Everything went as planned for Strikeforce last night as they rang in the new year with a bang from Miami. Nick Diaz snatched the welterweight title while Cris "Cyborg" Santos proved once again why she might be the Fedor of women's MMA. Bobby Lashley and Herschel Walker both had successful debuts and Robbie Lawler has a candidate for comeback of the year and it's not even February!
Let's break down the card:
Nick Diaz v. Marius Zaromskis:
I figured Diaz was too arrogant to go to the ground but I also knew he was too good to need to do that. Zaromskis shot out like a cannon which could've taken some fighters out of their game but not the grizzled veteran Diaz. Diaz calmly deflected most of Zaromskis' power shots while accumulating punishment on his opponent.
Diaz's reach was a big hurdle for Zaromskis as he ate shots every time he tried to come in on Diaz. Diaz eventually finished off Zaromskis (though much quicker than I anticipated) with a TKO in the first round.
Diaz is now the welterweight champion and I truly believe this is his best weight class even though he's been successful recently at (or around) middleweight. His next opponent should be Jay Hieron but Diaz is obviously ducking him so it will be interesting to see who Strikeforce can get Diaz to fight.
Cris "Cyborg" Santos v. Marloes Coenen:
Coenen surprisingly came out and took the fight to Cyborg. However, that strategy didn't last long as soon as she realized how strong and tough Cyborg was. Cyborg weathered the early storm and eventually fell into her game of power strikes and ground and pound.
Coenen did her best to get the fight to the mat but just took a beating the whole time she was there. Cyborg showed surprisingly good top control and submission defense after her struggles with Gina Carano (who is no Coenen on the ground). Cyborg had finally shown the ref enough winning via TKO in the third round.
While this wasn't the "car wreck" I had anticipated it wasn't a glowing moment for Cyborg. Though she showed improvement in her ground game I thought her striking was too wild and her air of invincibility was shaken a bit when Coenen came out and really took it to Cyborg in the first few minutes.
The question now becomes can Strikeforce find a woman as physically gifted as Cyborg? If so, Santos is far from invincible after what I saw last night. She just needs to fight a woman her own size. Strikeforce is pushing Erin Toughill. It's yet to be seen if she can do any better.
Herschel Walker v. Greg Nagy:
First of all, N-a-g-y is not pronounced "Nudge" I don't care what part of the world you come from so that's an automatic downgrade for Nagy. On top of that he let a 47 year old walk all over him for essentially 15 minutes and barely even fought back. I had a feeling Strikeforce would give Walker a tomato can but I didn't think it would be this bad.
It was apparent from the opening bell how stiff, old, and green Walker was. However, he also did not look 47, was very aggressive, and showed much better grappling than I expected so props to American Kickboxing Academy for that.
Walker came away with a nice third round TKO victory. Whether or not he ever fights again, I don't know. But whether he does or not this was a great accomplishment for an athlete of his age no matter who he fought.
Melvin Manhoef v. Robbie Lawler:
I thought we had seen it all with Scott Smith's series of fights in Strikeforce. However, I think there's a new "comeback kid" in town. Melvin Manhoef man handled Lawler from the opening bell. He blasted Lawler with leg kicks and body shots to the point where Lawler was visibly limping and grimacing every time Manhoef made him move.
But the beauty (unless you're Manhoef) of this sport lies in the unique ability for one punch knockouts to happen at any given moment. Lawler might've been down but with his boxing and heavy hands he's never out. As Manhoef moved in for the kill he dropped his hands and Lawler capitalized with a devastating over hand right that laid Manhoef out before Lawler KO'd him on the mat.
My prediction for this fight was on target up until the last five seconds of the fight. Manhoef was clearly the better striker but he made one mistake and paid for it dearly as Lawler got the KO victory in the first round. Manhoef deserves another shot in Strikeforce but I hope to see Lawler get a shot at the winner of Shields v. Henderson.
Bobby Lashley v. Wes Sims:
Lashley came out and took care of business like he was supposed to. I was a little disappointed because we didn't get to see his stand up, though I don't blame him with Sims' reach advantage. However, Lashley did show us his tremendous wrestling and ground and pound winning via TKO in the first round.
Lashley reminds me of exactly what Brock Lesnar looked like at this stage in his career. If Lashley can improve in his stand up and submission defense as quickly as Lesnar has you could have another monster at Heavyweight in Strikeforce. I know Lashley isn't looking for the big fight yet but I'm really hoping that in his next two or three fights we see him against a real challenger like a "Big Foot" Silva or a Brett Rogers before getting his shot at a Fedor or Overeem.
On a complete side note, I can't stand Wes Sims because he's more of a professional wrestler than an MMA fighter. However, when he held up his hand for a WWE "feats of strength" showdown I couldn't help but chuckle due to vast amount of irony.
Jay Hieron v. Joe Riggs:
Hieron took care of business as expected earning a unanimous decision victory. I hope Strikeforce gives Hieron a longer look at getting him on their main cards in the future. He should have the next title shot but it's obvious Diaz is ducking him.
As for Riggs he does not seem long for the world of Strikeforce. He used to be a Strikeforce mainstay but they've bolstered the roster so thoroughly that even their weakest division looks too strong for him.