If you like quick finishes and outstanding jiu-jitsu, you probably loved the first major Strikeforce event of 2011. If you like four fights in an half and half and then an hour of Showtime re-running not Dexter in the Strikeforce timeslot, you probably liked but were a bit disappointed with the first major Strikeforce event of 2011. If you like brutal knockouts and Kelli Hutcherson then you probably still liked but were very disappointed with the first major Strikeforce event of 2011. And if you’re Melvin Guillard, you mistook great grappling with soft-core porn. Don’t worry Melvin, sometimes I mistake soft-core porn with great grappling so I understand how you feel.
Nick Diaz defeated Evangelista Santos by Submission (Armbar) at 4:50 in Round Two to retain the Strikeforce Welterweight Title
Many fans questioned whether or not Evangelista Santos should have been challenging Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce Welterweight Title when this fight was made. After the fight, those same fans still questioned it.
This fight went about how many expect. Santos came out strong and was throwing heavy leg kicks and good counter right hands but Diaz kept up his usual pace, pecked away with his jab, and put a good right hand behind it. It looked like Diaz had Santos finished in the first round but Santos hung tough and Diaz really didn’t have the starch in his punches to end the night of Santos with one shot. Badly gassed to start the second round, Santos kept himself in the fight with more leg kicks and a good counter right uppercut but Diaz took everything Santos threw at him and fired back with his hands and mouth. Looking to possibly steal the round late, Santos got a takedown but that was the beginning of the end for him as Diaz quickly locked on an armbar for the submission victory. Not quite satisfied with just beating Santos, Diaz was ready to get into a post-fight scuffle with a couple of fans who threw cups into the cage. No word yet on what liquid flew out of the cups but it may have just been the tears of Cristiane Santos, who showed that big girls do cry when their husband gets beat up in front of thousands of people.
Santos is who we thought he was. He’s a mid-level fighter who got a title shot because Diaz needed an opponent but the Jason Miller fight fell through and Paul Daley wanted to wait. So Santos was the default challenger. He did well with leg kicks in this fight and tagged Diaz with some good punches but just wasn’t able to keep up with Diaz’ pace. He’s an exciting guy with a style that the fans enjoy but unless he scores a quick KO, he’s easy pickings for anyone with a solid ground game and gas tank. He does look good at welterweight though and if he can consistently make the weight, he might not do so bad simply because there is a severe lack of depth in the Strikeforce welterweight division. Tyron Woodley is in need of an impressive victory if he hopes to challenge for the title in 2011 and Santos would be a good opponent to see if Woodley is ready to take that step up or if he’s a product of hype.
Diaz did what he needed to do in this fight. Besides taking some very hard leg kicks, he pretty much had his way with Santos on the feet and then reminded fans that his ground game isn’t so bad either as he easily submitted Santos from his back. Even though Santos wasn’t the greatest challenger in the world, a good fighter would have done what Diaz did and that’s finish him and make it look rather easy. If he had power in his punches then he likely would have put Santos away in the first round but credit Santos for surviving and taking away some of the power of Diaz with the leg kicks. In his post-fight promo, Diaz claimed that he’ll fight anybody but of course the truth is that he’ll fight anybody as long as the money is right. Obviously the big fight and the fight everyone wants to see is Diaz against Miller. That will likely have to wait as Miller will face Tim Kennedy in March. Diaz’ next fight will likely be against Daley, as long as Daley comes out a winner and unscathed in his upcoming bout against Yuya Shirai.
Predicted Next Fights: Santos vs. Woodley – Diaz vs. Daley
Ronaldo Souza defeated Robbie Lawler by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:00 in Round Three to retain the Strikeforce Middleweight Title
In a classic striker vs. grappler battle between Robbie Lawler and Ronaldo Souza, the grappler kept a firm grasp on the Strikeforce Middleweight Title.
The first round of this fight was a good back and fourth battle that saw Souza control things early on the mat but Lawler survive and get to his feet. Lawler ended up rocking Souza with a big knee to the head and then followed up with a flurry of strikes that sent Souza to the mat. Instead of allowing Souza to get back to his feet though, Lawler followed Souza to the ground and fell right into his guard. Even though Souza never threatened off his back, he did control Lawler’s posture, took limited damage, and managed to regain his senses enough to survive the opening five minutes. In the second round, a refreshed Souza once again got things to the ground and this time he didn’t let Lawler up. It looked like Souza had Lawler finished a couple of times in the round with some beautiful armbar attempts but Lawler managed to survive, escape, and live to fight another round. With momentum on his side and Lawler beginning to fade, Souza wasted no time in the third round getting Lawler down, taking his back, and sinking in a rear naked choke for the victory. It was the first successful defense of the title for Souza and he hopes that it won’t be the last.
Lawler’s inconsistency and problems against grapplers continue. He had his shot to win this fight in the first round but he stupidly got into the guard of Souza rather than letting him up. Lawler let him off the hook. Lawler is a guy who will be in every fight because of his power but I couldn’t believe how bad his takedown defense and grappling was in this fight. For a guy who has spent the majority of his career training with Matt Hughes, he was put on his back rather easily by Souza and for a guy who has been in this sport a long time, he was completely out-classed on the ground. I realize Souza is one of the best grapplers in the world but Lawler looked like he just started training jiu-jitsu yesterday when he was on the floor with Souza. I have to give Lawler credit for escaping two really close armbars but in terms of positioning, he couldn’t stop Souza from passing at all. Lawler can have exciting fights against fellow strikers but if he fights a good wrestler or grappler, he’s going to lose unless he catches them early with a big punch. I’d love it if Lawler faced Cung Le next but I’m not sure that’s a fight Strikeforce is going to explore seeing as Cung only wants to fight mid-level guys and Lawler is above that.
If you didn’t think Souza was legit prior to this fight, hopefully you do know. While his striking wasn’t as sharp as it looked against Tim Kennedy, I was really impressed with his survival ability in round one and his takedowns throughout the fight. Even though Lawler made the mistake of following Souza to the ground, credit Souza for controlling the posture of Lawler and just looking to survive rather than trying to attack off his back and leaving himself exposed. Souza’s takedown ability was really the most impressive part of his game. He set up his takedowns well, looked very strong, and got Lawler down with relative ease. Then of course on the ground Souza showed off his excellent jiu-jitsu. As long as Souza’s striking continues to improve, and I’m sure it will given his training partners, he’s going to be a top middleweight for the foreseeable futures. I know Luke Rockhold was shown a lot during the broadcast but he still lacks that signature win to challenge for the title so I believe that Souza will end up facing the winner of Kennedy vs. Jason Miller, both of which would be rematches.
Predicted Next Fights: Lawler vs. Rockhold – Souza vs. Kennedy/Miller winner
Herschel Walker defeated Scott Carson by TKO (Strikes) at 3:13 in Round One
Continuing to prove that anything is possible, even at the age of 48 years old, Herschel Walker made short work of Scott Carson.
Carson tried to take out Walker early with a head kick but all that did was piss off Walker, who immediately hulk’d up after the head kick. Instead of waging his finger though, Walker yelled at Carson and then put him down with a left hand. And instead of dropping the big leg drop, Walker pounced on Carson with a flurry of strikes. Carson tried to defend himself and even went for a leg lock but Walker showed off his strength on top by escaping and getting back side control. Walker pounded away on Carson and even hit him so hard that his mouthpiece went flying. When Carson finally rolled to guard and tried to get to his feet, Walker leaped in with a flurry of strikes that sent Carson back down and the referee in to stop things. Like he did in his only other MMA victory, Walker let out a big yell and showed off a physique that “The Situation” would be jealous of.
You can’t spell “Carson” without “can” and that’s exactly why Carson was given this fight. I don’t want to knock the guy because I’m sure he tried his hardest and took this fight very serious but we all know that he was essentially brought in to lose. I don’t know how good Carson is but he’s 40 years old and not a complete freak like Walker so I don’t think he has much of a future in this sport. I do want to see him fight one more time though against Walker’s only other MMA opponent, Greg Nagy, just so we can find out which win is more impressive on Walker’s record.
I know Walker is fighting cans but what he’s doing is amazing. He’s 48 years old, he’s in better shape than everyone at the arena, he’s only been training for just over a year, and he’s destroying guys. He’s not embarrassing himself or the sport with his performances like say, James Toney did in his first and hopefully last venture into MMA. He’s never going to be a champion or even a title contender but he has no delusions about doing so either. No matter what you think about Walker, you can’t deny that he’s a very good ambassador for the sport. He understands that MMA is one of the toughest sports in the world and he praises everyone in the sport and all the hard work they do. In the week leading up to the fight, he brought MMA some very good mainstream attention with his appearances on The Dan Patrick Show and ESPN. As long as Strikeforce doesn’t go overboard with him and start putting him in the main event against cans, he’s great as the second fight on the show for a number of reasons. I don’t know if Walker is going to fight again but if he does, I have a suggestion for his next opponent. He needs to take a minor step up in competition but this would be a major step down in physique. Strikeforce, I beg you to bring in Darrill “Titties” Schoonover as Walker’s next opponent.
Predicted Next Fights: Carson vs. Nagy – Walker vs. Schoonover
Roger Gracie defeated Trevor Prangley by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:19 in Round One
Taking a step up in competition, Roger Gracie showed why he’s one of the best grapplers in the sport of MMA with his victory over tough veteran Trevor Prangley.
Things started slow in this fight with Gracie using his jab to keep a good distance and then smartly moving away every time Prangley tried to get inside with his hands. Gracie showed off his strength in the clinch but hitting a beautiful trip takedown and putting Prangley on his back. Showing off his superior jiu-jitsu, Gracie easily passed to mount and when Prangley smartly used the cage to push off in order to sweep Gracie over or at least create a scramble to get up, Gracie used his quick hips to take the back of Prangley. From there Gracie locked on a body triangle before sinking in a rear naked choke for the victory. With the victory, Gracie remains unbeaten in MMA and showed that he has a very bright future in this sport.
Prangley could just never get anything going in this fight. He had trouble getting past the reach of Gracie and once Gracie finally managed to get a hold of him, he was easily put on his back and absolutely dominated on the ground. The good news for Prangley is that he is a natural middleweight and that’s where he should be fighting. Gracie was a tough draw for him because Gracie is a huge light heavyweight and once it hit the ground, even a couple of big heavyweights weren’t going to survive very long with Gracie on top of them. Prangley can still be a contender in a good middleweight division but he definitely needs to win his next fight. He’s dropped two in a row in Strikeforce, both by rear-naked choke, and obviously he can’t keep losing if he wants to stay with the company. It’d only be fair if his next fight was against Benji Radach, another natural middleweight who moved up to light heavyweight in his last fight, to see who the best “natural middleweight who didn’t do so well against big light heavyweights” is.
I feel like the announcers that praised Gracie’s striking didn’t watch his fight against Kevin Randleman. Gracie isn’t the best striker in the world and he never will be but he does a great job at using his reach and dictating the pace. Then of course on the ground he’s arguably the best MMA grappler in the sport. His quickness and awareness to take the back of Prangley after Prangley smartly tried to use the cage to push off to escape mount was absolutely masterful. Gracie’s chin is still questionable and I know a lot of people thought Prangley would win for that very reason but if you can’t hit the guy, who cares if his chin might not be made of iron? It’s time for Gracie to really take a step up in competition now. Prangley is a well-rounded veteran but again, he’s a natural middleweight. Gracie now needs to fight a good light heavyweight who will really test him. If Strikeforce wants to really push Gracie to the moon and see how his chin holds up, they’ll have him fight Muhammed Lawal in his next bout but if they want to take it a bit slower with him, then he’ll fight Renato Sobral. Given their patience with him thus far, Sobral seems like the better option.
Predicted Next Fights: Prangley vs. Radach – Gracie vs. Sobral
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE