Strikeforce is back ladies and gentlemen! After a long hiatus, during which they acquired EliteXC, Strikeforce is back and better than ever!
Strikeforce returns after six months on the shelf to their roots in San Jose.
This card marks the return of Frank Shamrock who was last seen getting his arm broken and losing his MW belt to Cung Le back in March of '08. Shamrock returns after a year to take on MMA bad boy and local product Nick Diaz.
Diaz came over as part of the EliteXC deal and hasn't fought since July of last year. Both guys are looking forward to fighting again and these guys hate each other so it should be an entertaining match.
Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson was supposed to fight Gilbert Melendez in a rematch. Unfortuantely, Thomson was forced out with an injured ankle. Melendez will still fight for an interim title but it's a very unfortunate turn of events for a co-main event that could easily rival anything the other major promotions are putting out.
Let's break down the major fights on this card:
Brett Rogers v. Ron Humphrey: Rogers is 8-0, making his Strikeforce debut, with all eight wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some wrestling. Humphrey is 5-0, also making his Strikeforce debut, with all five wins by TKO. He is a striker.
Humphrey is giving up over 20lbs to Rogers and Rogers has fought on big cards before. Rogers came over in the EliteXC deal where he was the only legitimate prospect they had at HW besides "Big Foot" Silva. I don't see Humphrey pulling the upset here. I'll pick Rogers to end Humphrey's undefeated streak with a win by TKO in the first round.
Scott Smith v. Benji Radach: Smith is 14-5, 1-0 in Strikeforce, with 13 wins by stoppage. He is a striker. Radach is 19-4, making his Strikeforce debut, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is also a striker.
Both guys come over from EliteXC looking to make a name for themselves at middleweight. This should be an incredibly entertaining fight since both guys love to stand and bang.
This is a very tough fight to call. However, I'm going to pick Radach to win by TKO in the second round.
Cristiane Santos v. Hitomi Akano: Santos is 6-1, making her Strikeforce debut, with four wins by KO. She is a muay thai fighter with some BJJ. Akano is 14-5, also making her Strikeforce debut, with 11 wins by submission. She is a submission fighter.
Santos comes over as part of the EliteXC deal. This will be an interesting clash of styles. If Akano can get this fight to the mat she has a chance. But I just don't see it happening.
"Cyborg" Santos is the most imposing woman I've ever seen. I think she'll keep the fight standing and pound on Akano for a decision victory. Akano is a tough girl so hopefully she can hang in there and we can see Cyborg tested.
Gilbert Melendez v. Rodrigo Damm: Melendez is 14-2, 4-1 in Strikeforce, with eight wins by stoppage. He is a submission wrestler with great stand up. Damm is 8-2, making his Strikeforce debut, with seven wins by stoppage. He is a BJJ fighter.
I don't think Melendez should have much of a problem here. Damm is tough but he's never faced anyone like Melendez, let alone in a five round fight. I'm picking Melendez to win by TKO in the third round.
This win gives him the interim LW title and keeps his seat warm for whenever Thomson returns from his injury.
Frank Shamrock v. Nick Diaz: Shamrock is 23-9-1, 2-1 in Strikeforce, with 17 wins by stoppage. He is submission wrestler and kick boxer. Diaz is 19-7, making his Strikeforce debut, with 15 wins by stoppage. He is BJJ fighter with great boxing.
Both these guys fought under the EliteXC umbrella at one point but are now facing each other at Strikeforce. They are both uber talented fighters and it is tough to find an edge for either guys outside of Diaz's youth.
However, I am absolutely not writing Shamrock off due to his age. His experience is one reason to pick him.
Personally I think the fight comes down to who can impose their will in this fight. In my opinion I see Frank controlling where the fight takes place and using some wily veteran tactics to frustrate the hot headed Diaz. I'm picking Shamrock to win this fight by decision.
This should be a very interesting night folks. There is a good card on tap and it will be interesting to see how Strikeforce does on their first televised card since getting EliteXC's Showtime deal in the acquisition.
Stay tuned for my Strikeforce review, TUF 9 episode three recap, and my UFC 97 preview. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...