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Strikeforce MMA Women's Tournament: Four Ladies, Three Short Fights, One Winner

The Strikeforce four-woman, single-elimination tournament format is a first for the organization and since this is the first major MMA event in Arizona, obviously new here as well.

The plan originally called for two rounds with the winners of the first two fights facing each other in a third bout. Both the first round fights and the final fight were scheduled to be three, three-minute rounds with a "sudden victory" round should the three rounds yield a tie.

MMA reported today that the Arizona Boxing Commission stepped in and nixed that plan. They've cut the first set of fights to only two rounds with no draws allowed.

We got a look at all four fighters today at the pre-fight work out.


Carina Damm: (Record: 15-3 with 5 TKOs, 6 Submissions and 4 Decisions. Losses include 2 Submissions and 1 Decision.)

Damm is Brazilian and doesn't speak a lick of English. We spoke to her through a translator but basically she just said that she's ready for the fight regardless of her draw.

Damm, 31, is a more experienced fighter and brings her stylish Capoeira fighting-dance technique to the ring. It certainly looked good out on the mat with no opponent in sight. 

Damm, looks tough and ready but she's also small at 5-foot-4 and is fighting up a weight class.


Hitomi Akano: (Record: 15-7 with 12 Submissions and 3 Decisions. Losses include 1 TKO and 6 Decisions.)

Akano, 36, is the most experienced and highest-ranked fighter of the group. She's fought in a higher weight class before but also has the least experience fighting in the cage. Fights in Japan are in the ring where the referee takes a more active role and elbows aren't allowed.

Asked why some of the other fighters called her unorthodox, Akano said through her translator, "My theory is this. This is mixed martial arts so there's no standard. There's no such thing as normal, ordinary strategy. So my way of fighting in MMA is my style of fighting. If they want to call that unorthodox then it's unorthodox."


Maiju Kujala: (Record: 4-1 with 2 TKOs, 1 Submission and 1 Decision and lost on a Decision.)

The youngest fighter at 24, Maiju looks too sweet to be a fighter. Her possible opponent, Miesha Tate, said she likes to strike to get in on the take down but she doesn't have good positioning on the ground.

Kujala, who's from Finland, has never fought in the United States before and seems to be looking forward to the big crowds. She was a bit nervous but that could be from having to answer questions in English. She certainly didn't give off an air of toughness though.

Maiju doesn't have a preference for who she fights first, insisting she has a game plan for all three girls which are based on her strengths as a fighter which seem to be her physical strength and endurance.


Miesha Tate: (Record: 9-2 with 3 TKOs, 4 Submissions and 2 Decisions. Her losses included 1 TKO and 1 Decision.)

With only 6 minutes to work in the first fight, Tate, 23, expects the action to be face-paced as all the fighters work for a quick finsih.

The tournament format lead to a longer preparation time but Tate said she started her career in this type of event and has learned some things. Mostly, she said, it's important not to have an adrenaline dump after the first fight. You have to "keep the engine going" and immediately begin to mentally prepare for the next fight.

She is my favorite to win the tournament and not because she's the only American girl in the bunch. Tate is taller and longer than the other girls and has fought at a higher level in MMA competition.

She was the only fighter to express a preference for an opponent. Miesha wants a crack at Akano because she feels it would be the most credible win given her ranking and experience.

Tate wants another shot at Sarah Kaufman who defeated her in a decision last year both to avenge loss and become World Champion. Tate's only other loss came in 2007 when she was knocked out by a kick to the head.

Tate said she's Interested in a career in media as a fight analyst once her fighting days are over.