two fighters' cornermen had to make a last-second switch.
But at the end of the day, the Xtreme Couture fighter not only went above and beyond his job, he got the victory over the former “The Ultimate Fighter” season No. 7 standout Taylor.
San Jose fans weren't exactly the happiest as they booed a fight that had to be restarted several times throughout because of stalemates on the ground. Hieron was able to offset Taylor's wrestling the entire bout, and bloodied Taylor in the second round. Hieron almost stopped the bout on a couple of strong chokes, but swept the judges scores in a 30-27 decision across the board.
Scott Lighty vs. Mike Cook
Cook lasted a little longer than his fight with Bobby Lashley back in May, but not much longer as Lightly had a field day with strikes. A wicked body kick by Lighty and a big left ended the lopsided match two minutes into the first round.
David Douglas vs. Justin Wilcox
San Jose fighters can't lose right now. Wilcox finishes off Douglas in an entertaining fight via a rear-naked choke in Round 3.
James Terry vs. Zac Bucia
Terry makes it 2-for-2 for locals, knocking out Bucia with a first-round head kick to improve to 7-1.
Isaiah Hill vs. Alex Trevino
The San Jose-based Trevino starts the show with a thrilling first-round choke out.
Fans were lined up around the HP Pavilion an hour before the doors opened. Cops' patrol cars served as barricades, closing down the nearby streets.
To say tonight's historical bout between Las Vegas' Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is a big deal is quite the understatement.
While the first-ever female title bout might not draw a sellout crowd of 18,000 like Frank Shamrock's 2006 fight with Cesar Gracie did, officials expect some 13,000 to attend the event at the home of the San Jose Sharks.
“I’m very excited to see what plays out tomorrow night,” said Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. “It’s the biggest fight not only in female MMA history but female fight history period.”
Carano, who enters with a perfect record at 7-0, is fighting for the first time in 10 months after disposing of Kelly Kobold in the last Elite XC event in October. "Cyborg" (7-1) hasn't lost since her pro debut and is making her second appearance for the San Jose-based Strikeforce. Santos defeated Hitomi Akano by punches in the third round of their fight in April.
The Showtime event will feature two more championship fights with a light heavyweight title fight between current champ Renato "Babalu" Sobral and Gegard Mousasi as well as an interim lightweight title tilt between current belt holder Gilbert Melendez and Mitsuhiro Ishida.
Several big name fighters (UFC and otherwise) are in the building. UFC welterweights Anthony Johnson and Josh Kosheck are sitting near media members, while Royce Gracie is receiving a lot of love. New Strikeforce additions Matt Lindland, Brett Rogers and female fighter Miesha Tate are delighting fans with photos and autographs.
No one had a longer line than "The California Kid," Urijah Faber, as autograph hounds (mostly women, surprise) filled up an entire row.
The cheers rise from the fans inside the HP Pavilion as the Showtime broadcast is about to start. Carano is shown walking in the arena and the nearly full crowd shows their support for the near 2-to-1 underdog. The reaction to "Cyborg" is negative as the Brazilian is booed loudly.
Showtime cameras caught up with Carano for some last-minute thoughts and she credits the guidance of UFC legend Randy Couture in making her comfortable for such a pressure-filled fight.
“Keep a cool head and fight my fight," Carano said simply. "That's the plan."
Andy Samuelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-948-7837.