Erin Toughill is one of the few observers of Friday’s Strikeforce Challengers tangle between Sarah Kaufman and Shayna Baszler with an inside track.
The televised bout features an undefeated Canadian import in Kaufman (9-0), looking to keep her momentum against a rugged Baszler (9-5). It’s Kaufman’s third contest in under two months—she fought on Strikeforce’s first installment of Challengers in May—while Baszler is returning from an eleven month layoff.
“I think [Baszler] should be able to shake the ring rust out,” said Toughill, a decade-long veteran of women’s mixed martial arts. “I don’t think she’s gonna be nervous with this girl at all.”
It’s a matter of experience, according to Toughill. She estimates the bantamweights will be the same size. However, Kaufman’s success standing lends itself to underestimating Baszler’s striking and lacks the proper head movement, angles and combinations outside of the one-two to put it on the EliteXC veteran – Baszler was stopped by “Cyborg” Santos in her last outing for the in the now-defunct promotion.
“I don’t think she’s gonna be gun shy,” said Toughill, noting it wasn’t an out-cold knockout, thus less of a psychological setback. “I think if anything, its gonna help her because Kaufman does not hit nearly as hard as ‘Cyborg.’”
Toughill alludes to the confidence or fearlessness that can bring before adding Baszler’s cardio was part of her unraveling. Kaufman’s groundwork in her last bout against wrester Meisha Tate highlighted her weak point. But the fight must hit the mat first.
“Kaufman does have a good sprawl,” said Toughill. “If she sticks and moves and comes in and out and doesn’t let Shayna cut for a shot or a clinch or something, then she’ll have more of a chance to go longer.”
She feels Kaufman’s busy schedule will finally catch up with her because weight cutting and bad rebounding can sap a fighter’s energy.
“As long as she’s strong mentally about it—that’s gonna help her push along,” said Toughill. “I know both are strong-headed so we’ll have to see. It’s a tough call.”
Ultimately, Baszler’s brown belt level, Erik Paulson-Josh Barnett inspired ground game triumphs over Kaufman’s low-level purple belt grappling in Toughill’s estimation. She picks Baszler to win “probably by some type of crazy submission.”
While Gina Carano and “Cyborg Santos” will make female MMA history on August 15 by crowning the first major featherweight North American champion, Toughill expects Kaufman-Baszler to set a precedent for female MMA at 135 pounds.