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Strike Force: Diaz vs. Daley review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on April 11, 2011, 4:47 AM

Strike Force: Diaz vs. Daley

San Diego, California

-Well, you’ve got to begin really with the big news from last month, that being the Zuffa purchase of Strike Force. Personally I think it’s a good thing, as I’ve always said the best way to further the sport of MMA would be to have all the top fighters under one umbrella, and with this purchase Zuffa pretty much have that luxury. Is it good for the fighters? In some ways no, as a monopoly situation is never great in terms of pay and what-not, but let’s be honest – recently Zuffa are the only promotion paying big money to fighters (and actually following up on promises and making guys into stars) so it can’t be that bad. I think in the future the best plan would be to keep Strike Force separate as a sort-of feeder organization for the UFC – somewhere to send guys on UFC losing streaks and somewhere to develop prospects who aren’t quite ready for the elite-level competition. Right now though I just want those big fights – Velasquez-Overeem, Couture-Fedor, Melendez-Edgar, et al – that were completely out of reach beforehand. We shall see!

-Your hosts are Gus Johnson, Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock. Despite the new Zuffa ownership the production is still the same, meaning we still get Gus the Moron as our lead commentator. Ugh. From what I know the choice of announce team and stuff like that is Showtime’s though, which would explain things.

-Mauro is joined by Scott Coker to discuss the Zuffa buyout, and Coker calls it a good business decision and says he’s happy to have the Zuffa promotional muscle behind Strike Force. And of course he then mentions how much he’d like to see cross-promotional fights like Overeem-Velasquez. Word, guy is clearly a true fan.

Lightweight Fight: Shinya Aoki vs Lyle Beerbohm

One of the few fighters you’d call a genuine Strike Force product, Beerbohm had put together an impressive 16-0 record coming into 2011, including a win over Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro, but lost a lot of his lustre with his loss to journeyman Pat Healy. Still better than the life of a methhead though! This was Aoki’s first foray back into the US after his disastrous fight with Gilbert Melendez last April, and I figured he’d probably do better this time around given that, well, Beerbohm isn’t as good as Melendez.

Crowd treat Aoki as a star which is a big contrast to how the Nashville fans greeted him for the Melendez fight. I guess this must be a hardcore crowd. Fight begins and Beerbohm comes out with a low stance and takes a body kick. Surprisingly Beerbohm clinches and forces the Japanese star into the fence, looking for a takedown, but Aoki trips him down and takes top position. Aoki controls him and then takes the back as Beerbohm looks to escape, and methinks Lyle is in trouble. Sure enough Aoki goes for the rear naked choke, then decides to just twist Beerbohm’s head sidewards in a neck crank variant and forces him to tap out there.

Quick and easy stuff for Shinya Aoki but it was hardly surprising when Beerbohm decided to initiate a grappling exchange with the guy. No idea why he didn’t just try to stay on the outside and strike, but there you go. Totally retarded gameplan. Submission was pretty damn slick though.

-Cameras catch Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta cageside and Dana is wearing a Strike Force t-shirt! Holy shit does that seem weird. Weird too to hear Mauro plugging stuff like Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber and Jake Shields vs. GSP, but it must be said that it’s so nice for both promotions to be able to properly acknowledge the other now outside of the odd comment from Joe Rogan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Gegard Mousasi vs Keith Jardine

Mousasi was initially pegged to fight Mike Kyle here in what probably would’ve decided the next contender for Dan Henderson’s Strike Force LHW Title, but Kyle injured himself and so Jardine – pretty much the only “name” 205lber available – stepped in on short notice after picking up a couple of wins over low-level opposition to stop his five-fight losing skid. Two or three years ago I’d have said Jardine would give Mousasi everything he could handle, but now I was comfortably picking Gegard as I think the Dean of Mean is pretty much done as a top level fighter.

Round One and HOLY SHIT does the referee have a wild beard going on. Like ZZ Top or something! Never heard of him before, apparently his name is Mike Beltran. Jesus. That shit is distracting from the fight. Jardine comes out with his classic unorthodox striking style, then gets a takedown, but Mousasi pops right back up and lands a right hand. They circle off before Jardine lands a glancing leg kick. Good leg kick from the UFC veteran but Mousasi closes the distance and clinches. Knee breaks for Jardine and then he shoots on a single leg, but Mousasi defends it. Jardine keeps working for it though but eats a couple of elbows in the process. He finally manages to bring Mousasi down, but Gegard gives his back and uses it to work to his feet. Another takedown follows though and this time Jardine lands in the guard. Mousasi kicks him away though and stands. They exchange and a Mousasi right hand backs Jardine up, and a flurry follows that puts the Dean of Mean on the run. Blood is pouring from Jardine’s nose now. They clinch and Mousasi lands some more heavy shots that cause Jardine to go for a takedown, putting Mousasi on his back again. They work for position and Mousasi lands an upkick, but it’s an illegal one as Jardine’s on the ground. Ref calls time and takes a point which is surprising to me given it was his first infraction and Jardine didn’t seem badly hurt or anything. They restart and Jardine looks pretty gassed, and again Mousasi lands on him with punches before Jardine comes back with a solid knee. Another combo backs Jardine up and he’s covered in blood as the round ends. Close round to call but I’d say 9-9 as Mousasi landed the better shots and Jardine didn’t do much with his takedowns, but obviously the point deduction prevents it from being 10-9 for the Armenian/Dutchman/Iranian/Who the fuck knows anyway?

Round Two and Jardine opens with a good leg kick. Mousasi answers with a stiff jab. Takedown attempt by Jardine is countered by a guillotine attempt that Mousasi quickly lets go to land a right hand. Good combination from Mousasi. Body kick connects too. Mousasi continues to push forward and aside from a couple of leg kicks he’s picking Jardine apart in this round. Nice counter left hook from Mousasi to counter a body kick. Takedown attempt from Jardine and he manages to get him down again with two minutes to go. Mousasi kicks him away and lands with a nice backfist before escaping to his feet. Little damage done by Jardine there. Holy shit is his face a mess. Right hand into a body kick have Jardine firmly on the retreat, and then he goes for a takedown again, and again puts Mousasi on his back. Mousasi seriously needs to improve his wrestling. He does escape back to his feet right away though, where he continues to hunt Jardine down for the reminder of the round. 10-9 Mousasi. Mauro claims Mousasi landed 23 significant strikes to Jardine’s 7, which is a pretty big gap.

Third and final round and Mousasi comes out swinging and lands a knee that puts Jardine on the run again, but he apparently took a shot to the groin too and the ref calls time to let him recover. They restart and Mousasi wobbles him a little with another combination. Jardine looks for a takedown, but Mousasi defends with some elbows and breaks off. Mousasi then lands a takedown of his own, looking for a guillotine choke, but as he pulls Jardine up into it the Dean pops his head free. Crowd pop big for that one. Mousasi clinches again and forces him back into the cage, getting another takedown to half-guard. Elbows and punches land for Mousasi and he passes into full mount. Jardine manages to push off the cage as he tries to flurry though, and he reverses and looks for a double leg. Mousasi stuffs it and lands a combo though and Jardine’s stumbling again. Ref calls time with Keith on the run to replace Mousasi’s mouthpiece. Ugh. They restart and Jardine looks exhausted. Mousasi is basically landing at will now. He gets the takedown again and easily avoids a Jardine kimura attempt, then goes for one of his own, but Keith avoids and eats some ground-and-pound. This is a SERIOUSLY bloody fight. Less than a minute to go and it looks like Mousasi is content to stay on top. Armbar attempt from Jardine with seconds to go but he can’t lock it up and that’s the fight. Well, Jardine tried, but I have this 29-27 for Gegard Mousasi.

Judges somehow have it 29-27 Mousasi, but then 28-28 and 28-28 for a MAJORITY DRAW. That’s fucking insane, seriously. I mean, there’s just NO WAY that fight was a draw. Obviously the point deduction played into this, but it also means that the judges probably gave Jardine the first round 10-8 due to his takedowns, despite him doing nothing with them while eating some vicious shots from Mousasi in the process. Ludicrous stuff. So now takedowns with no effect can mean more than power strikes landing? Ugh. I mean, the fight is supposed to be judged on effective striking, grappling, aggression and cage control, right? So Jardine might’ve had effective grappling (the takedowns) but Mousasi was the more effective striker, was the more aggressive fighter, and really because Jardine didn’t keep him down I don’t see that you can give him control either. Another point is that the refereeing job was poor – Mousasi should’ve been warned, not lost a point, and Beltran shouldn’t have stepped in to replace the mouthpiece when he did either. But then again that’s another issue with the Athletic Commission as there were only four big fights on this card, so why the hell is this guy – who no offense, is clearly not experienced at the elite level – refereeing one when you’ve got John McCarthy there? I mean maybe Big John couldn’t do four fights, but where was Herb Dean or Josh Rosenthal? Lot of things to look at really.

Take away that shitty decision though and this was a pretty solid fight, as Jardine acquitted himself really well for a guy taking a fight on short notice and his dodgy chin even held up to some serious shots from Mousasi. The decision REALLY leaves a bad taste, though. Ugh, judges. On a side note though Mousasi really needs to work on his defensive wrestling, as while he is good from his back, the judging favouring the takedown so heavily may well fuck him over again in the future unless he can close that hole in his game.

Strike Force Lightweight Title: Gilbert Melendez vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

I was really excited for this one as not only was their first fight in 2006 really good, but Kawajiri, who hadn’t really lit the world on fire recently, looked back to his awesome best against Josh Thomson on New Year’s Eve making him a very dangerous opponent for Melendez indeed. Despite that though I was still picking Melendez to make a successful defense of his title, as Kawajiri’s never fought in a cage before and it does make a tremendous difference when you’re so used to fighting in the ring. I was expecting a close fight then, with Melendez probably winning by decision.

First round gets underway and they circle before Gilbert drops him with a right hand! Kawajiri pops right back up but he’s clearly hurt and he backs up before Melendez grabs the plum clinch to land some knees. They break and Gil lands another right hand before catching a leg kick and getting a single. Kawajiri gives his back and stands, but Melendez lands with a combo as he turns back into him. High kick lands glancingly for Kawajiri and he looks to follow up, but Melendez quickly stops that with a series of HEAVY knees and follows with a one-two that drops the Japanese fighter again! Kawajiri gets up, but Gil drops him with another shot and looks to finish, landing punches on the Crusher who looks in survival mode. Melendez takes the back mount and lands some shots from there, but Kawajiri works up to his feet. Big uppercuts land for Melendez from the rear waistlock before he breaks with an elbow and cracks the Crusher with another right hand. Kawajiri keeps firing back, but he still looks badly hurt and Gil lands on him again with some more hard punches. Takedown attempt is stuffed and Melendez gets on top and just DESTROYS Kawajiri with some RUTHLESS ELBOW STRIKES that force referee Cecil Peoples to stop the fight there. God damn!

WOW. I picked Melendez to win but I expected a close fight, not a one-sided annihilation like that – I mean shit, nobody had ever done that to Kawajiri before. He literally wasn’t in this fight for a second as Melendez came out like a house on fire and just destroyed him, putting on what to me was easily his career-best performance. Before this I was firmly behind the Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard winner as the best 155lber in the world, but after seeing this I could easily buy Melendez as #1 too, and with the Zuffa Strike Force buyout hopefully we can get Gilbert in there with either Frankie or Gray and find out for sure. Post-fight Melendez outright says he wants to unify the titles and calls himself the #1 Lightweight in the world. Fuck, let’s do it!

Strike Force Welterweight Title: Nick Diaz vs Paul Daley

As soon as Daley signed with Strike Force I was hoping they’d put this fight together, as not only would it be the first chance Diaz would have to fight a guy who’d recently been a part of the UFC title picture, but with the sort of fight both guys put on it sounded like FIREWORKS on paper. As far as a winner went, I thought if Daley could stop the takedown then he’d definitely have an advantage standing, but in the end I went with Diaz as in this sort of situation you’ve got to lean towards the guy with the better tools, and Diaz can finish in all areas.

MAD staredown pre-fight as they go head-to-head and then Diaz begins talking trash as Daley grins at him. Round One gets started and Diaz starts taunting right away, before taking a leg kick for his sins. Diaz closes in and looks to throw some strikes, but Daley circles out and then closes in and lands a pair of left hooks that have Diaz dropping for a takedown. Daley starts to land on him though as he’s in the turtle position, and then narrowly misses the head with a WILD soccer kick that lands to the shoulder instead. Holy fuck was that risky. Diaz comes back up and takes a knee and an elbow, and Daley keeps on swinging, but the champ shows some good movement to avoid the power shots. Big DIAZ chant as he keeps the distance and lands with a leg kick. Good left from Diaz and he closes in with a combo to the body and the head. They end up clinched and exchange some shots in close, and Diaz begins to take over with a flurry of punches that have Semtex covering up! Daley surprisingly looks for a takedown though and gets it, ending up in Diaz’s guard. Daley decides to stand up and avoids an ankle pick on the way up, and they break off. Good left hand from Diaz backs Daley up and he comes in swinging, but Daley fires right back and they trade into the clinch. This is awesome. Big flurry again from Diaz using his elbows but Daley swings some power hooks and then lands with a hard knee. Diaz walks right through it and it’s a SHOOTOUT as both men exchange while the crowd go mental. Flurry from Diaz but Daley answers with a BIG LEFT HOOK THAT DROPS HIM FACE FIRST!~! Daley pounces and looks to finish things as Diaz covers up, dropping to his back, but Semtex lands some HUGE shots from above! Diaz has a hell of a chin, good god. Elbows from Daley inside the guard and then he stands up and calls Nick to join him. Thirty seconds to go and somehow Diaz looks recovered, coming in with a MASSIVE left to the body that clearly hurts Daley! Daley covers up again and takes a WILD FLURRY that has him sprawling all over the place before falling face-first! Diaz pounces with some punches....and Big John McCarthy decides he’s seen enough and stops the fight! Holy shit.

Post-fight Diaz casually shoves a camera away while Daley has to be helped onto his stool by two doctors, which pretty much shoots down the idea that the fight was stopped early that I’ve seen floating around online this weekend. Incredible fight and hey, that’s the second Nick Diaz Fight of the Year Contender in my eyes following his ridiculous brawl with Cyborg a few months ago. He’s clearly one of, if not the most exciting fighter to watch in MMA right now and with Zuffa now owning Strike Force, who cares about the whole theory that the big wrestlers in the UFC would “blanket” him – let’s get Diaz in there with the likes of Koscheck and Fitch and find out. And while we’re at it let’s do Diaz-Condit, Diaz-Ellenberger, Diaz-Lytle, and if we’re really lucky, Diaz-Sanchez II in a rematch of what is still my favourite MMA fight of all time. As for Daley, well, he might’ve lost but man did he throw down, and while I personally think he’ll end up on the outside of the Zuffa umbrella, if any fight can save him in the eyes of Dana White then it was this one!

-The results of an earlier text-message voting poll come through with 96% of fans wanting to see Strike Force fighters against UFC fighters. Make it happen, Zuffa!

Final Thoughts....

This was a hell of a show and an incredible beginning to the Zuffa Era in Strike Force. Diaz-Daley was just an unbelievable fight, one of the best brawls I’ve ever seen in MMA period, but Melendez-Kawajiri was incredible too and Mousasi-Jardine turned into a hell of a trench war as well. Even the Aoki fight had a pretty sick ending with that neck crank submission. Massive thumbs up for this one and if you haven’t seen it already do so NOW.

Best Fight: Diaz-Daley
Worst Fight: None!

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 124-128, Fight Night 23, Versus 3
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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