Strikeforce returned to Showtime last night with its “Diaz vs. Cyborg” card, broadcasting live from its headquarters city of San Jose, California at the HP Pavilion for an explosive evening of fights. Up for grabs were both the welterweight and middleweight titles, as well as Roger Gracie of the highly regarded Gracie family (4-0) attempting to stay undefeated in a clash with Muay Thai kickboxer Trevor Prangley (22-7) and crossover superstar Herschel Walker (2-0) taking on Scott Carson (4-2). The crowd was primed and ready to go crazy, and with the event that included exciting finishes and all-out-wars, Strikeforce surely did not disappoint with its latest effort. Here’s how the fights turned out.
Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley
If one were to look up the word “efficient” in the dictionary, there should be a picture of Roger Gracie next to it. The undefeated MMA newcomer stepped up the competition in a big way, facing the more experienced Trevor Prangley. Here’s why the performance should be categorized as efficient: Gracie landed better than 60 percent of his strikes, attempted one takedown which was successful, and followed it up with one submission attempt, also successful. With less than a minute left in the opening stanza, Gracie seized an opportunity, taking Trevor’s back, sinking in the hooks and forcing the battle tested South African to tap out to a Rear Naked Choke. For Gracie, it was a terrific performance to continue to build what appears to be a blooming career as a mixed martial artist. Gracie via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 1, 4:19
Scott Carson vs. Herschel Walker
Herschel Walker came into this fight with Scott Carson expected to do well. Most felt he could control the action and hand Carson a loss late in the fight, or by Unanimous Decision. Instead, in what came as a surprise to many, Walker brought a brutality and fervor that was far more prevalent than in his debut performance. Herschel seemed genuinely disgusted that Scott Carson would land a high kick on him to start their fight and immediately unloaded, knocking Carson to the canvas. Carson recovered well, and at one point had Herschel’s leg compromised with a submission attempt but Walker figured it out and repositioned himself on top before his opponent could capitalize, and also survived Carson attempting to set up an Armbar. The fighters climbed back to their feet and Walker immediately landed a 1-2 that sent Carson down, in the turtle position. The referee at that point had seen enough and called a halt to the action, giving Herschel Walker an impressive first round TKO victory. After the fight, Herschel stated he would be back and that “MMA is my love.” Walker via TKO (Strikes), Round 1, 3:13
“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7) vs. “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza (13-2) – Middleweight Championship
After two main card fights and the same number of first round stoppages, it was time to bring in the middleweights for a five round championship battle. The renowned “Big” John McCarthy stepped into the cage to referee the title fight. The two fighters danced around a little to start the fight before “Jacare” was able to push “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler against the fence and immediately take him down. Souza immediately passed to side control and began looking for submission opportunities. Robbie Lawler did not have an answer for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo black belt’s ground game, as Souza continued to control the action on the mat. Robbie stood up, giving his neck to “Jacare” who immediately went for the choke, but Lawler was able to spin out and circle off the fence. The two fighters exchanged wild punches and Lawler hurt Souza with a knee and a right hand but for whatever reason, Robbie chose to follow a very dazed Souza to the mat. Souza used an illegal fence grab to improve position and “Big” John admonished him for it. The referee then stood the fighters back up, at which point Lawler began landing a flurry of strikes. “Jacare” clinched and worked for a takedown as time expired in the first round, resulting in a clear 10-9 for Lawler.
Round two opened with the fighters calm and circling. Souza pinned Lawler against the fence, then immediately took him to the mat. The champion took no time at all gaining the mount, but was against the fence and Robbie retained guard. Lawler was controlled on the mat for a few minutes before “Jacare” looked to go for an Arm Triangle but quickly let it go. Souza advanced to side mount and spent considerable time there working his ground-and-pound, and controlling the round completely. Lawler got back to guard for a moment, but “Jacare” immediately passed. Lawler was very nearly caught in an Armbar in an exchange but Robbie escaped. “Ruthless” evaded yet another Armbar attempt from his opponent and gained top position as the round drew to a close. Robbie Lawler showed some impressive submission defense, but was still on the losing end in the round, as it rather distinctly went 10-9 for Souza.
Robbie Lawler came out to the third round looking somewhat tired and was clinched by Souza, who delivered some powerful knees to Lawler before grabbing a single leg and taking “Ruthless” down after a brief struggle. “Jacare” immediately passed to side control and once again controlled the action on the mat. An exhausted Robbie Lawler tried to escape and climb to his feet but instead gave up his back. Souza immediately clamped down on the Rear Naked Choke with a body triangle and Robbie fought it for a few moments, but he had no choice other than to tap out, giving Souza the win and stamping his own ticket to go back to the line of middleweight contenders. Souza via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 3, 2:00
“Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-14) vs. “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) – Welterweight Championship
The Strikeforce Welterweight Championship bout was next with the truculent Nick Diaz set to square off against his title challenger “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos for five rounds of surefire action. On the line for Santos was the opportunity to hold championship gold for the first time in his career as well as the chance for the “Cyborgs” to become the first ever husband and wife team, alongside his partner and Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight Champion Cristiane Santos (10-1), to simultaneously hold world combat championships. Round 1 was a hell of a way to start off the championship tilt. “Cyborg” spent the first three minutes of the round dominating Diaz with inside leg kicks and straight right hands. Diaz looked hurt a couple times, but he continued to talk, taunt, and counter his way through the round. The tide turned when Diaz landed some significant damage standing, then some solid knees, wobbling Santos badly. They spent the last minute of the round engaged in a high stakes game of chicken, both throwing big shots. As the round came to an end, Nick Diaz looked to be in better shape, as a bloodied and tired Santos found his way to his corner. This was a difficult round to score. Santos’ leg kicks were very damaging but Nick came much closer to closing the show. The round can arguably go to Diaz 10-9.
Nick Diaz and “Cyborg” Santos again decided to fight in a phone booth in Round 2, landing big shots, huge kicks, and knees. Neither guy gave an inch as they continued to throw elbows and big shots to the head and body throughout the second frame. Nick took a few low leg kicks but nowhere near as many as he did in the first round. As the second round drew towards its final minute Santos shot in and took Nick Diaz down, which was the beginning of the end for Santos. Nick Diaz immediately threw up an Armbar, and even though Santos tried to roll out, Nick controlled the arm and caused Santos to tap with only ten seconds left in the round. “Cyborg” put on an imposing performance but ultimately couldn’t get the job done, as Diaz retained his welterweight title. Diaz via Submission (Armbar), Round 2, 4:50
For the complete list of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg results, click HERE.