Tomorrow night, Strikeforce returns to its birthplace in the “Shark Tank” at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California with its latest effort in Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg. The promotion has brought to bear some of the biggest names on its roster for the card, including middleweight king “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (12-2), former UFC standout “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-6), NFL tail back turned Strikeforce heavyweight Herschel Walker (1-0), WEC veteran Scott Carson (4-1), submission grappling phenom Roger Gracie (3-0), and Shark Fights light heavyweight champ Trevor Prangley (22-6-1). However, the main event honors fall solely on the shoulders of welterweight title holder “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (22-8) and his challenger, the Chute Boxe fighter “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-13). The bout promises to be a fast paced and violent affair with Santos being the perfect example of the well known Chute Boxe brutality and Diaz being an incredibly aggressive member of the vaunted Cesar Gracie team.
At First Glance: The initial impression this fight leaves on a fan is that “Cyborg” shouldn’t even be here. It is a testament to the lack of depth in the Strikeforce welterweight division that a fighter who has gone 2-3 in his last five fights and 1-1 with the promotion is challenging for the belt. That being said, Santos’ Chute Boxe brand of brutal aggression makes him a very dangerous opponent for the significantly smaller champion. “Cyborg” has spent the majority of his career at 185lbs. and has even fought at 205 whereas Diaz, who has fought at middleweight a few times, has spent considerable time at lightweight as well. Diaz is no stranger to facing physically intimidating opponents, however, and is a serious threat to any fighter of any size anywhere the fight goes.
In Depth: Diaz has a very solid boxing game that rivals even the elite strikers of the welterweight division. His technique, power, footwork, and head movement are all truly world class and his exceptional submission game keeps opponents distracted watching for takedowns while he works his game on the feet. Unfortunately, his stand-up game is focused mainly on staying out of the pocket and using his considerable reach to batter his adversaries from a distance. Santos, while lacking Diaz’s reach, is an expert at collapsing the pocket and preventing fighters from using just such a game plan. Santos will be able to close the clinch with Diaz and do damage, but from there he again finds himself in Diaz’s world. Nick Diaz should easily be able to put Santos on his back and either return to his feet or dominate the Brazilian on the mat.
The Wild Card: Anytime a fighter who has complete indifference to his own defense comes in with the kind of unthinking and unrelenting aggression that is the hallmark of Chute Boxe, there is always the chance that the better fighter will fall. The US Secret Service has said that the worst kind of assassin is one who knows he is going to die because fear of being killed or captured has no hold on him. The same is true for a fighter like Santos, who goes in knowing he is going to absorb tons of damage and simply doesn’t care. If Diaz doesn’t put Santos away, “Cyborg” will simply wade through his attacks in order to deal fight ending damage of his own.
The Verdict: At the end of the day, technique trumps grit every time. Santos likely will eat punches trying to close with Diaz and probably even collapse the pocket and do some damage from time to time. However, Diaz will always manage to easily retake the advantage with either a takedown or his superior footwork. The fight will be exciting, but it will also be brief, violent, and ugly. In the end, Diaz will make his opponent pay for his reckless assault with well timed jabs and straight lefts from the outside that will leave “Cyborg” crumpled against the cage. Diaz via TKO, Round 1.