Babalu was battered, but Big John McCarthy raised his hand (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)
Renato “Babalu” Sobral looked the worse for wear, but he got the best of Robbie Lawler on Thursday at Strikeforce: Los Angeles.
Sobral won via unanimous decision in the 195-pound catch-weight match. In the other main-card matches, Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos won via first-round TKO against Marius Zaromskis, Tim Kennedy submitted Trevor Prangley with a first-round rear naked choke, and K.J. Noons edged Conor Heun via split decision.
Sobral could be in line for a shot at the 205-pound title against good friend Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.
“This is something I will have to think about,’’ said Sobral (36-8). “Yes, of course, I want to be a champion again but I’m old school and he is my friend and friends last longer than title belts. But we’ll see.’’
After the fight, Sobral’s left eye was swollen and badly cut, leaving him looking much worse than the man who he had just beaten. Lawler, who looked relatively unscathed, attempted a risky tactic in the second round, when he tried to draw in Sobral by pretending he was hurt.
“I wasn’t hurt, I just wanted to make him think I was,’’ said Lawler (17-6). “It was a ploy, a decoy, for him to fight me so I could knock him out.
But the knockout never came.
“I’m disappointed with the result, but I have no complaints,” Lawler said. “The two takedowns in the first round may have been the difference. I know that I could have done much more. I should have done more.’’
Santos might now be less famous than his champion wife, Cris, who took her husband’s last name and nickname, then rose to become the Strikeforce 145-pound champion and perhaps the top female fighter in the world.
But Evangelista Santos put on another performance that earned him new fans and reminded his long-time admirers why they liked him in the first place. He took the fight to Zaromskis, whose run in Japan’s Dream promotion earned him an unsuccessful title shot against Nick Diaz, from the opening bell after the Lithuanian landed the first blow.
Santos (18-13) stunned Zaromskis (13-5), who was trying to hit him with a flying knee, with a big left hand, then pounced on him to force the finish 2:38 into the fight.
“I am very happy with my performance and this fight,’’ Santos said. “I’ve had so many first-round knockouts. I can’t say if this was the best, but it was definitely one of the best.”
His sights immediately went to the welterweight champion.
“I want to fight Nick Diaz,” he said. “He’s the fighter I want more than anybody right now.’’
Cris Cyborg defends her title June 26 against Jan Finney on the Fedor-Werdum card in San Jose, Calif.
The colorful Kennedy (12-2) is known for his service as U.S. Army Special Forces sniper with the 19th Special Forces outfit based in San Antonio, Texas. Kennedy was awarded the Army’s Bronze Medal Star medal for valor under fire, but he was not threatened by the veteran Prangley, who was game early on with a couple of takedowns that he could not turn into an advantage. Kennedy took down Prangley (22-6-1) into half guard, mounted him, then took the back and sunk in the fight-ending choke at 3:35.
“I don’t go the distance,” Kennedy said. “In fact, I’m totally against going the distance. I’m happy with the end result. He hit me with a good uppercut; that stuff’s not supposed to happen. I have some of the greatest hands in the sport. I just want to start fighting the kinds of opponents I can knock out and start a highlight reel on. I’m tired of fighting wrestlers.’’
Noons and Heun staged an up-tempo war. The fight was up for grabs in the third round, when Heun seemed to tire a bit from all his takedown attempts against the crisp pro boxer.
“He’s a very game guy who brought it the whole fight,’’ said Noons. “I definitely feel I won the fight and I really wanted to please the fans, but I had to work for it.”
Noons (9-2) is the last fighter to beat Diaz, and had not MMA once since in two years.
“I haven’t used my legs in a while so if felt good to get in some leg kicks.’’
Heun (8-4) was cut up, and the visible damage might have been the difference.
“I wanted to fight one of the top guys to prove to everybody that I could compete with the top ones, and I think I did that tonight,” Heun said. “But I’m very disappointed with the decision. Only one judge scored the fight. I feel I did more than enough to win, although the cuts were definitely a factor. By the third round, I was aiming my punches at the guy in the middle.’’
On the undercard, Hugo Sandoval won via TKO against Marcus Kowal 43 seconds into the second round, and Jeremy Umphries beat R.J. Clifford on a technical submission (rear naked choke) at 2:27 of the second round. Clifford is the host of MMA Worldwide Live on ESPN Radio 710 in Los Angeles, and also is the editor in chief of TapouT Magazine.