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Strike Force: Miami review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 2, 2010, 3:35 PM

Strike Force: Miami

Miami, Florida

-First off, terrible show subtitle. I mean sure, I guess you couldn’t call it ‘Diaz vs. Zaromskis’ as nobody knows who Zaromskis is, but surely they could’ve been a little more imaginative than just calling it ‘Miami’. Oh well.

-Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo, Frank Shamrock and Stephen Quadros, whose skin seems to stretch tighter over his skull each time I see the poor guy.

-Jen Brown discusses the debut of Herschel Walker, making his MMA debut at 47 years old. More on this later.

Heavyweight Fight: Bobby Lashley vs Wes Sims

UFC and TUF veteran Sims was actually Lashley’s fourth scheduled opponent for this fight, his Strike Force debut. First they’d tried to match him with fellow prospect Shane Del Rosario, but Lashley’s people turned down that one and he was presented with nobody Yohan Banks. Banks was removed by the Florida State Athletic Commission due to them viewing the fight as a mismatch, Jimmy Ambriz was out with health issues and so the 6’8” Sims stepped in. So wait, the FSAC threw out Yohan Banks, and allowed Strike Force to bring in a tomato can of the highest order? Well, I guess Sims was more experienced than Lashley. Anything outside of a one-sided beatdown from Lashley would’ve shocked me here.

Sims is in atrocious shape here. It’s understandable because of how late he took the fight, but that is one hell of a gut he has. Lashley gets a healthy pop from the crowd, unsurprisingly. He’s down in mass from his WWE days but he’s still HUGE. Holy crap this guy is a specimen.

Round One and Sims comes out and challenges Lashley to a Hulk Hogan-style test of strength. Lashley is obviously having none of that and he avoids some crude jabs. Takedown from Lashley into Sims’ guard. He punches at the head with some short shots as Sims holds on, and then Sims tries some sort of submission. Quadros with a classic line, “Sims is trying for something, but I don’t think he knows what”. HA. Lashley works a can opener and then grabs him round the throat and lands some more punches. Sims doesn’t defend in the slightest and ends up turning his back, and Lashley gets a ride and punches away for the stoppage. Man, Sims is a joke.

Post-fight Sims protests the stoppage, but if he was indeed okay to continue, why not, you know, actually defend or something? Total waste of a fight for Lashley, but to be fair, it was his Strike Force debut and it was probably a good idea to let him squash someone to introduce him to the promotion’s fans properly. Next should be a step up in competition and Mauro mentions Shane Del Rosario, but I like Shane too and think he has potential, so if I were booking I’d keep them apart. Lashley vs. Mike Whitehead, anyone? I just hope if Lashley is serious about his MMA career then he gives up the TNA nonsense soon. It’ll only get him banged up and prevent him from training to the extent he needs for MMA, in my opinion.

Middleweight Fight: Robbie Lawler vs Melvin Manhoef

Slugfest fan’s wet dream here; these guys are both genuine knockout artists with a ridiculous 36 KO’s between them in just 54 fights. Despite everyone claiming Lawler was dead meat if he stood with Manhoef, the celebrated Dutch K-1 kickboxer imported to Strike Force from DREAM, I was actually going the other way. Lawler’s physically larger, packs just as much power and I was pretty sure he had the advantage in the chin department too. My pick was Ruthless Robbie by knockout.

Melvin is billed with the nickname of ‘No Mercy’ which is cool as fuck. He comes out with his trademark AWESOME entrance, his trainer Mike ranting and raving at him before he dances down the ramp sporting his dog collar, but the crowd don’t react like you would expect, I guess because Manhoef’s not well-known in the US. Such a pity that they would throw him right in with Lawler and not try to build him up as something special.

We begin and Melvin patiently walks Lawler down and looks to corner him, so Robbie throws a weird jumping roundhouse kick that doesn’t really land, I guess to create distance. Body kick and low kick land for Manhoef. Manhoef continues to stalk him and then blocks a left high kick. Good low kick and body kick land for the Dutchman. Quadros mentions that it looks like Lawler’s waiting for Melvin to flurry with punches so he can duck and take him down. Vicious leg kick from Melvin. Couple of power hooks from Manhoef, but Lawler covers up nicely and avoids the brunt of it. Nasty body kick from Melvin and he follows with another leg kick. Man I wish Lawler would check those leg kicks – it’s something he’s never done in his career really. Again Lawler covers up to avoid a punching combo, but takes a couple of kicks. Pair of hard leg kicks land again and Lawler’s leg looks jacked now, but again he covers and rolls to avoid damage from the punching flurry that follows. More leg kicks land and then Melvin smells blood and unloads with punches, but Lawler covers up to avoid that too. Three more leg kicks, but Melvin makes the error of dropping his hands as he looks to unload...and that’s all Lawler needs as he lands a DEVASTATING RIGHT HOOK! Melvin has the DELAYED REACTION and then hits the deck, and Lawler TURNS OUT HIS LIGHTS WITH A LEFT!~! AWESOME.

Post-fight Lawler explains that Melvin really messed up his leg, but he’d seen on the tapes that he drops his hands when he closes in to finish someone, and so he kept covering up and just waited for his opportunity. See, people have said this was a “lucky punch” and things like that, but personally I don’t buy that – if you’re planning to throw the shot when he drops his hands like that, then it’s not a lucky punch. I mean, Lawler was being outstruck, sure, and the leg kicks were doing a terrible amount of damage, but every time Melvin opened up with punches, Robbie was covering up and rolling with them and it looked to me like he was just waiting for his opportunity to throw the shot. And to me – while it’s not smart to take leg kicks – that’s not a lucky punch, that’s gameplanning. Tremendous win for Lawler in a super-exciting fight. Hopefully they bring Manhoef back again and match him favourably as despite all his limitations, he is an entertaining guy to watch.

-Jenn Brown interviews some guy called Rex Ryan. I guess he coaches a football team. Like I care. It’s rugby for poofs.

Heavyweight Fight: Herschel Walker vs Greg Nagy

Alright, I’ll be honest with you. This fight held no interest to me in the slightest, namely because it’s a freak show fight. Walker – I don’t care about his accomplishments in football, sorry, otherwise I would’ve been creaming over Marcus Jones in the UFC - is 47 and regardless of your pedigree, at 47 you just shouldn’t be making your MMA debut. To defend Walker somewhat though, he had at least been training properly with American Kickboxing Academy (as opposed to say, Jose Canseco prior to his debut) and seemed to be taking things sort-of seriously. Opponent Nagy was pretty much a hand-picked victim with a 1-1 record. Remind me again why Strike Force are showcasing this sort of thing rather than Jay Hieron vs. Joe Riggs?

Walker is in tremendous shape for a guy his age at least. Nagy is apparently pronounced like “Nudge”. I have no idea how. Though Travis Wiuff was pronounced as “View” so maybe I’m just ignorant about pronunciation.

Nagy dances around early and eats a jab from Walker. Walker’s punches look robotic to me. Good low kick though. Walker starts doing some sort of odd dance, then hits another couple of good low kicks. Nagy goes for the takedown but Walker stuffs it nicely and the anaconda choke is wide open if he were more experienced. Instead he spins out and looks to take Nagy’s back. Good move from Walker and he actually gets into full mount. Punches land from Walker and they look pretty hard, but Nagy shifts his legs over and looks like he’s going for a leglock. Walker slows down his offense as Nagy tries to roll into the ankle lock, and he manages to pull Herschel down and look for a heel hook. Walker slips free though and grabs a front facelock with Nagy on all fours. Nagy ends up on the bottom in north/south and then side mount. Short punches from Walker and then he looks to get an arm trapped to drop punches to the face. Round ends with Walker pounding away. Very good round for Walker, 10-9.

2nd gets underway and Walker opens with some decent leg kicks as Nagy reaches out with his hands in an odd stance. They clinch up and Walker looks to muscle him down, getting a nice throw down to side mount. Colour me surprised by this guy. Nagy looks stuck from the bottom and takes some punches before Walker takes his back with one hook. Nagy rolls to mount and Walker is controlling him well. Nagy manages to roll free and ends up in a front facelock again. They come back to their feet and the crowd wildly scream for a knee, and Walker delivers. Announcers are cracking up at this stage as Nagy looks for the takedown, but Walker’s hips are too strong and he can’t get him down. Walker ends up on top again and steps over to take the back. To be fair even if Nagy is a really crap fighter, which he might be, Walker’s patience is impressive. Punches and hammer fists land for Walker but they don’t seem to have stopping power. He traps the arms though to get some unprotected shots to the face in, but the round ends there.

Third round now and Nagy comes out swinging for the fences. Walker clinches though and forces him into the cage before getting a takedown to guard. Well, it looked more like Nagy dropped to guard actually. Armbar attempt from Nagy but Walker stays calm and avoids it. Walker passes to mount again and he’s trying to trap the arms as Nagy keeps bringing his legs up for something. He ends up turning his back though, and Walker drops punches to the head until referee Troy Waugh decides he’s seen enough and stops it there.

That was actually a good performance from Walker. He looked calm and collected, showed decent takedowns and takedown defense, and generally did a good job. I mean sure, Nagy was most likely a total can, but Walker at the age of 47 got in the cage, fought and won, and you have to give him credit for that. Would I have rather seen Riggs-Hieron? Of course, but to be fair this wasn’t a horrible fight in the end.

Post-fight Walker says that he only fought because the AKA guys said he was good enough and if they say he’s worthy of another fight then he’ll fight again. He also tells the crowd not to boo any of the fighters, because this is the hardest thing he’s ever done and they all work incredibly hard. The guy is a really good ambassador for the sport, surprisingly enough.

Strike Force Women’s Title: Cris Cyborg vs Marloes Coenen

This was Cyborg’s first title defense following her massacre of Gina Carano back in August. Coenen is a Dutch fighter known for her striking I believe, although I don’t know that for certain and she won the title opportunity by armbarring Roxanne Modafferi in November. She trains with Golden Glory though and all of those guys are big-time strikers. Size difference is pretty obvious here in favour of Cyborg. Cyborg is coming into this one as the big favourite.

Bell sounds and Coenen comes right out with a front kick, countered by a right hand from Cyborg and they clinch and go into the fence. They muscle for position before Coenen breaks with a short right hook. They trade some strikes and Cyborg gets the clinch again and trips her down to half-guard. Coenen gets guard back and looks to push off the cage with her legs, but Cyborg steps out and drops a couple of heavy right hands before dropping back into the guard. Coenen is active from her back but she’s taking some hard punches here and she’s wedged into the fence. Cyborg decides to stand out and then drops another winging right into the guard. Couple of upkicks from Coenen as Cyborg stands have no effect. They come back to standing and Cyborg lands a couple of wild punches as they trade. Coenen is landing, but she doesn’t have the power to hurt Cyborg while Cyborg clearly has the power to hurt her. Clinch from Coenen and she backs Cyborg up into the cage. Foot stomps from Cyborg before Coenen breaks with a right elbow. Exchange of strikes ends the round. Cyborg’s round and I don’t see Coenen winning this at all.

Round Two and they exchange strikes, both women landing, but Cyborg drops Coenen on a flurry and kicks away at her legs as she goes into the crab position. Cyborg stacks up in the guard and lands punches before almost pulling Coenen up to her feet. Cyborg stands over her again and continues to kick away before going into the guard. Coenen is doing a good defensive job from her back here, as Cyborg hasn’t really opened up with shots from the top. Cyborg stands up over her again before the ref calls Coenen to join her. They trade some more strikes, with Cyborg landing the best shot in the form of a body kick. Cyborg is really taking over with the strikes here. Takedown attempt from Coenen is stuffed and she ends up pulling guard. Cyborg wants none of that and she stands out of the guard and kicks the legs before going back down. Cyborg continues to work in the guard to end the round. I have Cyborg up 20-18 here.

Third round and Coenen lands a low kick before going for a takedown. Cyborg defends, but gets forced into the cage. Coenen still can’t get her down though and Cyborg breaks with a flurry. Coenen tries the takedown again but Cyborg reverses and lands in top position in half-guard. Cyborg punches at the body before Coenen gets a hip escape to full guard. Coenen manages to kick her away and stands, before landing a big right hand to zero effect. That can’t be good. Coenen with a shot but Cyborg stuffs it, gets on top, and opens up with heavy punches as Coenen covers up. This looks like it’s over and indeed referee Jorge Ortiz stops it there.

Fight was largely one-sided and didn’t really do anything for me. Coenen is a good fighter but I’m pretty sure she belongs at 135lbs and she couldn’t hurt Cyborg with her strikes nor get her to the ground. Really, Strike Force need to put together Cyborg against Erin Toughill ASAP as she’s physically big enough to compete with Cyborg and is arguably the only woman out there who could do that.

Strike Force Welterweight Title: Nick Diaz vs Marius Zaromskis

Great fight on paper here between two of the top 170lbs fighters in the world outside of the UFC for the vacant Strike Force Title. Diaz was coming back down to 170 following a stint doing catchweight fights against the likes of Frank Shamrock and Scott Smith – a stint that seemed to have gotten him his mojo back following his slide in his Elite XC tenure – while Zaromskis had shot to fame in 2009 in DREAM, winning their Welterweight Grand Prix and KOing three of his four victims with high kicks. The only downside to me was that Strike Force brought Zaromskis over and pushed him into a title fight so suddenly. Why not have Diaz fight say, Jay Hieron here and put Zaromskis against a tomato can on the undercard in order to get him a name in the US? As it was, only hardcore fans would know who the ‘Raging Demon’ actually was. But of course, gotta showcase Herschel Walker on the undercard, haven’t you? Ah, Showtime. My pick here was Diaz based on far better ground skills and more experience, though to see him get head kicked into oblivion wouldn’t have truly surprised me.

No reaction to Zaromskis from the live crowd. Well, it’s not surprising. Strike Force didn’t even show any of his DREAM footage with him killing guys dead with the kicks. Decent pop for Diaz but nothing overwhelming. This crowd sucks to be fair.

We begin and Zaromskis charges out but misses a kick. Combo lands for Marius and they’re trading early. Overhand right knocks Marius off balance and Diaz is getting the better of this slugfest. This fight is awesome already. Diaz looks for a takedown and Zaromskis defends, but takes a bunch of knees to the leg without even attempting to defend them. Diaz keeps on kneeing the leg and if this is the plan, to take out the leg to prevent the high kick, Diaz is a genius. No idea why Zaromskis hasn’t tried to defend it yet. Single leg puts Marius down for a second but he pops right back up. Diaz comes in with a combo as they trade again and Zaromskis looks staggered. He comes back with a left and right though and Diaz goes down! Holy shit. Zaromskis pounces with hammer fists, looking to seal the deal, but Diaz spins over and goes for a leg. Marius spins to go for the back, sprawling out, but the ref pauses things to warn Zaromskis for a shot to the back of the head. They come back up to their feet and Diaz is cut as usual. Zaromskis wades in with punches, but Diaz is using his reach nicely and he’s outlanding Marius with ease. Big chant for Diaz. Diaz catches a kick and looks for a takedown, but Marius avoids and they end up clinched. Break off and Diaz tags him with a right hand and really begins to take over. Diaz is all over him with the combos and now he’s going to the body with hooks, doubling the Lithuanian over. Zaromskis comes back with a body kick but Diaz continues to tag him. Massive uppercut wobbles him bad and Diaz is knocking the stuffing out of him with body shots. Zaromskis is out on his feet. He staggers across the cage and Diaz continues to pour it on until finally Marius drops for the TKO. Amazing fight.

Post-fight Diaz is pretty uninterested in talking to Stephen Quadros. He puts his camp over and claims his brother Nate won his last fight (against Gray Maynard), and then he says he’ll fight whoever when Quadros mentions Jay Hieron.

First off then, this was a hell of a fight. If it’d gone longer I’d be calling it a FOTYC I think as they just came out and swung for the fences, but really Diaz was able to outstrike Zaromskis using his reach and his hyperactive boxing style, particularly when he started going to the body, and Marius just wasn’t able to change up his gameplan to turn things around. It’s unsurprising in a way as Zaromskis really hadn’t fought anyone at Diaz’s level yet and at the elite level he’s still largely untested. Diaz meanwhile is probably a top-ten guy on talent, but just won’t be able to prove it as the UFC has a lockdown on the 170lbs division, which brings me to my next point.

Apparently next for Diaz is either Jay Hieron or Hayato Sakurai, but like Zaromskis, neither man’s fought on TV for Strike Force and nobody knows them. Hieron actually beat Joe Riggs on this show but Showtime decided not to show that fight. So basically Diaz is stuck fighting another unknown in his next fight, after doing the same here. It’s silly, because while Strike Force obviously doesn’t have the roster depth that the UFC does, why not just use c-level fighters and tomato cans to build your guys up so that fans will care about the title fights, rather than booking for the hardcore fans and throwing great-but-unknown fighters in there right away? For a hardcore fan, Lawler-Manhoef and Diaz-Zaromskis were mouth-watering, but for casuals who had no idea who Melvin or Zaromskis were, they were just another fight. And they’re likely to make the same mistake again by booking Melendez-Aoki for the Lightweight belt and Mousasi-King Mo for the Light-Heavyweight Title. If they want to compete with the UFC then it’s these problems they need to iron out, but I’m very cynical of whether Coker and the guys will be able to do that while Showtime dictate so much to them. And for Strike Force I think that should be worrying.

-Announcers recap the night’s action and we roll the credits.

Final Thoughts....

I thought this was a pretty decent show in the end. None of the fights outright sucked, although Cyborg-Coenen and Walker-Nagy were long and one-sided, and Lashley-Sims was a total squash. The other two fights were INSANE though, two of the best slugfests I can recall in a long time, and two great fights out of five and none that suck can’t be bad. I’m still questioning some of the decisions Strike Force (or perhaps Showtime) are making right now particularly in their matchmaking and deciding which fights get aired, but hey, they haven’t put on a horrible show yet so I guess I can’t really complain. Thumbs up.

Best Fight: Diaz-Zaromskis
Worst Fight: Cyborg-Coenen

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 104-107, Fight Night 20, TUF X Finale
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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