Welterweight Stewart makes Strikeforce return at the Mansion

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It's been an anxious several months for Strikeforce welterweight Luke Stewart.

Eager to rebound off the first loss of his career in March, he was supposed to be part of the promotion's June card, but instead sat on the sidelines as opponent after opponent dropped out of the fight.

Three months later and Stewart finally gets his opportunity to atone for his loss, as he steps into the cage this Saturday as part of Strikeforce's return to the world famous Playboy Mansion.

"It's been a rough last six months," he admitted of his second half to 2008. "I've come off a loss and I was real eager to get back in the cage, and everything that happened with my last (scheduled) fight, going through three opponents was really frustrating.

"I feel like it's been all work and no play, so I'm really looking forward to fighting on Saturday night."

As Stewart explains, it was vexing to go through his on-again-off-again ordeal in June.

"It was a complete emotional rollercoaster," he stated. "You get in your head that you're fighting one guy and are starting to think about game plans and specific ways you're going to fight playing out in your head; and all that changes within 15 minutes.

"The one good thing is that it allowed me to improve my skill set even more over the past six months and become a better fighter than I was in my last fight. I'm almost a completely different fighter, I feel like."

At Strikeforce this Saturday, Stewart will be squaring off against Jesse Juarez, a fighter who has won two of three bouts so far this year.

"He's a tough guy, a real strong wrestler; so I feel it's going to be a real good fight," he commented. "I think our styles are going to match up well as far as he's gonna want to go to the ground, and obviously that's where I feel I'm at my best.

"I think we're going to both come at each other with everything we have -- it's not going to be one guy running from another guy -- it's going to be two guys colliding in the middle."

A win over Juarez could put Stewart back on the track that could see him possibly contend for a Strikeforce title sometime in 2009.

"I'm real excited for this upcoming year, and I'm ready for it," he exclaimed.

"This last year I've been training real hard, putting a lot of time in the gym and I'm ready to showcase it and show the fans what kind of fighter I am."

After months of sitting on the shelf waiting for a chance to redeem himself, Luke finally has his opportunity to do so, and should he make the most of it, his title aspirations turning into reality may only be a matter of time.