(Courtesy of Esther Lin / Strikeforce)
PORTLAND, Ore. – Four days past his 40th birthday, Matt Lindland turned back the clock Friday, finishing Kevin Casey at 3:41 of the third round in the main event of Strikeforce Challengers 8 at the Rose Garden. One of the MMA pioneers, Linland had not won a fight since 2008.
“Had it been that long, I sure hope not,” Lindland said. “I know I lost my last two. I didn’t want to get three in a row. Three strikes and you’re out.”
The match-up was odd to say the least. Lindland (22-7) has been fighting for more than a decade. Casey, 28, now has five fights (3-2). But the main event gained some juice when Casey’s friend and posse-member and would-be celebrity Spencer Pratt called out Lindland on a MMA talk show during the build-up to the fight.
“I didn’t care if I won ugly,” Lindland said. “I was in my hometown in front of my friends and family.”
Lindland’s homecoming didn’t go according to plan in the first round. Despite giving up an immediate takedown, Casey took Lindland’s back and threatened a rear naked choke for most of the round.
“I didn’t want to let him get my back again,” Lindland said. “I know I’m better than that.”
The tide turned in the second. Lindland scored a takedown and pounded Casey for the entire round. He did not land any power shots, but the accumulation sapped Casey’s energy. The would-be rapper moved noticeably slower and was on the defensive for the entire third round. Lindland pinned Casey against the fence, postured up, and began to rain power punches with 2:46 remaining. Casey made no attempt to escape and referee Shawn Gregory stepped into stop the fight with 1:19 remaining.
Woodley remained unbeaten (7-0), edging a hometown favorite in a battle of former All-American collegiate wrestlers and rising MMA stars.
“I knew he was a tough guy and I didn’t want to get over-aggressive,” Woodley said.
Woodley, a graduate of University of Missouri, won the first round early by scoring a takedown and taking Coy’s back. But the former Oregon State wrestler began to press the action late in the first and was arguably winning the second until slipping after an ill-advised high kick. Woodley capitalized, took Coy’s back and was securing an armbar as the round ended. Woodley took Coy’s back briefly in the third, but Coy (8-3) turned into him and slammed Woodley to the mat. He held top position for the rest of the round, but could not finish the fight.
“Ending up on your back always sucks,” Woodley said. “Especially at the end of the third round and in Portland. I didn’t want to leave it in the judges’ hands.”
Woodley deserved the win, much to the displeasure of Coy’s rabid supporters.
Bowling remained unbeaten (8-0) despite the strangest unanimous decision of his career. A third-round eye injury prevented Bowling from continuing. The accidental poke came at 3:22 of the third round. The judges scored the first two rounds for Bowling and the third for Voelker (21-8). Afterward, an element of the crowd drowned out Bowling’s attempts to apologize. He didn’t need to. Before the injury, Bowling lived up to his “Relentless” nickname and improved to 8-0 with the win. The Cincinnati-based fighter took Voelker down almost immediately and landed several power punches and body kicks in the first round. A punch caused bleeding around Voelker’s left eye. In the second, Bowling dropped Voelker with a left and continued to pound the Kansas City fighter. Voelker entered the fight with 21 more pro bouts and it showed. He hung in despite incredible punishment and came out throwing in the third. He took Bowling down, but could not control him. The fighters clinched against the cage before referee Dave Hagen stepped in. However, but Voelker’s glove poked Bowling’s eye on the break. Despite an unsympathetic crowd, he could not continue.
Tarec Saffiedine (9-2) dominated Nate Moore from the outset, taking his back early in the first and later landing a front kick to the head. In the second round, Saffiedine knocked Moore (6-2) out with a short overhand right to the jaw. The fight was over before Moore hit the floor.
Pat Healy (23-15) had the home and size advantage in his Strikeforce debut. The Team Quest fighter weighed in half-a-pound over, but Brian Travers agreed to make it a non-issue. After a close first round, Healy wore Travers (13-2) down in the second. He threw Travers around like a sack of potatoes, stunned him with a knee and took his back. In the third round, Travers tried to utilize his striking in the third, but was lifted and slammed for his efforts. Momentum shifted halfway through the round as Travers scored back-to-back takedowns. Healy recovered to slam Travers and closed the round with a flurry of punches.
Local pros Blaine Macintosh and Ben Morgan went back-and-forth for three electric rounds. Morgan escaped from triangles and arm bars in the first and second round. Macintosh returned the favor in the third. Macintosh won a split decision 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 that could have gone either way. Ringside announcers were clearly impressed. MMA legend Pat Miletich gave Macintosh the only post-fight interview of the undercard.