Strikeforce is set to take over Showtime this Saturday night with another full card of promising fights. Kicking off the main card, the master of flying submissions Shinya Aoki (19-5) returns to take on Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) who seeks to get back in the winner’s circle after tasting defeat for the first time back in February. UFC veteran “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine (15-9-1) steps in on a week’s notice to take on current DREAM Light Heavyweight Champion “The Dreamcatcher” Gegard Mousasi (24-3-1). The lightweight title is up for grabs when “El Nino” Gilbert Melendez (18-2) faces beloved Japanese grappler “Crusher” Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2). With San Diego saturated with already main-event worthy fights, British slugger “Semtex” Paul Daley (23-10-2) hopes to get his hands on another professional title when welterweight champion “Diablo” Nick Diaz (23-8) greets him in the headlining match. Capturing the title will prove Daley to be truly one of the top players of the game but with the recent tear Diaz is on, winning is easier said than done. Will it be a successful sophomore effort in Strikeforce for the lethal British brawler or will the native of “the 209” add another win to his growing streak? Let’s have a closer look at this match-up.
At First Glance: Fitting his moniker of the plastic explosive, Semtex, Paul Daley steps into the six-sided cage with intimidating striking honed by British-based Team Rough House that has the power to turn the tides of any match with one punch. Daley hopes to add another win to his current four-fight win streak consisting of two phenomenal knockout victories over “Hands of Steel” Scott Smith (16-8), which was considered Strikeforce’s “2010 Knockout of the Year” in his promotional debut and Yuya Shirai (13-8) under the BAMMA banner this past February. With his one-punch KO power, Daley plans to be the first man to hand Nick Diaz his first legitimate knockout loss whilst taking the Strikeforce welterweight title. The current champion, Diaz, hails from the Cesar Gracie Academy based in Pleasant Hill, California. Unlike his training partners such as Jake Shields (26-4-1) and younger brother Nate Diaz (12-7) who have based their style of fighting around their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu credentials, Nick has shown that he feels just as comfortable striking as he is grappling. Currently on an eight-fight tear through the 170lbs. division, Daley’s defeat would only support Diaz’s case as a top welterweight of the world. For Daley to win the title, he would not only derail the momentum behind Diaz but with the recent acquisition of Strikeforce under the Zuffa organization, he could find himself in the driver seat to get back into the UFC.
In Depth: Tomorrow night’s Strikeforce main event will see two of the most brash, controversial figures in mixed martial arts test one another in a war of attrition. Daley is an eight-year veteran in professional MMA with every stoppage victory gained coming by way of his striking. In his UFC debut, Daley made short of work of “The Hitman” Martin Kampmann (17-5) landing the more successful, powerful shots upon the Dane early within the first round to get the TKO victory. Daley would continue the success of his debut months later when he made Jiu-Jitsu ace “McLovin” Dustin Hazelett (15-7) another victim of his explosive striking, gaining a “Knockout of the Night” bonus in the process. However, Daley’s weakness came to light when he encountered “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5) in a duel for the next welterweight title shot. While Koscheck has knockout power as well, he chose to use his wrestling to keep Daley on the mat, severely reducing any threat he could have presented. When all was said and done, it was obvious that Koscheck had won the Unanimous Decision nod but not after Daley chose to give himself his walking papers after punching him after the fight ended. Since that memorable indiscretion, Daley has gotten back to the winning circle. After his most recent win over Scott Smith, where he gained the knockout win with ease, he stood as the only person left to challenge the Strikeforce Welterweight Champion, Nick Diaz. Daley though stands a specialist thanks to his striking. What Josh Koscheck exposed in him is that at the mercy of a superior grappler, Daley’s game in trying to get that one punch becomes one of survival. Here, Nick Diaz gains the advantage.
A Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Diaz’s submission skills plays true to his Gracie mentor with his recent Armbar submission over Muay Thai striker “Cyborg” Evangelista Santos (17-14) and the world’s second successful Gogoplata submission against former PRIDE Lightweight Champion “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (29-8). As mentioned earlier however Diaz’s approach to a fight lies primarily in his boxing. Though Daley and many have made the claim that Diaz’s form of “slap” boxing gives him no stopping power, those who have tasted defeat thanks to Diaz’s striking might say otherwise. While under contract in the UFC, Diaz became the first and only man to-date to knockout “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7) after catching him with successful “slapping” punches with a right hook to close. Diaz seized the Strikeforce welterweight title in 2010 when he collided with the widely considered superior striker Marius Zaromskis (13-4). Though Zaromskis proved a challenge within the first round, Diaz’s excellence of striking at different levels played a significant part in knocking out the Lithuanian. Diaz can truly handle himself on his feet with the best of strikers. Tomorrow night he might come face-to-face with not only an elite stand-up artist in Daley but one whose knockout potential comes with even the slightest swing.
Wild Card: Diaz’s willingness to stand and trade will have much weight on whether or not he defends his title successfully against Paul Daley. Granted that Diaz has a successful boxing career aside from MMA, he bears a significant Jiu-Jitsu game over his competitors. Rather than trying to use this advantage immediately, Diaz opts to stand and take a few blows to implement his will on his opponent. While he might have an iron chin, the last thing Nick Diaz would want is to have Paul Daley be the man to test it. The powerful striking in Daley immediately caused Martin Kampmann to stay on the defensive and even had Josh Koscheck respect him so much to not stand and trade. Yes, Diaz was able to stand with the likes of Gomi, Zaromskis, and Santos who all have serious power as well, but he still found himself in troublesome situations, such as being dropped, until he was given that opportunity to win. If Diaz feels too proud to try and pull guard or take down Daley, it might be a rough night on the drive home with the lack of a title weighing his bags down.
The Verdict: Daley has the red carpet to a title at his feet. He might lack the ground credentials but as a true specialist in the stand-up game with severe power, that alone might gain him a title. The problem is though when a specialist meets a jack-of-all-trades, he might come up short in a department where even the latter is mediocre. Unfortunately for Daley, the “jack” comes personified in Nick Diaz who has great stand-up and excellent grappling. For Daley being a boxer, he has to land that one punch to get things rolling but with a fighter such as Diaz who can poke and prod at a distance, it will be a challenge just to do so. Diaz, being a proud and stubborn fighter as he is, will have to recognize that at some point standing with Daley will not be enough to win or safe enough to tread. Once he sees this and finds a way to get Daley off his feet, the trifecta of taps that Diaz has heard many times in the past will likely make another encore. Diaz via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 2.