Strikeforce: “Houston” has now drawn to a close, and it made for quite an eventful night of fights. But the biggest story to come out of “Houston” had to have been the crowning of two Brazilian champions, both of whom train in the prestigious Black House gym, home to such famous fighters as Lyoto Machida, the Nogueira brothers (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira), Junior Dos Santos, and Anderson Silva. For “Houston”, Black House was represented by Ronaldo Souza in a fight to crown a new Strikeforce Middleweight Champion after the title had been vacated due to former champion Jake Shields parting ways with the company, and also by Rafael Cavalcante in the first defense of Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal’s belt. Both fights were back-and-forth wars of non-stop action that fully proved the heart, dedication, determination, and skills of both “Jacare” and “Feijao”. Here’s how it all broke down.

In his fight with Tim Kennedy, the man who got the nickname “Alligator” due to his penchant for trapping opponents in unbreakable submission holds found himself unable to get his opponent to the ground. In fact, it was Kennedy who landed the takedowns and scored the Ground and Pound, however brief it was. For nearly five full rounds, Souza had nothing to fall back on except his ever-improving stand-up game. While it’s true that Kennedy landed more strikes throughout their five-round war, it was very apparent that Souza hit harder and did more damage. At least, that must have been how the judges saw it, since Jacare clinched a Unanimous Decision victory.

Against King Mo, Rafael Cavalcante would do everything in his power not to let his fight go to the judges. The first round was a back-and-forth affair that saw Cavalcante get the better of Mo in the stand-up, and all but completely avoid Mo’s takedowns. Aside from a few impressive slams that Feijaio immediately got up from, the man lauded as one of the most decorated collegiate wrestlers to ever transition to MMA seemed unable to implement his ground game on the Brazilian Jui Jitsu black belt. The second round saw Mo get the better of Cavalcante utilizing some very powerful body punches. Heading into the third round, Mo’s renewed sense of confidence proved to be his undoing, as Cavalcante was able to nail a mammoth knee from the Muay Thai clinch position, which was followed up by a barrage of strikes that ultimately led to King Mo being dead on his feet, prompting famous MMA referee “Big” John McCarthy to step in and save Mo from any more punishment.

Looking forward, both men have several good fights lined up for them. Souza could take his rivalry with the enigmatic Jason Miller to new heights with a third fight, this time with the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship on the line. After promising to make several changes, King Mo could find himself in a position to rematch Rafael Cavalcante very soon. Fights with Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi would also be great fights I’d love to see.

But no matter what happens next, these two wins give Strikeforce two champions that they can be very proud of. Even though he struggled with Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo Souza is still a wizard on the ground, and his stand-up is improving with every single fight. Rafael Cavalcante was once thought of as a sure-fire prodigy, and despite having a few setbacks that he has now overcome, the impossibility of taking him down combined with his very powerful striking should be enough for him to break the chain of Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champions losing their belt in their first few fights. Both men are humble fighters with loads of skill, and their future in Strikeforce has never looked brighter. “Houston” was a night for new beginnings, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

And how about you, fans and friends? How impressed were you by Ronaldo Souza and Rafael Cavalcante? What (or more likely who) do you think is next for the two new champions?

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