This Saturday at the “Shark Tank” HP Pavillion in San Jose, California, Strikeforce presents two title fights with its Diaz vs. Cyborg card. The main event will feature current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (22-8) taking on “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-13) for the 170lbs. title along with the co-main event showcasing the classic striker vs. grappler match-up with Jiu-Jitsu ace “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (12-2) defending his middleweight belt against slugger “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-6). The crowd will also be treated to Roger Gracie’s (3-0) return to the Strikeforce cage, fighting Lion’s Den graduate Trevor Prangley (22-6-1), as well as the highly anticipated return of 48-year-old former NFL star and current American Kickboxing Academy fighter Herschel Walker (1-0) taking on Scott Carson (4-1) in just his second appearance not only in the Strikeforce promotion, but in the cage. Let’s take a closer look at this fight.
At First Glance: The highly regarded former running back and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker’s name alone does quite a bit to draw attention to the Diaz vs. Cyborg card, attracting both hardcore and casual MMA fans as well as those who followed his football career and may not have had previous interest in mixed martial arts. Walker’s professional debut against fellow newcomer Greg Nagy (0-1) showcased a solid effort on Walker’s part in addition to a more developed skill set than many expected. However, it left questions as to how he would fare against more experienced fighters. That very question will be somewhat answered on Saturday night in his match against Carson. The heavyweight is more well-rounded with his striking and wrestling and has four more fights under his belt than Walker; though that may not seem a detrimental difference in comparison, experience is vital in the cage.
In Depth: Experience may not be everything, but it certainly means a lot. With only five fights to his credit Carson is not a particularly experienced fighter, especially considering the fact that he went on a nine-year hiatus following his fourth professional bout. When he returned to the cage to face Lorenz Larkin (8-0) in June 2010, Carson was knocked out just 2:54 into the fight. The loss is one he surely will be looking to make up for come Saturday night. Carson has earned three of his total four wins by submission which is an aspect of the game of which Walker is not yet too experienced and should this fight find its way to the ground it will certainly be in Carson’s favor. Despite what seems to be the odds stacking against him, Walker’s incredible athleticism could prove a substantial advantage over his opponent and even somewhat negate his lack of experience against Carson. Another often overlooked element Walker brings to the table is that he is a fifth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. The former pro football player’s gameplan in his match against Carson will likely entail keeping the fight standing where he has a better chance of establishing himself as the dominant man.
The Wild Card: As previously established, Walker bears the heavy load of coming into his match against Carson as the less experienced fighter. But, one potentially dangerous mistake that Carson is making is underestimating his opponent’s abilities, and by the time he realizes the error of his presumptions, it may be too late for Carson. His former career as an NFL star may also work in Walker’s favor, as in some form he surely has gone head-to-head with men bigger than Carson and he likely has acquired both the balance and the ability to keep himself from being taken down easily. Should Walker be able to stick to his guns and execute his intended gameplan while minimizing beginner’s mistakes, he stands a good chance of walking out of the cage with a 2-0 record.
The Verdict: Walker may not be the likely pick, but his overall superior athleticism, expertise in Tae Kwon Do, and being vastly underestimated by his opponent Scott Carson could be the final nails in his opponent’s coffin en route to another victory. Expect the former NFL star to overpower and outlast Carson, resulting in another solid impression on the MMA community as well as the judges, who will give him the unanimous nod. Walker via Unanimous Decision.