Strikeforce presented another Showtime sports event with welterweight champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) taking on Chute Boxe fighter “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-14) in the main event in one of two title fights this past Saturday night. Before these two took to the cage at the “Shark Tank” of the HP Pavilion Center in San Jose, California, big names such as Roger Gracie (4-0) of the renowned Gracie family came to not only remain undefeated, but to prove his family is still as much of an influence in MMA with not only instructing Jiu-Jitsu but fighting as well. Herschel Walker (2-0) hoped to master another battlefield when he traded out the gridiron for six sides of steel, and elite middleweights “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (13-2) and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7) met for the middleweight championship.
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is Still Relevant and Evolving
Understand this, Trevor Prangley (23-6-1) is not a pushover by any means. Prangley is a man who in ten years of his professional career amassed a successul run in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions with his Muay Thai and wrestling. Last Saturday night however it took just one round for the up-and-coming Jiu-Jitsu artist, Roger Gracie, to defeat the seasoned veteran. Surprisingly for only three professional fights prior and disregarding his Jiu-Jitsu accomplishments, Gracie landed over 60%, a relatively large percentage, of strikes standing upon the South African Prangley. In a testament to his family’s name and reputation, Gracie secured the only takedown of the match and ended it then and there. It took less than a minute in the first round for Gracie to slap on a Rear Naked Choke and gain the victory.
Not only did Roger prove that Jit-Jitsu in hands of the namesake is effective, his superiority exchanging leather shows that as times and the sport change, so do the Gracies. While Roger Gracie might not be quite up to par with most strikers, the effective striking towards Prangley to get the takedown shows he is learning quickly to round out his game. The next move from here though is critical. From a business aspect, facing someone who he can beat will not only give Gracie more exposure but draw more fans for Strikeforce. If he’s given someone who can defeat him, Strikeforce might lose a big-name draw while Gracie just takes a slip in the ranks.
The Fountain of Youth: Redux
Being a Heisman Trophy winner and playing 14 years in the National Football League (NFL) with two Pro and two All-Pro Bowl selections would be enough for an athlete to hang his hat upon when calling it a day. Herschel Walker obviously fails to believe so. In his second professional MMA match, Walker made short work of Scott Carson (4-2). After being angered by a head kick Carson landed early in the opening round’s start, Walker went immediately on the offensive with a tenactity made more prevalent than in his debut. The former Dallas Cowboys running back dropped Carson with improved striking and controlled Carson’s back with efficient ground-and-pound. Though Carson was able to get back on his feet, he was sent back to the ground after a punch combination from Walker. The referee had finally seen enough, saved Carson, and gave Walker the TKO victory.
Much like how Brock Lesnar (5-2) found his calling in MMA from his career in college wrestling, episodes in the WWE, and a short-lived NFL career, Walker claims to have found that same calling. Surprisingly for his age, Walker showed that at 48-years-old he can still compete where many would have called it quits many years before. If his training with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and past endeavors in the NFL serve him well, Walker might have a successful career in the sport of mixed martial arts.What Walker needs now if he chooses to take another fight is someone who will be able to push the fight back just as he has on his past two opponents. Once again, Strikeforce has to tread carefully when choosing opponents. If Walker wins against a formidable opponent, he and the company benefit. Give him a loss and Walker and Strikeforce have to go about and save face.
A Champion Validated
It is said that winning the belt is not what makes one a champion, but rather is whether they can defend it. For his first title defense, Team Black House fighter and Strikeforce Middleweight Champion “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza did just that against lethal striker “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. Though Lawler had his moments where it appeared another knockout was bound to happen, Souza was able to control him for the majority of the contest by pinning him against the cage, taking him down, and holding him on the ground. The moments Lawler was off his feet were the moments where Souza put on a Jiu-Jitsu clinic aiming to finish the bout by any means necessary. While the “Ruthless” one was able to fend off many of the submissions, a credit to his defensive capabilities, he eventually gassed out to where Souza was able to effectively apply a fight-ending Rear Naked Choke.
Souza showed that despite having the belt, ego did not get in the way of defending it. He used his superiority as a Judo and Jiu-Jitsu fighter to keep Lawler on the ground where his striking was nullified. While most fighters tend to think they are untouchable after winning a title, Souza recognized his strengths and weaknesses approaching the match which led to a successful title defense. With this type of intelligence and an always improving stand-up game, Souza might just hold onto the middleweight title for quite some time.
A Top 5 Welterweight
Two out of five rounds is all it took in a welterweight championship match between Nick Diaz and “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos. Though Diaz had the pressure of defending his title, more was at stake for Santos. With his wife, Cristiane (10-1), being the Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight Champion and for his training camp at Chute Boxe Academy producing numerous champions, Santos had much to gain by winning the welterweight title. Santos’ gameplan was to kick out the legs of Diaz. Though he stuck with it to a T, Diaz’s reach and boxing was able to tag him more often than not later in the opening stanza. Enter the second round – both fighters went at it without giving the other the satisfaction of the exchanges. While Diaz’s boxing still proved to beat out Santos’ leg kick strategy, Santos still went full steam against the champion, showing no falter in his step until he took the fight to the ground. Once Diaz’s back hit the mat he immediately tossed his legs and hips over to plant Santos in an Armbar where “Cyborg” tapped with just ten seconds left in the round. Diaz wins with a second round Armbar submission.
With nine victories in a row now, Diaz proves that he is indeed a top welterweight. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and fans are now curious as to who is left for Diaz to fight. The Stockon, California native has defeated a majority of challengers with wins coming from TKOs and submissions, proving that no matter where the fight takes place he can end it then and there. What Diaz needs is another fighter like Santos who will stand and trade with him on the feet exclusively or who can challenge him on the ground effectively. Seeing as such fighters who possess both traits appear to be rare to fight Diaz now, the newly signed and former UFC welterweight “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2), seems to be the next choice to challenge for the belt. Daley is not one to fight on the ground and Diaz is not one to go for takedowns early even when pressured. With explosive power in his hands, Daley would be able to test the chin of Diaz in a slugfest that fans would enjoy.