Strikeforce returns to action this Saturday night for their first event of 2009 and their first even since the successful purchase of ProElite’s assets.
Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz will take place at what has become Strikeforce’s “home field” of sorts, the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA.
The Strikeforce lightweight title belt was originally slated to be on the line, but with the withdrawal of current champion Josh Thomson due to injury, no titles are up for grabs.
Frank Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz
Strikeforce presents us with a very interesting matchup as the main event, pitting the much larger Frank Shamrock against the bad boy Nick Diaz.
Each fighter carries enough bravado and ego on his own to fill a fight, so combining the two should be very interesting.
Frank “Glamrock” Shamrock is always the showman and fancies himself as the smart, “cerebral" fighter. To listen to Frank tell it, there are no holes in his game and he cannot be defeated by anyone.
Nick Diaz, on the other hand, is anything but a showman. Diaz is a fighter in every sense of the word, who doesn’t seem to be content doing anything but fight.
Both men have spent plenty of time talking the talk, throwing insults back and forth, but now the time has come to touch gloves and walk the walk.
Shamrock will have a definite size advantage and with that, he should also have a power advantage in the striking game. Years ago, Shamrock also had a strong wrestling and grappling game, but there has to be questions about whether he still has strong ground skills today and he has simply relied on striking in recent years.
There can be no denying Nick Diaz is an excellent grappler and Jiu-jitsu practitioner and, in my mind, has the edge on the ground against Shamrock. Unfortunately, Diaz has also fancied himself a striker in recent years and has very rarely willingly spent much time on the ground.
In contrast to Shamrock, Diaz’s strikes are not of the power variety, but more of the pestering jab and quick uppercut variety.
A key factory in this fight, in my mind, will be Shamrock’s conditioning level. We saw Shamrock quickly gas against Phil Baroni and slow down against Cung Le.
Nick Diaz has never had a problem with conditioning and has proven himself to be nearly impossible to finish no matter the level of punishment he has taken.
Luckily for Shamrock, this is not a title fight, and he will only be required to handle three five-minute rounds.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why or how I think it will happen, but I feel Diaz will take this fight. Shamrock will clearly try to get into Diaz’s head once the fight starts and bait him with his antics.
If Diaz can avoid falling into Shamrock’s trap, I think he can win this fight via submission or decision.
Winner: Nick Diaz
Scott Smith vs. Benji Radach
When you talk about a close matchup, look no further than this fight between Scott Smith and Benji Radach. I’m not sure we have seen a recent fight between two more event matched opponents.
Both fighters have a very similar fighting style. They both love to stand and trade heavy blows. On the ground, Radach probably has the slight edge in pure wrestling, but neither fighter is likely to look to showcase their ground games in this fight.
I really think this fight is going to come down to who can stun their opponent first and capitalize on that moment of weakness.
Smith will have a small height advantage and should look to find his range from the outside and use some Muay-Thai skills. Radach needs to get in close and frustrate Smith from the clinch until he finds an opening to attack.
Winner: Benji Radach
Gilbert Melendez vs. Rodrigo Damm
Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez will have to wait a bit longer to get his revenge against Josh Thomson, but he still has a tough fight on his hands against Rodrigo Damm this weekend.
While Melendez has struggled as of late, losing two of his last three fights, he still is a top-caliber lightweight and always brings excellent conditioning into a fight. Melendez struggled greatly trying to take the fight against Josh Thomson to the ground, but shouldn’t have the same problems with Rodrigo Damm.
However, Melendez may not be inclined to take the fight to the mat since Damm is a Jiu-jitsu specialist, winning most of his fights via submission.
Damm has most recently fought in World Victory Road’s Sengoku promotion, losing his last fight back in August of 2008.
Strikeforce, brought in Damm to be a solid opponent, but someone Melendez should beat and that’s exactly what I see happening. I won’t be surprised if Damm pulls out a victory, but realistically I see Melendez grinding out another victory by decision.
Winner: Gilbert Melendez
Brett Rogers vs. Abongo Humphrey
Both heavyweights enter this matchup undefeated, with Brett Rogers at 8-0 and Abongo “Ron” Humphrey at 5-0. Both fighters have won all their fights without seeing the second round. Needless to say, at least one of those two statistics will be different after this fight.
Brett Rogers has faced the tougher competition to date, and probably has a better wrestling game than Humphrey. Neither fighter has really had to show much on the ground yet in their young careers.
With two guys fighting who are accustomed to a quick knockout, anything can happen. I’m going with the experience in this fight and looking for Rogers to pick up a victory.
Winner: Brett Rogers
Cristiane Santos vs. Hitomi Akano
I have to be honest and say, once again, that I don’t follow women’s MMA and cannot give honest assessments and analysis of a women’s matchup.
However, I have seen Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos fight on several occasions, and based on those observations combined with both fighter’s records, I have Santos winning this fight.
Afterwards, hopefully Strikeforce can put together the “Cyborg” vs. Gina Carano fight that every fight fan seems so eager to see.
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