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Strike Force: Lawler vs. Shields review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on December 15, 2009, 3:03 AM

Strike Force: Lawler vs. Shields

St. Louis, Missouri

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Frank Shamrock and Mauro Renallo. They discuss the Catchweight fights at the top of the card, with Shamrock saying they donít affect titles or rankings. Makes them seem sort of pointless if Iím honest! Renallo goes on to explain how Brett Rogers was supposed to fight Alistair Overeem for the Heavyweight Title, but Alistair injured his hand and so Andrei Arlovskiís stepped in instead. I believe Strike Force loaned Arlovski from Affliction for this one if I recall correctly.

-On a side note Iím surprised, with their goal to go to every state in the US, that the UFC havenít made the trip to St. Louis yet. Crowd seems pretty hot for this and everything.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Mike Whitehead vs Kevin Randleman

This was Randlemanís comeback to the big time following a horrible layoff after a nasty staph infection and kidney problems following the awful issue with him submitting false urine after his PRIDE fight with Mauricio Rua back in 2006. Whitehead meanwhile had beaten a lesser opponent to bounce back from his loss to Renato Babalu at Affliction: Banned, and this was another opportunity for him to add a ďnameĒ win to his record. Interesting staredown as Whitehead looks far larger than the Monster.

Round One begins and Whitehead fires off a few leg kicks to begin. Head kick misses and Randleman gets a bodylock and drags him down. Heís got Whiteheadís back, but Mike works back to his feet and takes a couple of shots on the way. They break off and Whitehead clinches and lands a knee to the gut. Whitehead forces him into the cage, and gets a takedown, pinning Randleman into the fence. Whitehead looks to take the back, but Randleman elevates him off and gets back to his feet. Couple of strikes from Whitehead and he shoots on a double leg and gets it, but Randleman hits a reversal on the way down and escapes to his feet. Left hook from Whitehead though and he gets another takedown into half-guard this time. Randlemanís breathing heavily already as Whitehead chops at the body with the right hand. He looks to pass, but Randleman quickly explodes to his feet. Right hand-leg kick combo lands for Whitehead. Randleman looks gassed. Uppercut lands for Whitehead. Another combo from Whitehead and he forces Randleman into the fence again. He looks for the takedown and gets it, landing in half-guard again. Whitehead tries to go for the full mount, but Randleman blocks it and the round ends there. Easy round to score, 10-9 Whitehead, as Randleman did little more than hit a couple of reversals really.

Into Round Two and Whitehead lands a right hand and then gets a double leg to half-guard. Canít believe Whiteheadís taking Randleman down so easily. Crowd begin to get restless now as Whitehead does very little from the top position. He does manage to pass into side mount, though. It looks like Whiteheadís going for the Hughes crucifix, but heís not landing any strikes at all here. Crowd are openly booing now. Full mount for Whitehead but even from there he canít do much as Randleman holds on. Escape from Randleman and he pops to his feet, landing an uppercut from the clinch. Both men look tired to me now. Awful striking exchange follows to end the round. Good God was that bad. Whiteheadís round again though.

Third and final round and Randleman comes out with a bit more urgency, landing a huge overhand right that staggers Whitehead. Looked like it landed to the temple. Straight right from Whitehead to answer and he begins to land more punches again, despite Randleman pushing the action. Suddenly though a MASSIVE LEFT HOOK drops Whitehead and Randleman pounces and lands some shots! Whitehead manages to scramble to his feet, and somehow he looks recovered pretty quickly and backs Randleman up. Clinch from Whitehead but nothing happens and they break off. Weak combo from Whitehead lands but does little damage. These guys are exhausted. Double leg from Whitehead and I doubt Randleman gets up now as thereís less than two minutes remaining. Half-guard from Randleman as Whitehead works for a kimura, and then he gives it up and looks content to grind Randleman out. Escape from Randleman allows him back to his feet, but Whitehead lands a right hook flush. Exchange of punches ends the fight.

Judges all score it 29-28 for Mike Whitehead, no surprise. Fight was atrocious though Ė Whitehead did very little when he took Randleman down and outside of Randlemanís third round haymaker the striking exchanges were largely awful too. This fight should serve as a warning to up-and-coming promotions like Strike Force not to book past-their-prime guys like Randleman (unless like Frank Shamrock, they can sell a fight) and especially mid-level pseudo-ďnameĒ fighters like Whitehead who bring little outside of a big pay packet. I mean letís be fair, and normally I donít like to criticise guys like this, but Whiteheadís never been a really exciting fighter, heís never really beaten a top-level guy, and heís not a big draw, so why would you showcase him on a big show like this?

Welterweight Fight: Joe Riggs vs Phil Baroni

Ha, I remember being pretty pumped for this fight when it was rumoured for UFC 51 back in 2005, and to be honest, as much as this sounds sad, I was still pumped when it was announced here as Iíll always have a soft spot for Baroni as he was one of my favourites when I first started watching MMA. He was actually unbeaten since dropping to 170lbs, and while Riggs was by far his toughest test thus far at this weight, Diesel hadnít really looked the same since a painkiller problem after a back injury in 2007. My pick here? Baroni by vicious knockout, same as my pick in all of the NYBAís fights!

Pre-fight Renallo mentions Riggs is still only 26. Thatís pretty insane given how experienced he is Ė this was his 40th fight - and how long heís seemingly been around at this point. Baroniís entrance is as dope as ever, strutting out with the customary shades and robe. Seriously, how can you not like this guy?

We begin and they circle before Baroni blocks a high kick. Takedown from Riggs and he gets top position as Baroni looks to get back to his feet. Riggs takes his back in a scramble and it looks like heís got the rear naked choke locked up, but Phil manages to avoid it and turns into mount. Good hip escape from Baroni gets a butterfly guard back, but Diesel lands a right and quickly passes from side control to back mount again. He goes back into half-guard as Baroni scrambles, but the NYBA works to the fence and posts up to his feet. Takedown from Riggs brings him back down, but Phil again gets back up. Riggs keeps looking for a single leg, but a reversal from Baroni allows him to steal top position in guard, where he lands a few punches. Ref brings them up for inactivity and Riggs lands a lunging left hand and looks for a single leg. Baroni tries to sprawl, but Riggs keeps pushing for it and takes a couple of elbows to the body as Phil defends. Baroni manages to take the back of Riggs on a reversal, and he finishes the round on top landing a few punches. That was a really difficult round to score actually. Iíd go with Riggs by a hair for the dominant positions he got early on.

2nd round and Riggs lands with a couple of solid kicks. Baroni looks to swing for the fences, but he canít land with a combo as Riggs is using his reach quite well. Superman punch lands for Riggs and he follows with a trip takedown. Baroni tries to get to his feet using the cage, but Riggs works into half-guard and lands a right as Phil stands. Takedown from Baroni though and Riggs winds up in full guard. Riggs quickly works to his feet and takes some punches getting off the fence, but he lands a right hand that seems to hurt Phil a bit. Combo from Riggs and he stuffs a takedown and lands a one-two and a BIG KNEE. Somehow Baroniís still standing, but Riggs unloads with a right hand and another knee before dropping for the takedown. Baroni manages to block and drops for his own takedown, but Riggs blocks and breaks off. Big right from Riggs and Baroni drops for a takedown, but he looks gassed. Somehow he gets Riggs down though, but Diesel ends up getting a triangle from the bottom. Baroni looks in trouble, but guts it out and manages to escape into the guard. Round ends in Dieselís guard. Easily Riggsí round.

Third round and Riggs lands a couple of low kicks and a knee to the body that hurts Baroni. Another knee follows and a combo has Baroni covering up with his back to the fence. High kick and a spinning back kick follow for Riggs as Baroni misses a haymaker to answer. Straight left and flying knee land for Riggs. Riggs is just owning him now. Action slows a little as Riggs goes back to working kicks to the legs and body. Big knee lands for Riggs and he follows with a heavy left, but Baroni is tough as hell and heís still standing. Good counter right hand lands for Diesel as Baroni desperately tries to land something. Straight left into a knee from Riggs. Baroni looks exhausted now and heís hanging his hands. The NYBA tries to fire back but Riggs continues to unload on him. Tremendous heart from Baroni to even survive this. Takedown from Riggs ends the fight. This has to be Riggsí decision.

Judges score it 30-27, all for Joe Riggs. Entertaining fight for the most part even if it lacked a finish. Baroni though looks like a shot fighter to me as he never came close to really hurting Riggs, and in his mid-30ís now I wonder what more he has to offer. Sad really. Riggs though looked very good in all areas here and if he could ever find some consistency then heís definitely a contender at 170lbs.

-Mauro Renallo plugs the upcoming Gina Carano-Cyborg Santos match, and then interviews Strike Force Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez about their upcoming rematch on the same card. Of course it still hasnít happened and is now expected for December.

Catchweight (180lbs) Fight: Nick Diaz vs Scott Smith

Both of these fighters had put on impressive shows at the last Strike Force event; Diaz knocking off legend Frank Shamrock in the main event while Smith had come from behind (again) to KO the dangerous Benji Radach. While Smithís always exciting, I figured this was a gimme for Diaz pretty much, as he has the advantage in every area outside of one-hit KO power, and outside of Jeremy Jackson very early in his career, nobody had ever put Diaz down.

We begin and Smith looks ready to swing for the fences, but right away Diaz taunts him and then lands with a combo. They tie up and Diaz peppers him with punches inside before Smith forces him into the cage. They break off and Smith continues to swing, but Diaz sticks his chin out and heís countering nicely, landing cleaner punches as Smith comes in. Nice combos landing for Diaz and a left hook rocks Smith, who manages to grab a clinch against the cage. Crowd chanting for Diaz now. Referee breaks them off quickly and Smith lands with a pair of right hands, but he lunges a little too far and Diaz cracks him with a right hand that wobbles his legs. He manages to clinch to slow Diaz down a little, but Diaz works him over again and then breaks off. Diaz sticks his chin out and talks some trash, but a big right from Smith does no apparent damage. Nickís chin is like iron. Looks like heís cut somewhere though. Clinch from Smith again and the action slows a little before Smith manages to take Nickís back standing. Diaz looks for a kimura but gets suplexed down, but Smith decides to stand instead. Good combo from Smith but Diaz continues to taunt him and lands some more clean counters as Snith swings. Into the clinch again but Smith breaks and lands a jackhammer right. Diaz backs up smiling and then ends the round with a leg trip takedown. Great first round.

Second round and Diaz peppers him with punches from the outside before going into the clinch. They break quickly this time before clinching again and Smith takes his back for a second and lands a right before breaking. Exchange continues and Diaz is landing four or five punches to every one of Smithís. Big left to the body and right to the head buckle Smith and he covers up as Nick unloads, landing two big right hooks to the body and another to the head. Diaz is cut but heís landing over and over and Smith seems unable to get anything going. Smith looks wobbled again as Diaz continues to land punches, but now Smith comes back with a pair of right hands. Diaz is bleeding from both eyes now but he lands a right hook to the body that hurts Smith badly again. Smith is reduced now to wildly swinging haymakers while trying desperately to cover up. Diazís range and combinations are eating Smith up. Finally Scott manages to clinch, forcing Nick into the cage, but little happens and the ref separates them. Smith looks in survival mode as Diaz continues to land at will, hitting to the head and the body over and over. Pair of high kicks glance off Smith, who answers with a solid low kick. Big body shot hurts Smith again though. Right jab from Diaz snaps Smithís head back. Superman punch misses for Smith and another combo lands for Diaz. Now Diaz clinches and pushes Smith into the cage, before breaking and ending the round with another combo that drops Smith on the bell. Man, that was a great round for Nick Diaz. 10-8 Iíd go in fact.

Between rounds Mauro tells us Diaz threw 221 punches in the second round alone, which is INSANE.

Third and final round and Diaz taunts him and then opens with a combo that wobbles Smith again. Smith desperately tries to swing back, looking to steal another victory, but Diaz clinches to slow him down. Ref breaks them quickly and a nice combo lands for Diaz before he blocks a takedown. Big shot to the body doubles Smith over and Diaz takes the back and sinks both hooks in. Smith looks basically done now and Diaz sinks in the rear naked choke for the tapout.

Hell of a fight as Smith never gave up for a second, but he was badly, badly outclassed by Diaz both standing and on the ground and he ate a ridiculous amount of punishment before Nick put him away. Smith has heart for days but at the top level I donít think he has enough technical skill to hang, especially with a guy like Diaz with unbelievable technique in all areas. Diaz, as I expected when I first started watching him about five years back, has matured into a seriously great fighter now. Hopefully 2010 will be a good year for him as after this win 2009 petered out for him with more marijuana issues and what-not. This wasnít quite FOTYC level stuff as Smith was outmatched and beaten down for the majority of it, but it was easily one of the most enjoyable fights Iíve seen recently.

Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Brett Rogers

This was probably the fight I was most anticipating on this card, as Rogers was unbeaten in his career and had a series of impressive knockouts, but hadnít really faced any good opposition while Arlovski had dealt with many fighters like him (Ben Rothwell, Justin Eilers, Paul Buentello) in the past. Still, Andreiís last fight had seen him brutally KOd at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko, and with his questionable chin and Rogersí devastating power, there was always the chance of an upset here.

Arlovski gets a pyro show for his entrance and everything and sure enough his crowd pop is pretty huge. And I mentioned earlier that Strike Force had borrowed Arlovski from Affliction Ė sure enough ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. plugs the aborted Affliction: Trilogy show in his pre-fight spiel.

Weíre underway and they circle before Rogers counters a low kick and lands a HUGE FLURRY that KNOCKS ARLOVSKI SILLY!~! God damn.

Brutal, brutal knockout. Huge upset but as I said in the pre-fight introduction it was always a possibility when you have thunderous power like Rogers does going against someone with a chin as shaky as Andreiís. Punches landed flush though so it wasnít like he clipped him with something weak. This was reminiscent of Sokoudjouís win over Lilí Nog in a lot of ways, in that while itís a huge win that definitely establishes Rogers in the top ten at HW, we didnít get many answers about his overall game so youíve still got to question him at the elite level a little. Regardless though, the one thing you canít question is this dudeís punching power!

-Mauro talks with Fedor Emelianenko about his upcoming fight with Josh Barnett (which was of course cancelled when Barnett tested positive for steroids, AGAIN), and man does Fedor look bored out of his mind. He says heís happy to be performing in the United States. Barnett himself then joins us and tells Mauro heís going to need a great gameplan to beat Fedor. Well, duh. He also says he wasnít surprised by the Rogers-Arlovski result as Andrei always makes the mistake of backing up in a straight line without moving his head. That might be true, but at least he doesnít make the mistake of STICKING A NEEDLE IN HIS ASS.

Catchweight (182lbs) Fight: Robbie Lawler vs Jake Shields

Honestly, while on paper this is a really good fight, I was less than happy with Strike Force booking it as why would you put the top Welterweight on your roster against the top Middleweight? I guess it just goes to show the lack of depth on the Strike Force roster, especially at Welterweight where the UFC has a total lockdown on the top talent that isnít named Jake Shields. Lawler probably had more options in terms of fights outside of the Zuffa umbrella, but I guess Scott Coker couldnít get any of them signed up at this point. As far as a pick goes I was firmly with Ruthless Robbie, as he had a big size advantage, far better stand-up and I didnít think Shields had the takedowns to put him on the ground where he had the submission advantage.

Pyro show for both guys coming in, but the crowd seem firmly behind Lawler which is unsurprising given St. Louis is more his neck of the woods as opposed to the Californian Shields. Physically Shields looks good for 182lbs actually, while Lawler looks no different to how he normally does at 185lbs. Well, it is only three pounds. Lawler comes off like such a badass itís not even funny. Heís so stoic and everything but you just know he could kill you dead and not even bat an eyelid.

First round begins and Shields comes forward throwing some kicks as Lawler looks to counter with the right hook. Takedown attempt from Shields but he canít get Lawler off his feet and Robbie muscles him off. They clinch and Shields canít get him down, but he lands some knees to the body from close range and then lands a body kick as Lawler breaks off. Lawler comes back with a glancing knee as Gus Johnson comes off like a moron on commentary, saying Shields is in deep trouble early. How? Heís landed the majority of the strikes so far! Another nice body kick lands for Jake as he backs up. Shields continues to fire off kicks and move around as the announcers confuse me by saying he looks uncomfortable. Seriously now, which fight are these morons watching? Into the clinch again and this time Lawler makes the mistake of leaving his head out, and Shields clamps on a guillotine and jumps to guard! Lawler tries to pick him up but canít get out of it, and ends up tapping out there.

Tremendous win for Jake Shields who really fought what was a flawless fight. I mean, he never looked in trouble standing, and even though he couldnít actually take Lawler down, in the end he didnít need to as Lawler made one mistake by leaving his head out, and paid the price for it. Why the announcers thought Jake looked bad leading into the sub I donít know as he was landing that body kick over and over. There can be no denying it now Ė Shields has developed into one hell of a fighter these days, a far cry from the guy who epitomised lay and pray against Hayato Sakurai back in 2002.

Post-fight Shields puts Lawler over as a great fighter and one of his favourites to watch, then says he hasnít hit his prime yet and he wants the Strike Force 185lbs title.

-Announcers wrap up the night over a highlight package and we end the night there.

Final Thoughts....

Pretty solid, thumbs-in-the-middle show here. On the good side, we got a really fun brawl between Diaz and Smith, Baroni-Riggs was decent enough and Rogersí KO of Arlovski was one of the best highlight reel moments all year. On the flipside though Shields-Lawler was a little anticlimactic given what I was hoping for Ė not that it was at all bad, mind you Ė and Randleman-Whitehead was downright terrible, one of the worst televised fights of 2009 I think. Take away that fight and replace it with, well, anything half-decent and this would be one of the better shows of 2009. As it is though itís still pretty good once you get past that abortion of a fight.

Best Fight: Diaz-Smith
Worst Fight: Randleman-Whitehead

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 101-107, Fight Night 19
WEC: 44
Strike Force: Carano vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Rogers
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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