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Strike Force: Diaz vs. Cyborg review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 15, 2011, 1:54 PM

Strike Force: Diaz vs. Cyborg

San Jose, California

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo, Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich. Shamrock talking about Diaz is hilarious here, calling him “the man who sent me into retirement”, and then claiming he has a “strange charisma”. Ha! Oh, and using the EA Sports MMA game to break down the keys to victory still comes off as bush league I think. Especially when they’re trying to say Diaz should keep the fight standing while Cyborg should take it to the ground. Are they serious?

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Roger Gracie vs Trevor Prangley

This was Gracie’s second trip to the Strike Force cage after his May win over Kevin Randleman, while Prangley had bounced back from a one-sided loss to Tim Kennedy by surprisingly beating Keith Jardine in his first fight after his UFC release. With Prangley looking hugely vulnerable on the ground in the Kennedy loss I figured this would be another win for Gracie. Side note but I had NO IDEA Prangley was 38 years old.

Fight begins and Prangley stays on the outside while Gracie actually looks pretty comfortable standing, much less stiff than he was in his Strike Force debut. Right hand from Prangley though and while it doesn’t land, Roger leans back with his chin up ala Pe De Pano which isn’t good. Little action early on here. Crowd begin to boo with two minutes gone, but Gracie manages to bull into the clinch and shows some good Thai skills, landing a pair of knees. Prangley breaks, but Roger gets another clinch and trips him to the ground this time. Prangley ends up seated against the fence but Roger snakes around the legs to prevent the wall-walk and as Prangley rolls he wastes no time in taking the back. No hooks yet though, but Gracie has complete control. He quickly takes full mount and now Prangley is in deep shit. Gracie smothers him and as Prangley attempts to scramble out, he takes the back and works for the rear naked choke. Body triangle is locked in for good measure and within a few seconds Gracie gets a TIGHT rear naked choke for the tapout.

Man, it’s stating the obvious but Gracie is as slick as Leonardo DiCaprio’s hair in Titanic on the ground. Insane skills. Once this hit the mat Prangley was DONE. The thing with Roger is that if he can even work his striking enough to survive, almost every fight ends up hitting the mat at some point and if it does, he’s probably going to get the submission. The biggest problem he’s going to have in Strike Force is the lack of live opponents to lead up to the top guys they have like King Mo, Feijao, Mousasi et al, so they really need to sign some b-level guys to feed to him. That’s the biggest issue Strike Force has in general actually – they have some really good fighters and some red-hot prospects but no b-level guys in the middle to help prepare the prospects for the top guys. But such is the life of the second-tier promotion I guess.

-Mauro Renallo goes around the crowd and points out some of the fighters watching, which is very interesting just to gauge the crowd’s reactions. Here for instance the likes of Meisha Tate, Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier get zero reaction, Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez get an anaemic pop, Cris Cyborg slightly bigger than that while MC Hammer and Cain Velasquez send the crowd into a frenzy. Just goes to show the power of the UFC brand really. Mauro then interviews Fabricio Werdum (mild pop) about the upcoming Heavyweight GP. Proper broken English stuff too.

Heavyweight Fight: Herschel Walker vs Scott Carson

This fight was supposed to have been on December’s Strike Force show, but Walker cut his eye prior to it and it was postponed until here. The use of Walker on these shows seems to split the fanbase, but I tend to think that as long as he’s not being pushed as a main event guy ala Kimbo Slice in Elite XC and is purely there as a side attraction – as in, fans tune in to watch Walker fight and then get entranced by the likes of Jacare and Diaz – it’s fine. Carson, despite a 4-1 record, hadn’t actually won a fight since 2001 and naturally appeared to be a tomato can of the highest order.

Round One begins and Carson throws out some kicks before Walker lands a left hand to deck him. Carson tries to get guard, but Walker postures up and Carson goes for a kneebar. Walker avoids easily and takes the back, then lands some uppercuts from behind before standing to deliver a suplex. Carson looks like he’s going for the Sakuraba kimura, but Walker stays patient and lands some knees to the body before opening up with more punches. Carson’s mouthpiece is gone now and he continues to take shots. He’s literally just turtling up now. More shots get through cleanly before Carson rolls to his back, and Walker lets him stand before decking him again for the stoppage.

Well, Carson was a total tomato can and this was a one-sided squash, but Walker looked improved from the last time he fought a can in Greg Nagy, and I have to admit he probably would’ve been a monster in MMA had he come into it in his athletic prime rather than at 48. Side show stuff but like I said earlier, it isn’t like Strike Force are shoving real prospects or contenders off their shows to put Walker’s fights on, and they’re doing a solid job with their prospects anyway (Tyron Woodley, Daniel Cormier, etc) so good for them.

Strike Force Middleweight Title: Ronaldo Jacare Souza vs Robbie Lawler

Lawler had earned his title shot by KOing Melvin Manhoef and Matt Lindland and really this was the best Middleweight fight that Strike Force could make given the other big matches for Jacare (Mayhem, Tim Kennedy, Lindland) had already been done. I was actually hoping Lawler would return to the UFC at some point but blah, doesn’t look like it’ll happen. My pick here was Jacare, as I figured he’d be able to weather the early storm, put Lawler on his back and submit him from there. Lawler still has his caveman beard here and looks FUCKING TERRIFYING. And he still reminds me of Wayne Rooney (if you locked him in a log cabin and fed him raw meat and steroids for a year that is) too.

Round One and Jacare takes the center of the cage as Lawler dances around on the outside. Crowd are mad quick to boo when nothing happens in the first thirty seconds. Flying knee misses for Lawler and Souza grabs a clinch and pins him into the cage. Takedown follows and Jacare is on top in Lawler’s guard. Beautiful pass into side mount follows. That was amazing skill. Total control from Jacare and it looks for a second like he’s setting up a kimura, but he gives it up and peppers him with some short punches. Lawler manages to reverse and gets to his feet, but he gives his neck and Jacare looks for the guillotine. Good job from Lawler to avoid and he manages to escape. Right hand from Souza is answered by a knee from Lawler and he follows that with a flying knee and a right hand. Jacare looks a little wobbled and retreats quickly as Lawler closes in swinging, dropping him with a left hand! Jacare is in trouble, but Lawler leaps into the guard and the Brazilian ties him up to recover. Nice use of the guard from Jacare to avoid any damage, and with seconds to go Big John McCarthy decides to stand them up. Big body kick from Lawler and he closes in swinging, but Jacare goes for a takedown and just about gets it on the buzzer. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Lawler because he did more damage.

Round Two and they exchange a couple of kicks before Souza shoots for the takedown. Lawler defends, but gets forced into the cage where Jacare takes him down and immediately snakes his way into full mount. Lawler manages to slide his leg out and get back to half-guard, but Jacare controls him and peppers him with some punches. Arm triangle attempt from Jacare but Lawler quickly scrambles and goes for full guard, so the Brazilian releases and passes to side mount instead. Total slickness. Good hammer fists from Jacare as Lawler manages to move to half-guard. Only for a second though as Jacare easily slides back to side mount and continues to land peppering blows. Full mount attempt follows but Lawler gets guard instead. Good punches from Jacare though and he passes right back into side mount. Lawler is being tooled here. Jacare looks to set up for a kneebar, and takes a reverse mount to land some more shots before Lawler pushes him off. Armbar attempt from Jacare and it looks locked for a second, but somehow Lawler slips free, only to end up stuck under side mount. Another armbar attempt follows but Lawler shows some skill to avoid and this time ends up on top in the guard! Lawler’s sub defence has evidently improved a lot. He can’t do anything from the top though and the round ends there. 10-9 Jacare.

Round Three begins and Jacare comes forward and grabs a plum clinch to deliver some knees as Lawler answers with body shots. Jacare looks for a single leg, but Lawler defends and they end up clinched by the fence. Good knee from Souza and he drops for the takedown and manages to get it again. Jacare’s takedowns are really, really good for a jiu-jitsu guy. Half-guard for Lawler and he turns to his side to attempt to get up, but Jacare drops a big knee and then pulls him back down. Jacare gets the back with both hooks and Lawler’s in trouble. Souza manages to get the arm across the throat for a split-second and that’s all he needs, as Lawler’s forced to tap out there.

Very impressive win for Jacare as not only did he weather the storm standing in the first round, but he was able to take Lawler down consistently and once he got a really dominant position it was over. I don’t see many fighters in the world at Middleweight being able to handle this guy now. The big question to me is who does he fight next, as he’s now beaten Lawler, Kennedy, Lindland and Mayhem which only leaves fringe guys like Luke Rockhold to face in the future. Definitely something Strike Force need to look at, especially with Dan Henderson now at 205lbs again. Good fight overall.

-Little break follows to discuss the Strike Force Heavyweight Grand Prix, with Shamrock saying that his pick is Alistair Overeem, while Pat Miletich points out Sergei Kharitonov and Josh Barnett as his dark horses. My pick, for the record, is Overeem with Bigfoot as the dark horse. Whoever wins that side of the bracket is taking the tournament for sure.

Strike Force Welterweight Title: Nick Diaz vs Evangelista Cyborg

Alright, so personally I would’ve just had Paul Daley fight Diaz here or even hold that fight off for a month or so to give Daley more time after his December fight with Scott Smith, but I guess Strike Force wanted Diaz for the main event of this show so here you go. Cyborg had won his Welterweight debut over former contender Marius Zaromskis in June, but really looked like a tailor-made victim for Diaz, adding more fuel to the fire for those that think Diaz is protected by Strike Force’s matchmaking. More on that later. Big pop for Diaz upon entrance, as he’s probably the guy Strike Force has pushed heaviest since they came onto Showtime in 2009.

First round begins and Cyborg misses with a high kick. Diaz starts trash talking right away but he takes a hard leg kick from the Brazilian. Another leg kick lands for Cyborg and he follows with a third as the crowd chant for Diaz. Cyborg’s really working the leg kicks here. Diaz pushes forward though and lands a combo into the clinch. They break off and then exchange punches, with Diaz landing a stiff jab. Good combo from Diaz and then they trade off with punches before Cyborg backs him up with a right hand. Couple more leg kicks but Diaz pushes forward with his customary combinations, landing pretty cleanly. Cyborg keeps swinging right back but Diaz is walking through his punches. This is becoming a brawl. HARD leg kick lands for Cyborg. Diaz needs to stop those, stat. Another one buckles the champion a little. Big swings by Cyborg but Diaz taunts him and tells him to bring it on. Nice combination from Diaz backs Cyborg up and a left hand has him on wobbly legs! Diaz looks to finish but Cyborg manages to survive and swings back. He’s taking some deep breaths though and Diaz tags him again. More exchanging but Diaz is taking over now and Cyborg is in big trouble. Cyborg has the heart of a lion though and he comes right back. He’s over-loading his punches now though and Diaz is avoiding them. Seconds to go in the round and the crowd go apeshit as Diaz continues to land. BIG right hand snaps Cyborg’s head back right before the buzzer. Insane round.

Into the 2nd and Cyborg lands with a really nice leg kick again. Big punches from both men and Diaz gets the best of it and snaps his head back. Cyborg comes back with a leg kick again. Cyborg is swinging with some heavy combos but Diaz is covering up to avoid the damage and it’s gassing Cyborg out. The leg kicks are landing though. Couple of elbow strikes from Cyborg but Diaz continues to deflect the majority of them and fire back with combos. Three minutes to go in the round. More punches tag Cyborg but he keeps coming forward. Another good leg kick from the challenger. Big uppercut lands for Cyborg cleanly but Diaz eats it right up. Diaz begins to pepper him again, snapping the head back with some jabs. Diaz walks into a couple of counter uppercuts and then Cyborg looks to follow with a knee, but Diaz breaks the clinch and then keeps on throwing shots. Diaz is absolutely relentless with his punches. Leg kick from Cyborg is countered by some big punches and Cyborg looks bloodied up now. Good knee to the body from the Brazilian. Spinning back kick misses but he follows with a takedown to guard. Literally seconds later Diaz throws up an armbar and catches him for the tapout.

Well, that turned into a hell of a fight, that’s for sure. If it weren’t for the wild Maynard-Edgar fight in the UFC it’d probably be the best of 2011 thus far in fact. Diaz took a LOT of leg kicks here, but the trick for him was that he kept drawing Cyborg into punching exchanges and when Cyborg would swing at him he’d cover up, forcing Cyborg to waste away his gas tank and leave him vulnerable to get hit. Why he didn’t try to take it to the ground earlier I don’t know, as he finished it literally in like ten seconds once they went down, but if he’d gone for takedowns then he wouldn’t be Nick Diaz, would he?

The big criticism of Diaz right now is that he’s overrated because he hasn’t been fighting top level competition (as it’s pretty much all in the UFC at 170lbs) and that is true to an extent. Personally I don’t mind as long as he’s putting on fights like this, but if he is content to be a big fish in a small pond and stay in Strike Force he needs to stop bleating about fighting the likes of GSP and Koscheck. Why call those guys out if you have no intention of actually going to the UFC to fight them? If you want to be ranked in the top five then go to the place where you can fight the top five. If not, forget about it, shut up about it and keep on putting on wild fights like this one.

-Show ends with a plug for some boxing matches including Pacquiao vs. Mosley, as I’m reminded that despite Strike Force and UFC not being able to put together a handful of fights that fans want to see (Overeem vs. Velasquez, Fedor vs. anyone in UFC, Diaz vs. anyone in UFC) MMA is still far better than boxing in that regard as they STILL haven’t done Mayweather-Pacquiao due to sheer fucking greed. Fuck those guys. Aaand we end with a highlight reel.

Final Thoughts....

Can’t fault this one really. I mean, Diaz-Cyborg was an awesome fight, Jacare-Lawler was very good, and while the two opening matches were squashes neither one outstayed its welcome like say, Herschel Walker’s debut fight, and that made for a streamlined, fun show. Nothing earth-shattering and outside of Diaz-Cyborg it’s nothing we’ll be talking about when 2011 comes to a close, but this is worth an easy thumbs up.

Best Fight: Diaz-Cyborg
Worst Fight: Walker-Carson

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 120-126, Fight Night 23
Strike Force: Fedor vs. Silva
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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