Two world titles will be on the line when Strikeforce: “Diaz vs. Cyborg” kicks off this Saturday night (Jan. 29, 2011) from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
The four-fight main card will air live on the Showtime premium cable channel, beginning at 10 p.m. ET, and you can of course watch all the action here as well.
Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz will defend his 170-pound strap for the second time in the main event, taking on hard-hitting Brazilian knockout artist Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (the husband to female 145-pound queen Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos).
In the co-featured fight of the night, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will put his middleweight gold up for grabs opposite “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler in a grappler vs. striker match up. In addition, former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker will make his second career start as a professional mixed martial artist on the card.
That’s not all. Not even close.
To help get you better prepared for the festivities, we’ve got some quick analysis and predictions for the main card, which will hopefully get your juices flowing.
Let’s get cracking:
Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Santos
Santos’ win-loss record isn’t anything to write home about, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous for Diaz in this fight. “Cyborg” has a ton of power on his feet and a credible jiu-jitsu background, too. A former long-time middleweight, he will also likely possess a significant strength advantage.
In short, Santos — who boats quality experience against many of the best fighters in the world, most of which come from larger weight classes — is completely capable of becoming the next Strikeforce welterweight champ on Saturday night.
But do I think that’s going to happen? No.
As far as dealing with “Cyborg’s” power, KJ Noons doesn’t exactly throw marshmallows when he punches. And he lit up Diaz with several big power shots that didn’t really seem to faze the champ all that much.
The Cesar Gracie pupil is a machine on his feet. And on the ground, strength advantage or not, I don’t see Diaz getting out-worked there, much less finished with a submission or any sort of ground and pound. He’s too crafty and too well trained.
However, Diaz may be becoming a little too overconfident in his ability to withstand punishment. If he does lose this fight, it’s possible that it comes via a button punch/kick from Santos. Still, he’s been in the cage/ring with a lot of guys with the ability to do that before, and it’s never happened.
And until someone actually does knock him out, I’ll continue to view that possibility as a long shot.
Plain and simple, Diaz is the better/smarter fighter. And he won’t be intimidated at all by Santos. He’ll do what he has to do to win this fight, and he’ll get the job done. His cardio is endless and he can finish from anywhere at anytime. I don’t see “Cyborg” being able to keep up with him for five rounds, and I think Diaz secures some type of finish before the final bell.
Keep in mind that “Cyborg” has dropped eight fights in his career via (technical) knocckout. When he’s breathing heavy in the second, third or fourth rounds, and Diaz is still peppering him with straight punches and hooks, he’ll add his ninth to that list.
Final result: Diaz via technical knockout
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robbie Lawler
All Robbie Lawler needs is a small window of opportunity. He may not be the most technical of strikers, but if he lands with his power, it’s usually lights out for his opponent.
Melvin Manhoef was brutalizing him with kicks before he tasted that power and went to sleep. Old man Matt Lindland felt it. Scott Smith knows about it. And those are just a few examples of his recent greatest hits.
“Ruthless,” however, is a “knockout or bust” type of fighter. It doesn’t happen often, but when he doesn’t get off with that power, sometimes he ends up losing decisions or getting submitted to ground fighters like “Babalu” Sobral or Jake Shields.
So a super crafty jiu-jitsu technician like “Jacare” is definitely going to try and use that to his advantage in this fight.
Souza — the Strikeforce middleweight champion — can hold his own on his feet, too, but standing with Lawler is like playing with matches near an open can of gasoline. It usually ends badly.
Souza knows this, and I expect him to try and take the challenger out of his comfort zone and into his own world of domination on the mat. If he can successfully take this fight to the ground, which I believe he can, then I think he’ll come away with some type of submission victory.
However, if Lawler’s takedown defense holds up, this could be a short and painful night for the Brazilian.
I like “Jacare’s” athleticism to be the difference maker in that key aspect of this fight. He’ll get it to the floor and then show the reason he’s the champion from there.
Final result: “Jacare” via submission
Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson
Herschel Walker is nearing 50 years old, but he says he’s in the best shape of his life — as confident as ever. The former Heisman Trophy winner pounded his way to victory in his debut fight last year against Greg Nagy.
If you’re wondering who that is, so am I.
I don’t know much about Scott Carson, either, but his resume seems to be a bit more impressive. His four wins, however, came more than nine years ago against opponents who currently have a combined record of 1-8. And his only loss, which came in his most recent start last summer, was a first round knockout to an undefeated (7-0) Lorenz Larkin.
He’s no spring chicken, either, at 40 years old.
Walker is a freak of nature kind of athlete, and he’s been training with one of the top camps in the world for a while now at American Kickboxing Academy. He deserves a ton of credit for just being able to compete as a professional athlete at his age. But if he wants to prove that he’s more than just a gimmick fighter for Strikeforce, then he’s going to have to get in there with some better competition, especially if he’s going to be on the main card.
For now, though, he’s not much more than a recognizable name that serves as good filler talent for Strikeforce to get a cheap fight in on these cards every now and then and draw some extra curious viewers. They’re not putting him in any real danger, while they can still use him.
He’ll win this fight with ground and pound unless he gets caught with some type of submission.
Final result: Herschel Walker via technical knockout
Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley
As most would expect, Gracie’s stand up game isn’t anything special. But he’s lengthy, and he does a decent job using his jab to avoid danger on his feet.
On the ground, however, he’s basically unmatched in talent. He’s won several prestigious grappling tournaments around the world, and he is widely considered one of the top jiu-jitsu practitioners on the planet.
Prangley has a well-respected background in his own craft, as well. He’s a stud wrestler with a solid mixed martial arts resume filled with a bunch of submission victories of his own. He’d be a fool to get into a grappling match with Gracie, though.
His best chance to win is on his feet. He has solid power there and a lot more experience trading strikes than Gracie. But, he doesn’t seem to be all that comfortable in that area. He’s more of a ground and pound specialist, which leads me to believe he’s in trouble on Saturday night.
All three of Gracie’s pro MMA fights have been against guys with similar strengths to Prangley, and he has submitted each of them inside the first two rounds. I expect a similar result in this one.
Final result: Gracie via submission
Nick Diaz sucker punches Jason Mayhem Miller
Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz has found an opponent.
Diaz is now set to defend his title against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in the main event of Strikeforce’s January 29 event in San Jose, California after a matchup with rival Jason “Mayhem” Miller recently fell through for the Showtime-televised card.
A rubber match between Miller and fellow middleweight contender Tim Kennedy is now unlikely for the event, perhaps to cut down on post-fight shenanigans.
Diaz, now 23-7, easily stopped KJ Noons in October to defend the 170-pound title and avenge a loss from 2007. It was the Stockton fighter’s eighth-straight win.
Santos, now 18-13, scored a first-round knockout of Marius Zaromskis in his welterweight debut in June.
The Strikeforce fight card also features middleweight champ Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Robbie Lawler and Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson.