Picking & Grinning: Strikeforce ‘Diaz vs. Cyborg’

By Jeff Sherwood Jan 29, 2011
Nick Diaz (left) in 2003. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Saturday’s Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Cyborg” card is examined by Sherdog.com staff:

Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Santos

Jordan Breen: Diaz-Santos is one of the most straight forward major fights in quite some time. There's no way around the fact that there is guaranteed action; it's difficult to imagine the fight playing out in any kind of blase fashion. However, based on Diaz's incredible chin and recovery, "Cyborg" would need to turn in an absolutely brilliant striking performance, with follow-up on the ground, to wrest the title from Diaz. What's more likely is that Diaz and Santos brawl for a solid two to three minutes, "Cyborg" gets winded, and Diaz assumes control the way we've seen in his bouts against Zaromskis, Smith, and others, and the 209's favorite son rolls to another title defense.

Tony Loiseleur: If there's a way to fight the Diaz brothers, it's likely best executed with a wrestler having good submission defense that will take them down and mash with short punches and elbows to get the decision. Since elbows are sadly illegal in Strikeforce, and since this is Santos we're talking about here, I sincerely doubt that Mr. Cyborg will try to take that route since it's just not in his DNA. His modus operandi is to swing blistering strikes with evil intent, whether that be charging forward and doing so or sitting back to counter until he finds his opening. I'll be interested to see if the slimmed down -- but probably still bigger -- Santos can chop away at Diaz's legs over the course of five rounds, but whichever route Santos takes here, I think Diaz can survive to rack up his devastating pawing punches until Cyborg is thoroughly marked up. Diaz by decision.

Freddie DeFreitas: Santos' penchant for toe-to-toe exchanges plays right into the strength of the Strikeforce champion.  Diaz has made many so-called “outstanding” strikers fold like proverbial lawn chairs under a storm of muppet-slaps; he'll literally pity-pat you to death from within the pocket -- just ask Frank Shamrock or Scott Smith.  Diaz takes this one by TKO in the second round.

Guilherme Pinheiro: The only way I see Cyborg winning this is if he opens one of those old cuts in Diaz’s face. Diaz is more technical both on the ground and standing up. That doesn’t mean there won’t be rough times for him, though. Cyborg is as aggressive of a fighter as there is. He’s going to charge from the opening bell and Diaz will have very little time to adjust and find his range. He’ll take some hits until he starts to use his reach to keep Cyborg away. Once he does that, we’ll get a vintage performance from Diaz, who’ll use his volume punching to win all five rounds on his way to a dominant unanimous decision win.

Tomasz Marciniak: I can't see a way in which Cyborg wins this fight as Diaz is ultra-durable and his boxing style will exploit Cyborg's open muay Thai-style guard. The Brazilian has powerful low kicks, but I can't see him winning with that attack alone. Diaz is going to tirelessly throw hundreds of punches in every round running away with the fight on the scorecards, and I fancy a late stoppage by the Californian because Cyborg's cardio might not be up to 25-minute fight standards.

Todd Martin: When the second biggest win of your career is over Makoto Takimoto and you have 13 losses, you probably don’t merit a shot at a major title. Diaz is a better striker than Cyborg and worlds better than him on the ground. Cyborg’s only chance is if Diaz didn’t take his preparation seriously.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Robbie Lawler

Tristen Critchfield: Lawler is one of the most heavy-handed strikers in the game today, but he has proven vulnerable to submissions in the past.  Souza will take advantage of his opponent’s fatal flaw. While Lawler is looking for an opening to land a kill shot, Jacare will strike. Souza by submission in the third round.

Rob King: Lawler obviously only needs to land one heavy shot and follow that up and he can claim the title from Jacare. Souza wants to get this fight to the ground as quickly as possible. Jake Shields showed everyone how to beat Lawler quickly, and look for Souza to use that template; Souza to survive some heavy blows and lock up a submission late in the first.

Lutfi Sariahmed: This title bout should be more competitive than the welterweight battle. Jacare is the better fighter. His jiu-jitsu is second to none and his striking game is such that he can pose Lawler problems, if not win a bout where he avoids Lawler's power game. But Lawler's power is what has made him so successful: "Jacare" needs to take him down relatively quickly to avoid any potential firefight. Remember the Shields fight too -- Lawler's aggressiveness cost him. I'll take "Jacare" by submission in round two.

Brian Knapp: If Lawler can stay off his back, he has a clear path to victory. Despite his otherworldly submission skills, Souza still has a suspect chin. That could be a recipe for disaster for Jacare, who can really establish himself as an elite middleweight with a win here. Give me Lawler by knockout.

Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley

DeFreitas: Prangley is the perfect matchup for Gracie at this stage of his career.  I think Prangley may have issues with Gracie's reach and will instinctively go right to his wrestling and take the fight to the mat and into Gracie's world.  Gracie should have little trouble wrapping up an arm or the neck of the South African for his fourth consecutive win by submission.

Loiseleur: If only MMA could earn the kind of commitment Gracie has given to his pursuit of jiu-jitsu, he'd have likely become one of the greats of this generation of the sport. Unfortunately, it's still more lucrative for him to compete in and teach BJJ, and thus the pressing need for him to fight just isn't there. Prangley is a step up from Yuki Kondo and Kevin Randleman, and I'm interested in seeing if he can actually put his hands on the grappling phenom. However, even if he does, I still think that Gracie will lock on an impressive submission from any position regardless of who presses or doesn't press for takedowns. Gracie will tap Prangley out eventually.

Marciniak: The one thing that stood out in Gracie's fight with Randleman was that the American did everything he could to avoid clinching up with the decorated grappler. If Prangley comes out with that same cautious gampelan, I see him getting jabbed endlessly by the taller fighter and either losing on points or having to change up and actually go for the clinch. Prangley can generate some power but he is not an immediate KO threat like Lawler, so Gracie should be able to turn the clinch to his advantage as well and slip in to a dominant position from which he will tap his opponent out.

Pinheiro: I really like this fight. Gracie’s grappling prowess makes him a factor in any fight. On the other hand, albeit showing signs of slowing down recently, Prangley is still a solid fighter who will give us a good measure of where Gracie is in his MMA development. While his stand-up is not nearly as good as his ground game, Gracie has shown constant improvement in that area. I believe he’s good enough to avoid taking big shots and, most importantly, to find the right moment to close the distance and take the fight to where he is most comfortable. In the end, I think Gracie’s ground game is just too much for Prangley to overcome. I’ll go with Gracie by third-round submission.

Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson

Martin: It’s commendable that Scott Carson returned to MMA competition at the age of 40 after a nine year absence. But he’s being brought in to lose to Herschel Walker and with their respective athletic pedigrees that’s a result very likely to occur.

Critchfield: Who runs a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at 48-years old? For that matter, who does it at 28? Walker’s age-defying feats continue to amaze, and it doesn’t appear that Strikeforce is quite ready to have him face defeat. Carson might be more of an obstacle than Greg Nagy, but he competed (and lost) for the first time in nine years last June. Walker by decision.

King: In terms of in-ring experience over the last nine years, Walker has actually been in action three times longer than Carson has. I am assuming that Strikeforce picked Carson for a reason as Walker's opponent, and that reason is to get Walker another victory in the cage and continue to get as much as they can out of the former Heisman winner. Walker via stoppage in the second.

Knapp: Who knows how long the Herschel Walker experiment will last. Even at 48, he will carry into the cage the kind of athleticism few others in MMA possess. I'm guessing Carson fares only slightly better than Greg Nagy, but Walker takes a one-sided decision.

Sariahmed: I'm relatively certain there's a rule that says camps can't go undefeated on a fight card (assuming they have more than one fighter on the bill, of course). Herschel Walker isn't losing to Scott Carson which of course means Lawson will beat Keslar. Flawless logic.

Eric Lawson vs. Ron Keslar

Loiseleur: Reckless as Lawson may be in giving his away submission opportunities, so long as he can hang on for the first round I don't think Keslar will catch him. I'm seeing Lawson being persistent with winging punches and takedown attempts to wear Keslar down to take the latter two rounds for a decision.

Jordan Breen: Keslar is a good athlete, but doesn't have any individually outstanding skills. If he can keep Lawson from taking him down, he has the ability to tire him out and be an effective dirty boxer. However, Lawson is likely to get a couple takedowns and a bit of ground-and-pound it. It's very possible to see a couple of rounds with both men imposing their style of offense, making for a tough call for the judges. I favor Lawson due to his top position skills, but this is one of the most evenly matched bouts on the bill.

Pinheiro: This is the perfect rebound fight for Lawson. He had a five-fight winning streak surprisingly halted by Wayne Phillips in his bout. As for Keslar, I don’t think he has much to offer. I expect Lawson to impose his grappling game and pick up a submission win in the very first frame of this bout.

King: Lawson has a wikipedia page, and Keslar does not. That tells me all I need to know right there: Lawson via submission.

Nathan Coy vs. Nate Moore

Jordan Breen: Both Coy and Moore have legit wrestling backgrounds and good camps behind them. However, Coy's wrestling has proven more dominant in MMA thus far, and he nearly tipped over the apple cart on Tyron Woodley last year. Woodley is a superior wrestler to Moore, and Moore's striking, though decent, is not threatening enough to make Coy tentative and ineffective as a wrestler. Coy has the ability to dominate position and land strikes of his own en route to a decision.

Marciniak: Coy is a real sturdy wrestler and won't be taken advantage of by the submission-savvy Moore. I think Coy will clinch and dirty box along the fence and grind Moore down en route to a decision win.

DeFreitas: I give the edge to Moore on the feet and Coy will undoubtedly want to make this a wrestling match.  Coy should be able to control this fight on the ground and make Moore work from his back for virtually the entire 15 minutes -- Coy by unanimous decision.

Critchfield: Both Coy and Moore have wrestling pedigrees, but Coy’s resume, with wins over Mike Pierce and Rick Story, is more impressive. Moore’s two defeats have come by KO, which puts his chin into question. Coy wins by ground-and-pound in the second or third round.

2011 Standings:
Brian Knapp 14-8
Todd Martin 13-9
Tomasz Marciniak 13-9
Tristen Critchfield 12-10
Guilherme Pinheiro 12-10
Lutfi Sariahmed 11-11
Rob King 10-12
Jordan Breen 10-12
Tony Loiseleur 10-12
Freddie DeFreitas 8-14
Joseph Myers 6-5
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>