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Strikeforce in St. Louis: What we learned

"Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery” aired live on Showtime last night from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. An entertaining slate of bouts saw the return of a champion and some notable ground fighters notch key wins, while an old superstar continued to falter. Read on to find out how fighters fared, and more importantly, for the answers to the burning question: What did we learn?

Rafael Cavalcante is a light heavyweight title contender

In a short but back-and-forth battle Cavalcante scored a knockout victory over Antwain Britt at the 3:45 mark of round one. Things looked bleak for Cavalcante early on, as Britt waded forward with punches, stalking the Brazilian. Then in a clinch against the cage Britt caught Cavalcante with an uppercut that staggered the fighter, but the fighters tied up again as Cavalcante looked to recover.

Once referee Al Wichgers separated the fighters, it was all Cavalcante. After missing with a high left kick he followed with a hard right hook that hurt Britt, and the Team Noguiera fighter pressed forward, unloading on Britt against the cage. A right uppercut quickly followed by a right cross ultimately dropped Britt to the canvas, and Wichgers wisely halted the bout.

Cavalcante’s win potentially puts him in line for a shot at Muhammad Lawal’s light heavyweight title, and injects some new competition into a Strikeforce division that sorely needs it.

Roger Gracie got the fight to the ground — but probably not how you would think

In reading the results of Gracie’s bout with Kevin Randleman, there would be no surprise to find out he took his opponent to the ground, where he won with a rear-naked choke. What was surprising is how he got Randleman, a former Ohio State wrestling standout, to the canvas.

After a first frame that showcased lazy boxing and thwarted Gracie takedown attempts, halfway through the second round the Brazilian dropped Randleman with a well-timed knee to the head. Gracie pounced on the former UFC champion, first working from the north-south position before transitioning to the mount.

In a subsequent scramble Randleman tried to escape to his feet but ended up with Gracie on his back. After securing a body-triangle Gracie patiently worked until he secured the rear-naked choke. Though Randleman had the wherewithal to tap out at 4:10 of round two, he still looked to be unconscious once Gracie relinquished the choke.

Gracie’s first foray into a cage was successful and brings his overall MMA record to 3-0. As his competition increases, only time will tell if Roger’s the Gracie to finally restore the luster to his family’s legendary name.

Jacare knows how to win ugly now

In a bout that went the distance, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza earned a unanimous decision over Joey Villasenor. Souza looked to finish the fight early as he mounted Villasenor in the first round and rained down blows. But the wily veteran, who showed exceptional defense from his back during the bout, kicked off the cage to buck Souza from his dominant position. Later in the round Souza, a brilliant BJJ tactician, attempted a kimura that Villasenor also escaped.

Though in the third round Villasenor seemed to gain a second wind as Souza tired, every time he started to connect with punches the Brazilian dumped him on his back. Throughout the bout the Greg Jackson fighter was unable to keep the fight standing, where his chances to win were decidedly better. The steady takedowns and ground control allowed Souza to tough out a gritty victory, and bumped his overall MMA record to 12-2.

Andrei Arlovski’s losing streak continues

The bout between Arlovski and Antonio Silva swung Silva’s way when the judges awarded him a unanimous decision (29-28 on all cards) after three rounds that were mostly contested on the feet. After continual criticism about his chin, Arlovski absorbed powerful shots to remain standing, but in most exchanges was outboxed by the Brazilian.

The Belarusian’s nose was bloodied badly during the bout, and he never mounted any sustained offense as the fight lagged when the fighters clinched against the cage. Still, the victory seemed up for grabs going into the third round, but after a high Silva slam followed by some ground-and-pound, Silva gained the judges’ favor to bump his record to 14-2.

While the contest certainly had to be a moral victory for Arlovski after his recent quick KOs at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko and Brett Rogers, it is still hard to fathom the decline of the fanged fighter who a few short years ago was arguably the most feared heavyweight in the world.

Alistair Overeem has done his part — now it is up to Fedor Emelianenko

Brett Rogers rose to fame quickly after knocking out Arlovski in 22 seconds back in June of 2009. Then five months later he was the first fighter in ages to have Emelianenko in trouble before being added to the Russian’s KO highlight reel in the second round of their bout. But last night he was completely overwhelmed by Overeem.

Overeem stalked Rogers early, landing kicks as they both tried to find their range. As Rogers tried to tie him up, Overeem easily overpowered him, chucking him to the canvas. Overeem worked from side control, landing strikes as he pushed Rogers into the fence. After a half-hearted scramble from Rogers, Overeem trapped him against the cage and employed vicious ground-and-pound until John McCarthy called the bout at 3:40 of round one, allowing Overeem to retain his Strikeforce heavyweight title and improve to 33-11.

After a two-and-a-half year hiatus from the organization, Overeem has his sights set on Emelianenko, who most consider the top fighter in the world. If Emelianenko gets past Fabricio Werdrum in June, Strikeforce will look to have its first true mega-bout, and possible ratings bonanza, later this year.

The article originally appeared on MMA Spot.

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