Gilbert Melendez (file photo) made a statement on Saturday against Tatsuya Kawajiri. | Sherdog.com
With its first major show since its acquisition by Zuffa, LLC, Strikeforce’s top talent delivered big-time performances Saturday night. The timing couldn’t have been better for Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz, who showcased their A games against tough competition in impressive title defenses.
On the supporting pair of bouts, Gegard Mousasi was saddled with a questionable majority draw against Keith Jardine, while Shinya Aoki quickly submitted Lyle Beerbohm. All in all, it was a rousing night of fights from San Diego.
Here’s the Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Daley” Stock Report:
Nick Diaz: Prefight consensus was that Diaz should avoid his normal stand-and-fling style against the heavy-handed Daley, and Diaz, in typical fashion, showed the rest of us why he’s Nick Diaz, and we sure as hell aren’t. Engaging in the down-and-dirty, high-volume pressure fight that’s his trademark, Diaz simply jumped on Daley and didn’t let up.
After hurting Daley early, and then getting dropped with a bodacious left hook from “Semtex,” Diaz simply rode out the storm and continued his assault, wobbling Daley several times with crisp shots eventually finishing him just before the opening stanza ended.
Diaz’s style is unique in MMA. It’s a subtle art to stand in the pocket, slip shots, and counter, but Diaz does it so effectively, and with nuanced ease. It also helps to have a great chin. In fact, it’s probably integral to even contemplating fighting this way.
In a five-round fight, Diaz is going to be extremely tough to beat for any of the world’s top welters, especially since nobody’s that keen on jumping into his guard to begin with. A huge performance by him, and the postfight interview was classic Diaz. He’s not interested in being a rock star. He just wants to beat up anyone who wants to fight him.
Gilbert Melendez: Coming into his rematch defense with Kawajiri, Sherdog’s No. 2-ranked lightweight openly stated he planned on besting his previous showing, where he took a hard-fought decision win.
Melendez’ aggression and striking were better than ever, as he uncorked an opening-round barrage. Unwilling to let Kawajiri off the hook, “El Nino” simply kept wailing, dispatching the tough challenger at 3:14 of the first.
With a shark tank of UFC lightweights inevitably welcoming Melendez into the pool, this performance was the best argument for Strikeforce’s tangling with Zuffa’s top dogs. If you can’t be roused at the prospect of Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Clay Guida, Anthony Pettis, or Jim Miller, you’ve got problems.
In the short term, Melendez has solid options in a rubber match with the talented Josh Thomson, and perhaps Justin Wilcox, who is reminiscent of a young Sean Sherk, but with more power in his hands. But the hard truth is that he may be too talented to keep out of the big pool for long. And with how he fought tonight, who wouldn’t want to see him jump in?
Shinya Aoki: Long-respected for his outstanding submission game in Japan, Aoki was calculating and technical in dispatching Lyle Beerbohm in 93 seconds. A good win for him, especially after his one-sided, five-round pancake snoozer against Melendez in his last Strikeforce outing.
Keith Jardine: Big props to “The Dean of Mean,” whose five-fight losing streak in big shows from 2009-2010 was a rough slide. Facing the talented Mousasi on short notice, Jardine fought about as well as he could have, and gave his stock a bump up. While he didn’t deserve the draw (Mousasi lost a point in the first round, causing the deadlock on the cards), Jardine performed pretty well considering the circumstances, and did a lot to improve his
prospects in the near future.
Gegard Mousasi: Let’s be frank. Mousasi won the last two rounds big against Jardine, and the judges that scored the opening stanza 10-8 for Jardine were off. Mousasi was taken down on 4 of 5 attempts, but for the most part, sprung back up immediately and took little damage in the 1st. He also landed good strikes repeatedly in every round.
However, while exceptionally talented, Mousasi’s still a little too willing to let opponents tie up and take him down. It’s not his fault judges don’t seem to recognize effective jiu-jitsu which negates the guy on top, and Gegard’s ability to neutralize that. But it will be a recurring problem for him as he continues, particularly as foes use the same tactics Jardine did.
Mousasi would be an intriguing match against Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Dan Henderson. But if he doesn’t address his penchant for letting foes tie up and muscle him down, that could be a short night for him. Ironically, of the Strikeforce light heavies, he’s currently the best matchup for “Hendo.” The talented Roger Gracie is developing nicely, but he needs more experience, especially in prepping for a five-round title fight.
Paul Daley: Daley did what he was supposed to do -- unload on Diaz if the champ were crazy-brave enough to stand with him -- and even dropped Nick. However, Diaz’ volume approach simply wore him down en route to the first-round loss. Daley’s striking and power are always going to make him a fun fighter to watch, but he simply ran into a better fighter tonight.
Lyle Beerbohm: Disappointing showing for Beerbohm, who dropped his second in a row after a decision loss to Pat Healy in his previous outing. Playing right into Aoki’s hands, he tied up early and was taken down and submitted. A tough loss for “Fancy Pants.”
Tatsuya Kawajiri: One of the more respected talents among hard-core fans familiar with the Japanese scene, Kawajiri was simply overwhelmed by Melendez, and never was able to get into the fight.
Given that Kawajiri decisioned Josh Thomson in his last bout, it may be that Melendez has simply taken a quantum leap in the last year. However, the loss is a hard one for Kawajiri, as few expected him to be taken out so quickly after his credible showing in the first Melendez bout.
Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or at twitter.com/jasonprobst