The historic 135 pound tournament starts tonight in Phoenix.
The fighters who will compete in the STRIKEFORCE Challengers mixed martial arts (MMA) event on Friday, Aug. 13, weighed in on Thursday at the Dodge Theatre, and the draws were set for the first-ever single-elimination STRIKEFORCE Women’s Welterweight Tournament.
In an unveiling of the queens from a deck of cards, Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano and Carina “Beauty But The Beast” Damm picked the red heart and diamonds, respectively, meaning they will fight in the first semifinal and Miesha “Takedown” Tate and Maiju Kujala picked the black spade and clubs, respectively, meaning their 135-pound matchup will follow.
After the pro debuts for Ryan Couture and Lucas Stark in a three-round lightweight (155 pounds) bout, the semifinal winners will meet for the first STRIKEFORCE Women’s Welterweight Championship belt, which was on display Thursday.
The official weights are:
Miesha Tate – 134.2 pounds
Carina Damm – 134.8 pounds
Hitomi Akano – 135.0 pounds
Maiju Kujala – 134.4 pounds
“Our game plan is to go back to the hotel and plan a game plan,” said Tate, who said she will confer with her boyfriend, fellow MMA fighter Bryan Caraway. “We will go over (Kujala’s) weaknesses and make them fresh in my mind. I don’t feel stressed. I feel great. I’ll get a little nervous but I came here to do a job so it’s all business right now.”
Kujala was also happy to finally settle in on an opponent. “It’s going to be nice to have to just think and plan for one fighter now. I’m just so confident and so excited about this opportunity.”
Damm said she loved the matchup she drew fighting Akano first. “We have the same style so it should be a good one,” she said. “I didn’t really care who I fight. Now that I know, I can focus more. The next 24 hours I will think only of fighting Akano.”
Said Akano: “I need only two wins to be the tournament champion. First I must get past Damm and then I will see who I face. The tournament is an exciting format and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Current STRIKEFORCE Women’s Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman made her first-round picks immediately after the draw was announced. “I think Miesha’s ground game is too strong and that she gets past Kujala,” Kaufman said. “In the first match I think it’s a toss-up but I think Akano has a little bit more experience so I think I’ll pick her.
“In the final it just really depends on what they do in their first fights. If it’s Akano vs. Tate it’s a tough fight to call. It’s just too tough to call.”
Brazilan Cris Cyborg, the STRIKEFORCE Women’s Middleweight (145 pounds) champion, was also on hand to sign autographs for fans. “I want my fellow countrywoman (Damm) to win the whole thing,” she said “They will all be good match-ups. I’m rooting for Carina all the way.”
In the alternate bout Colleen Schneider (134) will face Liz Carmouche (134.6) in the preliminary card.
The opening rounds of the tournament will be contested over two three-minute rounds with the final round featuring a three-round contest consisting of three-minute rounds. The judges will be required to determine an outright winner in the opening round bouts, regardless of whether the women each win a round, and draws are not allowed.
The SHOWTIME telecast will begin at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast.)