It may not have been business as usual for the organization given the men sitting cageside but it was business as usual for the fighters. Once again, the Strikeforce fighters delivered a top-notch event culminating in the main event, which is an early contender for fight of the year. If Sam Puckett kissing Freddie Benson didn’t have you screaming “iOMG” then Strikeforce certainly had you off your couch and yelling in excitement. By the way, if Sam starts dating Freddie, I would happily keep Miranda Cosgrove company.
Nick Diaz defeated Paul Daley via TKO (Strikes) at 4:57 of Round One to retain the Strikeforce Welterweight Title
After all the trash talking, Nick Diaz and Paul Daley finally let their fists do the work and it was Diaz who came out on top.
If you have five minutes to spare and want to see two guys punch each other until one of them eventually needs help up, then watch this fight. From the moment the bell sounded, Diaz came out and started taunting and trash talking Daley. “Semtex” responded by clipping Diaz with a left hook that had the champ stunned. Diaz managed to recover though and the trash talking continued. Being a man who backs up his talking, Diaz then took the fight to Daley. He started to methodically pick him apart with his hands like only Diaz can do. Not one of take a verbal or literal jab without responding, Daley fired right back. Diaz appeared to hurt Daley with a body shot that had Daley going for and succeeding with a takedown. Diaz was quickly up and the two went back to swinging away. In the middle of an exchange, Daley dropped Diaz with a big left hook and it appeared that Diaz was out. He wasn’t though and he managed to roll to his back and survive an onslaught of ground and pound by Daley. After again getting to his feet, Diaz stumbled Daley with a flurry and after Daley pushed Diaz away, he ended up falling to his back, where Diaz immediately pounced on him and hurt him with a series of punches that forced the ref to jump in with just three seconds left in the round. Maybe the stoppage was early given the time remaining but Daley needed help getting on the stool after the fight and I’d much rather a fight be stopped too early than a fighter take more punishment in the ensuing seconds/round. It was the most exciting round of MMA action of the year and the words you just read did not do it justice. Diaz became the first man to stop Daley with strikes and once again successfully defend his title.
Daley got what he wanted in this fight. Diaz stood with him and, even though Daley had his flashes of offense, Diaz won. I’m not sure if Daley wasn’t in great shape or he underestimated the power of Diaz because I’ve never seen Daley hurt like that on the feet before. I think the body shots took a lot out of him and the pace of Diaz overwhelmed him. Daley’s entire strategy seemed to be to cover up and then swing wildly in hopes of catching Diaz. It wasn’t a terrible idea, and it did work for him to a degree, but he obviously took far more damage than he dished out. It’s anyone’s guess as to what happened to Daley next. If he’s smart, he’ll be on his best behavior and be grateful for the opportunities that Strikeforce gives him in hopes of returning to the UFC once the two companies eventually merge. Of course since we’re talking about Daley, he’ll probably pop off at the mouth, say or do something stupid, and end up fighting in BAMMA for the rest of his career.
No matter what you think of Diaz, you can’t deny that the man comes to fight. While I still don’t think standing with Daley was the best strategy in the world, and it almost got him in trouble a couple of times, Diaz proved why he’s one of the best technical boxers in MMA. And so much for the “peppering punches” of Diaz. It’s more like “starching strikes,” am I right Mauro Ranallo? The only knock against Diaz now his is lack of competition. Daley was his toughest opponent since Takanori Gomi, and even Daley was barely considered a top ten welterweight. Unfortunately for Diaz, as long as he’s in Strikeforce, he’s just not going to face top competition. Unless they can somehow put together the Diaz vs. Jason Miller grudge match, which seems a lot more likely now that Zuffa can throw more money their way, it looks like Diaz will face Tyron Woodley next. And while Woodley might develop into a championship contender, based on his last few fights, he certainly isn’t ready for one of the best welterweights in the world. Who knows though, maybe Diaz will want to take the majority of the rest of the year off, maybe Georges St. Pierre will beat Jake Shields, and maybe UFC will decide that St. Pierre needs a new challenger at welterweight since he won’t move up to middleweight, and Diaz will be the man who gets the call, setting up a December showdown between the Stockton bad boy and the Canadian hero.
Predicted Next Fights: Daley vs. Roger Bowling – Diaz vs. Woodley
Gilbert Melendez defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri via TKO (Strikes) at 3:14 of Round One to retain the Strikeforce Lightweight Title
Gilbert Melendez said he was looking to make a statement against Tatsuya Kawajiri, and that’s exactly what he did.
Melendez wasted no time taking the fight to Kawajiri. He immediately stumbled “The Crusher” with a right hand and then followed that up with a series of knees in the clinch. It looked like Melendez was going to put Kawajiri away on the ground with a submission, as he got the back of his Japanese opponent, but Kawajiri was able to get to his feet and survive. Kawajiri fired back with a couple of good right hands of his own but Melendez ate them and responded in kind. Kawajiri went for a takedown but Melendez was waiting for him and caught him with an uppercut. After taking some punches from the sprawl positions, Kawajiri dropped to his back, where Melendez made him pay by pounding him out with a vicious series of elbows. Melendez had something to prove and he did just that, dominating Kawajiri and retaining his belt.
I don’t hold this terrible performance against Kawajiri. His mind clearly seemed to be elsewhere all week leading up to the fight and Melendez was hungrier than Kirstie Alley after a five-hour tango training session. I’m not saying Kawajiri would have defeated Melendez had he been 100% mentally and actually bothered training in a cage, but the circumstances certainly didn’t help him. He was rocked from the very first strike thrown, and even though he tried his best hang in there and fire back, Melendez never let him fully recover. I’m sure Kawajiri will get another chance in Strikeforce, mainly because DREAM is all but dead, and hopefully there aren’t outside factors that hinder his training and mindset.
Melendez believes he’s the number one lightweight in the world and after this performance; it’s tough to argue with him. He took the fight to Kawajiri, hurt him early, and then never let him rest. Melendez definitely looked like a guy who hadn’t fought in a year, a guy who had the best training camp off his life, and a guy who had something to prove. But how much does Melendez have left to prove in Strikeforce? He’s beaten all top contenders, and while I would have loved a Josh Thomson vs. Melendez 3 a year ago and I thought it should have been immediate after their second battle, I don’t care to see it with Thomson coming off a loss. There’s simply no one left for Melendez in Strikeforce. If UFC is going to start plucking guys out of Strikeforce before they officially merge, Melendez should be the first guy taken. I’d love it if Melendez could face Jim Miller in a couple of months (pending Anthony Pettis beats Clay Guida) for a shot at UFC gold. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen and Melendez will end up fighting Jorge Masvidal or KJ Noons later on this year, with Masvidal being the leading candidate.
Predicted Next Fights: Kawajiri vs. Justin Wilcox – Melendez vs. Masvidal
Gegard Mousasi and Keith Jardine fought to a Majority Draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Taking the fight on short notice, the always-tough Keith Jardine gave Gegard Mousasi all he could handle and it was enough to earn him an unsatisfying draw.
As everyone should have suspected, Jardine came to fight. He had trouble connecting with anything on the feet so he switched things up and started using his wrestling against Mousasi. He managed to takedown Mousasi multiple times in the first round although once the ground, Mousasi was almost immediately back up. On one occasion, Mousasi caught Jardine with an illegal up kick as Jardine was still on his knees. Instead of warning Mousasi for the blow, which didn’t seem to effect Jardine as one may think, the ref, who looked like a lost member of ZZ Top, decided to deduct a point from Mousasi. On the feet, Mousasi roughed up Jardine by getting inside and landing short punches and uppercuts. It was a close round but as someone who believes damage is more important than takedowns that lead to nothing, I gave the round to Mousasi. The second and third rounds were largely the same. Mousasi picked apart Jardine on the feet, landing the jab at will and winning almost all the exchanges. Jardine once again scored a couple of takedowns and once again failed to do anything with them. The most significant happenings in the rounds were early in the third, when Mousasi had Jardine in what looked to be a tight guillotine choke but Jardine was able to get free, and late in the third when Mousasi got Jardine down and was slicing him with elbows. As the fight ended and both men stood up, Jardine’s face was a bloody mess while Mousasi looked none the worse for wear. Despite proving that he was the better fighter on this night, Mousasi’s hand would not be raised in victory as two judges saw the fight as a draw, making the opinion of the judge who scored the bout for Mousasi useless, and ending the fight in a majority draw.
You can’t help but to be impressed with Jardine in this fight. He took the bout on just over a weeks notice and he let it all hang out in the cage. He wasn’t in the condition to go 15 hard minutes but he did the best he could given the circumstances. I thought he had the right strategy, going for takedowns instead of getting into a striking contest with Mousasi, but he just couldn’t capitalize once he got Mousasi down. Credit Mousasi, who was a lot less content lying on his back in this fight than he was against “King Mo” Lawal. Jardine felt he won the fight, and while I admire his attitude, no one in their right mind actually thought he won. Then again, after getting punched in the face multiple times, I’m not so sure Jardine was in his right mind when he made those comments. It looks like Jardine and Mousasi will rematch and with a full training camp, Jardine should make it even more competitive next time around.
Mousasi did everything right in this fight, he was just a victim of a flawed system. It had to be a little worrisome for Mousasi though that he couldn’t put away a notoriously weak chinned Jardine on short notice. He shouldn’t be punished by a system for failing to finish a tough opponent though. If Mousasi can take anything away from this fight, it’s that his takedown defense is still really bad. He needs to spend time training in America and working on his takedown defense with a top camp. Like in the Lawal fight, Mousasi does a good job stopping the initial attempt but if guys drive through, like Jardine did, he eventually wilts and goes down. I think Mousasi realized in the third round that he can get Jardine down and rough him up on the ground and I suspect he’ll go to that strategy much earlier in the rematch, which is why I’d have to favor him when they meet again.
Predicted Next Fights: Jardine vs. Mousasi 2
Shinya Aoki defeated Lyle Beerbohm via Submission (Neck Crank) at 1:33 of Round One
Proving that there is still hope of Japanese MMA, Shinya Aoki demonstrated why he’s one of the best submission grapplers in MMA by making short work of Lyle Beerbohm.
Even though he was facing a guy with limited stand up but one of the best ground games in the world, Beerbohm decided to almost immediately clinch with Aoki. That would be the first step towards his downfall as Aoki quickly tripped Beerbohm to the canvas, made his way to the back, and then locked on a body triangle followed by a neck crank. Beerbohm tried his best to fight out but Aoki’s strength proved to be too much and Beerbohm was forced to submit. The win was not only much needed but also very emotional for the “Baka Survivor,” who was representing his home country of Japan during their recent tragedy.
I don’t know who Beerbohm’s strategy coach is (and I’m under the opinion that every fighter has or should have a strategy coach) but he should be immediately fired. And if Beerbohm decided on that strategy for himself, I would not have him plan anything for the next year or so. That includes, but is not limited to, daily activities, birthday parties, weddings, setting up a blog, road trips, and how to fight world-class grapplers. I’m sure Beerbohm will move back down to the Challengers events with this loss and I hope he realizes how bad he blew a big opportunity this past Saturday night. I’d like to see him fight Caros Fodor next because I think Fodor has potential and Beerbohm would be able to test him since I believe that Beerbohm can be a tough out when his head is on straight.
Aoki might be considered one-dimensional but he’s pretty dang good at that one dimension. Of course he’s not one-dimensional though because he has better takedowns than given credit for, especially in the clinch, which we saw in this fight. Once he got Beerbohm on the ground, it was over faster than Anchorwoman. Even though Aoki was deal with the same mental angst that Kawajiri had being from Japan, Aoki seemed to put it out of his mind better in the week leading up to the fight, which is a huge credit to him. Aoki is still a top lightweight in the world and he showed in this fight that if you’re dumb enough to fight him in close corners, he’s going to make you pay. Josh Thomson makes sense of Aoki as a next opponent seeing as Thomson is a very credible opponent and Aoki is about the only top Japanese fighter that he hasn’t fought recently.
Predicted Next Fights: Beerbohm vs. Fodor – Aoki vs. Thomson
After an outstanding Strikeforce event, the spotlight is now on Bellator. With two more weeks until UFC 129, Bellator has the next two Saturday nights unopposed to capture the MMA audience. I encourage everyone to check out the events because Bellator consistently delivers good shows.
PHOTO CREDIT – ESTHER LIN / STRIKEFORCE