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Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Diaz review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 27, 2009, 7:05 AM

Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Diaz

San Jose, California

-When ProElite/Elite XC crashed in late 2008 thanks to some idiotic business moves as well as the bizarre Kimbo Slice/Seth Petruzelli situation, it was only a matter of time before someone stepped in to pick up the pieces, and sure enough in early 2009 selected assets and fighter contracts were brought out. The big surprise, to me at least, was that it wasn’t Zuffa who made the swoop. Instead the California-based Strike Force made the move, stepping up from their role as a solid regional promotion to the national stage. With the purchase came the contracts of most of the bigger-name fighters from EXC (save for Kimbo Slice, who moved to the UFC via TUF) as well as the Showtime slot and the possibility of the CBS deal. Honestly I would’ve preferred Zuffa to step in as it would’ve meant more of the world’s best fighters under one promotional umbrella (which is what we all want, really) and the possibility of the UFC on network TV, but hey, Strike Force uses a cage, doesn’t have the sleazy feeling that EXC and Gary Shaw used to give off, and is generally the second-best US MMA promotion, so if someone non-Zuffa had to step in then I’m glad it was them. This was the first show in the new era for Strike Force on Showtime, with a main event featuring their biggest star in Frank Shamrock.

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Pat Miletich. Production is pretty much identical to an Elite XC show, which is unsurprising as I guess Showtime would be in charge of that sort of stuff. Camera pans around ringside and shows the likes of Gina Carano, Tito Ortiz, Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Renato Babalu, Cung Le, Jake Shields and Robbie Lawler watching. Miletich mentions that the Strike Force/Showtime deal is the “biggest thing to happen to MMA in ten years”. Don’t know if Pat was taking hard drugs prior to the show or what. I mean sure, put the company over strong but don’t be totally ridiculous, dude. I can think of about ten things off the top of my head that were more important to MMA in the last decade.

-They play a video showing the various banned techniques under Strike Force rules (the unified rules with elbows also removed). I was cracking up at this simply because stuff like small joint manipulation is never seen in MMA anyway and yet here it is in this video, some unknown dude twisting the fingers of another unknown dude. Hilarious stuff.

Heavyweight Fight: Brett Rogers vs Ron Humphrey

Heavyweight Rogers had come in from the wreckage of EXC where he’d been making a name for himself by knocking out all of his opponents, although at this point he hadn’t really been tested by a top-level talent. Humphrey meanwhile, better known by his nickname of ‘Abongo’ is a guy I’ve never heard of, but he physically looks a bit like UFC veteran Kevin Jordan, a big muscular guy with long dreadlocks, and he was coming in with a 5-0 record.

We begin with some feeler strikes, including Abongo throwing some odd wheel kicks coming off the cage. They clinch up for a moment before Abongo breaks and hits a high kick. Rogers tries to close the distance, but takes a couple of low kicks before they clinch up and Abongo muscles Brett into the cage. Abongo tries to get him down, but Rogers stuffs the takedown nicely and then begins to rough him up in the clinch. Abongo breaks off and begins to circle out again, before Rogers hits a powerful combo. Abongo muscles him into the fence again and takes some body shots, then delivers some heavy knees to the midsection. For big guys this is a really heavy pace to be setting. Action continues with both men landing shots from inside the clinch, and then Rogers breaks off with a knee to the face. BIG right hand wobbles Abongo and he tries to clinch as Rogers forces him backwards, and now Brett grabs his dreadlocks to hold a plum clinch for a pair of knees, getting a warning from referee Herb Dean for it. Ha, I guess Dean can sympathise with his similar haircut. Good body shot from Abongo on the restart, but Rogers grabs the dreads again to deliver an uppercut and Dean calls time. One more warning and he’ll take a point he says. They restart and Abongo tries a spinning kick again as Rogers looks to clinch, but sure enough Brett grabs the dreads a third time to deliver a knee. It’s another time out and surely a point this time. Indeed Brett Rogers is deducted a point for hair-pulling. Crowd are not liking this at all. Well, it is a dirty tactic. Less than a minute to go and they clinch again and Rogers muscles him into the fence, but he looks wary of using the plum clinch now and goes back to dirty boxing, landing some good uppercuts to close the round. Well, normally that’s a 10-9 for Brett Rogers, but with the point deduction it’s a 9-9 round.

Second round and Rogers charges right into the clinch again. They exchange some knees and then Rogers blocks a takedown and breaks off with a big knee. Good combo from Rogers and he really works Abongo over from close range with uppercuts and knees. Abongo looks in trouble and ends up with his back to the cage with Rogers landing more heavy blows. BRUTAL knees and uppercuts land for Rogers but somehow Abongo’s still standing. Finally he looks out on his feet and then falls to the ground, and Herb Dean calls it there.

Solid win for Rogers who looked really good in the clinch and clearly hits like a truck. I worry about him if he’s taken into deep water as he doesn’t look in great shape to me; I think he could afford to drop at least fifteen pounds which would only take him to about 250lbs and would mean he still wouldn’t give up size, and I think he looks a little sloppy when compared to other HWs like Cain Velasquez for instance, but he’s clearly a threat to anyone in the division thanks to his punching power.

-Post-fight the announcers run through the official stats from the fight, like the amount of strikes thrown and landed and what-not. Really good touch that the UFC could rip off, although with a fight going to a controversial decision I guess it could cause more harm than good!

Women’s Fight: Cristiane Cyborg vs Hitomi Akano

‘Cyborg’ was one of the fastest-rising stars in EXC and seemed to be on a collision course with the top women’s star Gina Carano before the promotion went under, and the fact that she’d signed with Strike Force was a massive coup as it was expected that Carano (along with Kimbo, the hottest free agent from EXC) would probably follow her as the Carano-Cyborg fight was the obvious money draw. At this point Gina hadn’t signed though so Cyborg was faced with Japanese veteran Akano instead. Announcers mention that Cyborg missed weight for this fight by five pounds, and so they had to come to some sort of agreement for Akano to fight. I can appreciate that it might be harder for the women to make weight, but hey, if you can’t make a weight then don’t fight in the weight class, simple as.

Round One and Akano lands a low kick but gets tagged by a quick combo right away. She tries to clinch but Cyborg’s swinging for the fences here. Cyborg throws Akano into the fence and then continues to ragdoll her and punch away. Suplex takedown from Cyborg tosses Akano onto her back, but she manages to get to full guard. Punches land for Cyborg from the top and it looks like she’s too big and powerful for the Japanese fighter. Akano manages to land an upkick and then Cyborg brings it back to standing. Akano tries a kick, but Cyborg catches it and lands punches before throwing her down again. Akano comes back up but gets dropped again as she comes forward, but this time Cyborg won’t go to the ground and calls her back up. Another flurry from Cyborg ends the round. This isn’t looking good at all for Akano.

Second round and Cyborg stalks forward and lands some more strikes. Akano tries a takedown but it’s easily stuffed and the Brazilian refuses to go to the ground. Cyborg continues to stalk her and lands punches and kicks at will. Akano is still in this fight but I don’t see what she can do here really. Big knee lands for Cyborg from the clinch. Akano tries a flying armbar, but she can’t lock it up and Cyborg escapes into the guard. Big punches from the top land for Cyborg but Akano is tough and she’s hanging in there. Seconds remaining and Cyborg’s passed the guard and she’s landing some unanswered shots, but the buzzer goes before she can really finish. This has been a one-sided beating so far.

We’re into the third and final round now and Cyborg pushes forward and refuses to go to the ground as Akano drops to her back. Akano comes back up and they trade strikes, but Cyborg lands a big right and then a wild, vicious flurry puts the Japanese fighter away. Big pop from the crowd for the finish too.

Well, I’ll be honest – women’s fighting still doesn’t do much for me and this wasn’t even good to watch as the size difference was ludicrous – like Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida or something – and really the Athletic Commissions probably shouldn’t allow these fights to go ahead if you miss weight by five pounds. Realistically Akano never stood a chance here.

Post-fight Cyborg promises she won’t miss weight again, blaming women’s problems, and then they talk about the possible Carano fight with Cyborg pretty much calling her out. Well, that had to be expected I guess.

Middleweight Fight: Scott Smith vs Benji Radach

Radach had made a surprising comeback in 2007 after a few years on the shelf and had compiled a 6-1 record since then, including an impressive knockout of Murilo Ninja on the final EXC show. Smith meanwhile had continued on the path he’d pretty much always been on since his WEC days, playing the role of the explosive brawler who has limited skills but is nearly always in an exciting fight. With both men enjoying a good brawl I was expecting fireworks from this one. Tale of the tape tells us Radach’s style is ‘Facesmashing-fu’’. Ha, that’s up there with Josh Burkman’s ‘American Who-Hit-You’, but not quite as silly as the moronic Jeremy May’s ‘Jeremy-Jitsu’.

We begin and they exchange some jabs before Radach throws an overhand right that glances. These guys are swinging early, but neither man has landed cleanly yet. Good low kick lands for Smith. Left hook from Radach and then he lands a right to counter a low kick. Right hand from Smith hurts Radach and puts him on the retreat, but Benji comes back with a left hook as Smith charges in. Smith’s bleeding from his mouth now as they exchange some punches. Combo from Radach and then a wild exchange follows, with Smith dropping him face-first! Radach pops back up and now they’re just trading blows, and just as it looks like Smith’s got the advantage, he walks into a big left hook that puts him down! Radach closes in looking to finish and lands punches, but Smith covers up and survives. Another big left hook staggers Smith but he’s still in this fight. Double leg from Radach and he dumps Smith to the ground, landing in full guard. Hard punches from the top land for Radach and that’s enough to give him the round on my scorecard, 10-9. Great round.

Into the 2nd and Smith comes out swinging and hurts Radach again! Benji clinches and forces him into the cage, and they muscle for position along the fence. They break off and Radach lands a couple of jabs, snapping Smith’s head back, and then a left hook seems to put Smith out on his feet! It’s a delayed reaction but he’s in big trouble as Radach closes in and lands a right that causes him to drop desperately for a takedown, but Radach stuffs it and nails him with another combo, hurting Smith bad. Smith drops for another takedown but gets caught in a guillotine, and they go to the mat with Radach trying to sweep to top position. He lets go of the guillotine and ends up in a sprawl position to avoid the takedown, and now the crowd get restless as Smith simply pushes him into the fence. Ref calls the break and they restart with Radach landing some more punches from the outside. Smith looks pretty much done to me even if he’s going to survive the round. Buzzer sounds with Radach continuing to land. This is his fight thus far.

Third round and Radach continues to pick at Smith from the outside, using stepping in jabs. Smith comes back swinging though and this causes Radach to shoot for a takedown. Smith uses a guillotine attempt to block, but Radach lifts him up and SLAMS HIM ON HIS HEAD! Smith looks to quickly work to his feet as both men are bloody now. Radach blocks a takedown attempt from Smith and punches the body, then the ref calls the break and restarts them standing. Radach looks to get back to striking from the outside now but Smith is swinging for the fences. Head kick almost lands for Smith and he follows with a jab that has Radach backing up! They’re both throwing bombs now but a right hand slows Smith down and the advantage looks to be back with Radach. Jabs from Radach but suddenly a BIG RIGHT HAND from Smith KNOCKS HIM DEAD!~!

WOW. Hell of a brawl there. Radach looked to be on his way to winning a decision as he got knockdowns in both the first and second rounds and really had Smith hurt at a few points, but he just couldn’t seem to put Smith away and with a guy like Smith who carries such power, you’re always playing with fire until you get the dude out of there. Like his fights with Pete Sell and Kyle Noke, this was another example of how you can’t ever count Smith out thanks to the equalizer that is his big right hand. Sickening knockout to end a great fight.

Post-fight Smith pulls a Mark Coleman and celebrates with his kids; thankfully he doesn’t seem anywhere near as punch-drunk as Coleman though.

Strike Force Interim Lightweight Title: Gilbert Melendez vs Rodrigo Damm

Originally this would’ve seen a rematch between Melendez and Lightweight champion Josh Thomson for the proper title, but Josh injured his leg in training and so an Interim Title fight was set up instead with Melendez facing Brazilian fighter Damm, who had seen some success in the now-defunct BodogFight promotion but had more recently been fighting in Japan’s Sengoku. From what I recall it was pretty short notice for Damm too, like a week or two. I always liked Damm in his Bodog days, but really I expected Melendez to roll right through him, particularly as he was a late replacement.

First round begins and Damm circles on the outside as Melendez looks like he wants to strike. Low kick from Damm but Melendez counters with a right that drops him to his back. Gilbert follows him down into the guard and avoids a triangle choke, delivering some shoulder strikes inside the guard. Few nice punches land in the guard for Gilbert as Damm looks like he’s setting up for an oma plata, but he’s pinned against the cage. Melendez’s ground-and-pound is looking excellent here. Massive right hand lands for Gilbert and Damm’s face is looking badly marked up now. Damm is taking quite the beating in this round. Seconds to go and Melendez lands some more brutal shots. I’d be tempted to call that a 10-8 round even, it was so one-sided and Melendez landed so many punches.

2nd round and they circle before Melendez shoots on a double leg. Good sprawl from Damm and he avoids going to the ground, surprising considering the pre-fight talk had Damm wanting to go down. Gilbert shoots again and gets him down this time, almost taking the back, but the Brazilian manages to slip free and escape to his feet. Damm looks tired now though and he’s circling into the right hand of Melendez which is his power shot. Couple of overhand rights almost catch Damm and then Gilbert lands a stiff left too. Low kick lands for Damm. He keeps circling into the right though and Gilbert lands with a CRUSHING SHOT that drops the Brazilian like a corpse. Ref is slow to stop things and Melendez lands some more punches for good measure. Brutal stuff.

Damm tried, but he was obviously out of his depth taking the fight on such short notice and Melendez for my money is one of the best fighters on the planet at 155lbs, particularly when he comes in on form like this. Finish was really vicious, reminiscent of Michael Bisping’s downfall at the hands of Dan Henderson in fact (yeah yeah, I know this one happened first!). I am anxiously awaiting the Thomson-Melendez rematch as they’re two of my favourite guys to watch at 155lbs.

-Cung Le joins Mauro to talk about his slot in the movie ‘Fighting’ with Channing Tatum. Still haven’t seen that one yet. Cung says he’s not sure which he enjoys more, fighting or acting.

Catchweight (180lbs) Fight: Frank Shamrock vs Nick Diaz

Normally I’m not a big fan of Catchweight fights, but I think anyone would admit this one was cool simply for the fact that both guys love to talk trash to build up a fight and this was no exception, with Shamrock telling Diaz he was bad for the sport and he’d knock his head into the second row, and Diaz saying that Shamrock had a “little guy complex” and flipping him off at the press conference. Add in the whole Gracie-Shamrock rivalry (Frank KOd Diaz’s mentor Cesar Gracie in 2006, remember) and this was a pretty awesome fight on paper. I genuinely had no idea who would take this one as despite Shamrock looking banged up in his last two fights against Phil Baroni and Cung Le – not to mention he’d had quite a layoff after the Le fight – he was physically around the same size as Nick and I thought his all-round skillset could stand up to Diaz’s.

First round begins and they exchange some low kicks as Diaz has his hands customarily low, taunting Shamrock already. Shamrock tries a low kick but Diaz catches it and gets a takedown to guard. Frank tries to scramble to his feet, but Diaz slips out of the guard and gets top position with Shamrock having a weak half-guard. Side mount for Diaz now and he’s in firm control. Far-side kimura attempt from Diaz but Frank slips free and stands, landing some punches as Nick joins him on the feet. Couple of low kicks from Shamrock as Diaz looks to use his reach to land his usual combinations. Diaz continues to taunt him and takes a right hand on the jaw from Shamrock to little effect. Low kick from Frank is caught again and Diaz quickly passes into side mount, where he lands some shots. Full mount for Diaz and he lands some punches as Shamrock looks to be in trouble! Frank manages to hold on though and the round ends there. Round One goes firmly to Nick Diaz.

Second round and Diaz lands a swift combo as Shamrock steps forward. Diaz is beginning to land now. Crowd are now chanting for Diaz after booing him in his ring introduction. Shamrock is trying to get inside, but it’s not really working and he’s getting outlanded. Right hook to the body looks to have Frank hurt and he’s on his back foot now. He looks tired to me as well. Diaz continues to land with shots from the outside as Shamrock attempts a looping right that glances off Nick’s head. Diaz continues to pepper Frank with combinations and Shamrock is looking hurt now. Diaz backs him into the fence and begins to land some clean punches to the head, and Shamrock begins to cover up as his face is bloody as hell. Diaz keeps on landing and finally a CRUSHING LEFT HOOK TO THE BODY drops the legend and Diaz pounds on him for the stoppage.

Post-fight Diaz shows a ton of respect and helps Frank to his feet before raising his arm, really classy considering the trash talk they exchanged coming in. Stats show that Diaz threw 297 punches, which is insane considering the fight went one and a half rounds.

Fantastic win for Diaz, as he just outworked Shamrock in all aspects of the fight, particularly standing where Frank just couldn’t find a way to combat the reach of the younger man. Diaz just peppered him with so many punches and despite not having one-hit KO power, his punches come in huge combinations and take their toll, and the shot to the body that finished him was especially vicious. For Shamrock I think it’s probably time to hang it up, as while he’s still got the skills I don’t think his body has the explosiveness any more to compete with the top fighters in the world. Though fights with other legends could be alright for him I guess. As for Diaz he remains one of the best fighters in the world to watch, although I wish he’d find his way back into the UFC’s Welterweight division to face the likes of Condit, Hardy, Fitch, Koscheck et al. Very good main event.

-Announcers wrap up the night and plug the next Strike Force show, and we end with highlights.

Final Thoughts....

I thought this was a really good show overall, with no bad fights and only Cyborg-Akano leaving a bad taste due to the size difference. There were no outright classics or anything and it wasn’t a flawless show, but all of the fights ended in exciting fashion, particularly Smith-Radach which was a hugely exciting fight throughout, and overall I think Strike Force put on the best product outside of the Zuffa umbrella by far. This was similar to an Elite XC show, but most of the problems with EXC (the push of Kimbo Slice, just the generally sleazy feeling of that promotion) were gone and so we ended up with a well-produced, solid MMA show. A great way for Strike Force to start their ‘new era’. Thumbs up.

Best Fight: Smith-Radach
Worst Fight: Cyborg-Akano

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 101-106, Fight Night 19
WEC: 44
Affliction: Banned and Day Of Reckoning
Strike Force: Shields vs. Lawler, Carano vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Rogers
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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