What we learned from the Strikeforce event on Saturday
Diaz is Unstoppable… in Strikeforce
Once again, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz added a tick to his win column, defending his 170-pound title with a second-round submission win over Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. In defeating Santos, Diaz continued to show that he is without competition competing under the Strikeforce banner.
The best Santos had was a puncher’s chance, and Diaz showed that chance wasn’t all that good by walking through some of the Brazilian’s best power shots early. From the midway point of the opening round, it was a typical Diaz fight, with the champion picking apart Santos and avoiding any real damage. When it went to the mat midway through the second round, you could sense the end was near, and it was.
Diaz is without question the top welterweight in the company and he’s head-and-shoulders above whoever they try to throw at him next. Paul Daley is a one-dimensional striker whose explosive power is rendered useless on the ground, and while Tyron Woodley is a talented, emerging prospect, he’s not quite ready to face a challenge like Diaz.
With friend and teammate Jake Shields no longer holding the middleweight title, perhaps it’s time for Diaz, a man who is always looking to challenge himself in new ways, to step back up the ladder and try his hands in the 185-pound ranks.
Talented? Yes. Top 5? Not So Much.
I’ll get into great detail on this one elsewhere on Heavy MMA, but here’s the quick version: Nick Diaz is not a Top 5 welterweight.
Please go read my full-length editorial for the complete breakdown.
“Jacare” Continues to Develop
Despite being the Strikeforce middleweight champion, Ronaldo Souza is still a work-in-progress inside the cage, and he took another step forward Saturday night in San Jose.
Robbie Lawler was the most powerful striker that Souza has faced to date, a guy who has made a living delivering highlight reel finishes with his fist. “Jacare” tasted that power in the opening round, and while he clearly rocked and wobbled by Lawler’s onslaught, surviving the scare is another step forward in the development of the 185-pound champion.
Part of Souza’s ability to survive should be credited to Lawler, who made the mistake of following “Jacare” to the ground when he was dazed; with Lawler in his guard, Souza was able to close up and recover, riding out the closing stages of the round safely on the ground. That being said, the Brazilian bounced back well between rounds and dominated the action from that point forward, keeping Lawler with his back pressed into the canvas the rest of the way. Instead of simply being happy with positional control and time to fish for submissions, Souza showed improved offence on the ground as well, laying down strikes on a prone Lawler for most of the second round.
By the time they hit the floor in the third, Lawler was already beaten and gave up his back. Souza acted quickly and precisely, sinking in a rear naked choke and earning the victory. While it will look like just another win on his resume, this was a chance for “Jacare” to continue his development as a mixed martial artist, and that is exactly what he did.
Heavy MMA editor-in-chief Matt Brown has long discussed his belief that Strikeforce doesn’t need titles, insisting they would be better off doing away with the gold, telling fans they’re in the business of making fun, entertaining fights and proceeding down that road. Saturday night showed that his blueprint might be the best course of action for the company.
Neither Lawler or Cyborg should have been fighting for a championship belt; they’re both powerful strikers who have ended fights with one blow, but neither had done enough to truly merit an opportunity to win gold. That being said, both helped deliver highly-entertaining bouts, which is why they were fighting in the first place. If you’re willing to risk putting your championship around the waist of a somewhat undeserving contender, why bother having the belts in the first place?
These were two entertaining fights and really the only options available in the welterweight and middleweight divisions, a point that highlights the fact that Strikeforce simply doesn’t have the depth of talent to allow fighters to earn their way into title contention. Right now, they’re relying on the few marketable names they have and doing the best with what they have, and it has been working well as of late, but that’s no guarantee that it will keep proving successful.
Instead of trying to pump up a one-dimensional Lawler coming off a special delivery destruction of Matt Lindland or awarding your female superstar’s husband a crack at championship gold after one fight at welterweight, why not just scrap the belts and keep making fun fights? That’s what Strikeforce has really been doing all along, so why not just make it official?
The Herschel Walker Dilemma
Legendary football star-turned-MMA neophyte Herschel Walker turned in an impressive performance on Saturday night, sending Scott Carson to the canvas early and pounding his way to a first-round stoppage victory.
The win leaves Walker at an interesting crossroads.
If he continues to compete, a decision he leaves in the hands of the team at AKA, a step up in competition is mandatory. He can no longer fight guys who have been on the sidelines selling insurance for five or six years; active, somewhat successful regional fighters are a must from here on out. Additionally, the novelty of Walker taking to the cage has already started to wear off, as far fewer outlets covered his second fight than did his debut.
But the decision to continue competing isn’t a sure thing, either. Walker has said that he knows his time competing is limited and that he wants to embrace an ambassador role moving forward, so perhaps that time is now? He’s gained first-hand experience competing and training, and remains a well-respected figure in the sports community as a whole, so the timing to continue his campaigning for MMA outside of the cage might be upon us.