Stirkeforce CEO Scott Coker’s first foray into Florida was mostly a success on Saturday, as the show proved highly entertaining on several fronts. The promotion finally put a belt around Nick Diaz’s waist, while also keeping a championship on Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos’ hips. In addition, former EliteXC middleweight titleholder Robbie Lawler was finally awarded a fight and scored a memorable knockout win during which he came back from the brink of defeat.
On the downside, former International Fight League champion Jay Hieron was pinched in the rear end yet again, as few outside the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., saw his encounter with Joe Riggs. EAsportsMMA.com, which offered a live stream, had its server crash, leaving many angry fans in the dark.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts from Strikeforce “Miami.”
Bobby Lashley def. Wes Sims -- TKO (Punches) 2:06 R1
What happened: In perhaps his strongest showing so far, Lashley, the TNA professional wrestling star, made quick work of Sims, a former Mark Coleman understudy and 38-fight veteran. Lashley focused on his bread and butter, as he took the fight to the mat quickly and punched Sims in the face with some 20 unanswered blows. Unable to free himself, Sims eventually rolled to his stomach, and Lashley unloaded from the gut wrench position. Sims flattened out soon after, and the referee stopped the fight, as the Lancaster, Ohio, native made no effort to intelligently defend himself.
Forecast for Lashley: The American Top Team powerhouse deemed himself ready for a title shot, but he would be better served showing some progress against a higher-caliber opponent. In terms of what is available on the Strikeforce roster, Mike Kyle comes to mind as a decent test. Otherwise, matchmakers could also request the services of Mark Hunt or Sergei Kharitonov.
Forecast for Sims: His future does not lie with Strikeforce. If no other offer comes along, he could probably return to Full Contact Fight Series, which served as his home promotion before his gig on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Perhaps the organization can set up a rematch with one of his arch-rivals -- Daniel Gracie or Chris Guillen.
Robbie Lawler Melvin Manhoef -- KO (Punches) 3:33 R1
What happened: Lawler and Manhoef provided the slugfest everybody wanted to see, and it ended with the Dutchman’s first knockout loss in MMA in more than five years. Manhoef roared out to a quick start but utilized a more patient approach than usual. He beat up Lawler’s legs with powerful kicks, and the UFC veteran seemed to have no recourse. Just when Manhoef seemed to have Lawler on the proverbial ropes, he went for the finish and, with his hands down, ate a vicious overhand right. Lawler limped away after the fight, but left his victim unconscious inside the cage.
Forecast for Lawler: A rematch with Jake Shields or a showdown with two-time Olympian Dan Henderson may loom, but thanks to Strikeforce’s strong middleweight division, there are plenty of other stout tests available for the 27-year-old. Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza represent two fascinating options for the San Diego native.
Forecast for Manhoef: While a win would have likely thrust the Dutchman into title contention, such a decisive loss knocks him down a few rungs on the middleweight ladder. A rematch with Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos or a fight against the heavy-handed Scott Smith might be worthwhile.
Herschel Walker def. Greg Nagy -- TKO (Punches) 2:17 R3
What happened: Many thought UFC hall of famer Randy Couture was the measuring stick in terms of pure physical appearance for fighters in their mid 40s. Walker easily shattered that notion with a body that looked like that of a man 20 years his junior. In the cage, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner did his best Rickson Gracie imitation, as he moved minimally during the stand-up exchanges and worked surprisingly well on the floor. After a second round that could have been scored 10-8 in Walker’s favor, he sealed the deal with punches from the back mount midway through the third stanza.
Forecast for Walker: It remains unclear whether or not he will fight again. However, Strikeforce will certainly find another human heavy bag like Nagy if he has the desire to pursue his dreams in the cage.
Forecast for Nagy: Strikeforce may need him if Dan Severn calls.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos def. Marloes Coenen -- TKO (Punches) 3:40 R3
What happened: She never came close to threatening the champion, and the seasoned Dutch veteran Coenen sold her skin at a much higher price than former champion Gina Carano. Cyborg scored with some nasty ground-and-pound, as Coenen tried to deliver upkicks and submissions from her back. The breaking point came midway through the third round when the Martijn de Jong protégé hit the Brazilian with her best shot; Cyborg did not even flinch, and Coenen succumbed to strikes soon after.
Forecast for Cyborg: Few women can cope with what Santos brings to the cage. However, Strikeforce will need to keep her busy until Carano puts a couple tune-up wins under her belt and regains the confidence necessary to face the Brazilian bomber in a rematch. In a fantasy scenario, Kyra Gracie would answer the bell and challenge Cyborg to an ultimate Brazilian striker versus grappler duel. More realistically, Strikeforce will ask 10-year veteran and former professional boxer Erin Toughill to test Santos.
Forecast for Coenen: She seems unlikely to cut down to 135 pounds, where she would have many more matchups available to her stateside. Regardless, Carano’s road back to Cyborg must to lead through Coenen after her gutsy performance against the Brazilian.
Nick Diaz def. Marius Zaromskis -- TKO (Punches) 4:38 R1
What happened: Diaz, Strikeforce’s newly crowned welterweight champion, turned in a superstar performance against Dream titleholder Zaromskis and proved yet again that the knockout power he showed against Frank Shamrock was no fluke. The Stockton, Calif., bad boy controlled proceedings in the cage, scored with knee strikes from the clinch and sapped the Lithuanian’s stability. Diaz did an excellent job of staying just outside of Zaromskis’ kicking range and inside his own punching distance. The end came for “The Whitemare” when he ate a series of uppercuts and hooks to the body and head.
Forecast for Diaz: Talk has centered on a potential bout with Hayato Sakurai, but what value does that fight have after “Mach” was knocked out by Zaromskis last summer and lost to UFC reject Akihiro Gono on New Year’s Eve? The 26-year-old Cesar Gracie black belt appears to be underwhelmed by the prospect of defending his title against Hieron, but in fairness to “The Thoroughbred,” that appears to be the fight Strikeforce should be making.
Forecast for Zaromskis: The London Shootfighters standout could defend his Dream strap against former Rings star Kiyoshi Tamura in March. Inside Strikeforce, Zaromskis might eventually run into Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Andre Galvao. That matchup would have taken place in the final of last year’s Dream welterweight grand prix if Galvao had not dropped a razor-thin decision to Affliction veteran Jason High.