Nick Diaz (left) | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Strikeforce returns to its home base with two tiles on the line at “Diaz vs. Cyborg” on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
In addition to welterweight champion Nick Diaz and middleweight kingpin Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza putting their belts on the line against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos and Robbie Lawler, respectively, fans will also be treated to appearances by two-division Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships winner Roger Gracie and, depending on one’s point of view, 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
Here is the matchup breakdown, preview and picks.
Strikeforce Welterweight Championship
Nick Diaz (No. 9 WW) vs. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
The matchup: Diaz seems reborn since parting ways with the UFC, developing into one of the game’s best welterweights while notching impressive wins against Frank Shamrock and Scott Smith in high-profile catchweight bouts. His combination of high-volume striking and stifling jiu-jitsu has proven a veritable blender for most foes, who cannot match him on the feet and do not want to take the fight to the ground. He also possesses one of the best chins in the game.
In his last action -- a five-round decision over K.J. Noons -- Diaz showed his trademark conditioning in what was a fair performance but not as impressive when compared to his previous outings. Cyborg, however, almost guarantees an exciting fight. Unlike Noons, whose quickness and quirky angles seemed to keep Diaz guessing and puzzled in spots, Santos is a come-forward brawler.
Cyborg will have to execute the perfect fight against a guy with superior jiu-jitsu and an almost shockproof chin. When you are a brawler with mixed results against lesser competition, Diaz is a difficult assignment. His peck-and-swat stand-up style is eminently his, as nobody else in the sport seems able to emulate it as effectively.
Diaz uses his long frame and southpaw stance to simultaneously throw shots while leaning at odd angles to make one miss. His weakness, wrestling, has been exploited in bouts where he was inevitably held down and outpointed. However, nobody, save Noons via cuts, has come close to finishing him since a stoppage loss early in his career against future rival Jeremy Jackson; Diaz finished him twice in subsequent bouts.
Diaz presses a high work rate, and, against aggressive opponents willing to trade, he always seems to find something that turns the fight in his favor, whether it is a pinpoint counter or a transition out of which he comes out on top. On the mat, his defensive guard is top-notch, and he is exceptionally calm even in bad spots.
Cyborg is going to have to land something significant early. Otherwise, he will get sucked into the kind of fight everyone seems to think they want against Diaz but almost always end up losing. Right there in front of you, trading, and he somehow he always gets the better of it. Cyborg really has nothing to lose here, and though Diaz tends to fight to the level of his competition, he almost always sucks it up and closes the show.
The Pick: Look for some exciting trades in the first round before Diaz drops the hammer and gets the fight to the ground, delivering effective ground-and-pound. Santos will not go easily, as this is the most important fight of his career, but Diaz should be too much for him en route to a second-round technical knockout.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: “Jacare” vs. Lawler