Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Strikeforce: Miami" Review

Picks Results: 5-1 (%83.3)

Main Event:
*** Diaz def. Zaromskis by TKO, Rd. 1 (4:38)
Main Card:
*** Santos def. Coenen by TKO, Rd. 3 (3:40)
*** Walker def. Nagy by TKO, Rd. 3 (2:17)
--- Lawler def. Manhoef by KO, Rd. 1 (3:33)
*** Lashley def. Sims by TKO, Rd. 1 (1:11)
*** Hieron def. Riggs by Unanimous Decision

*** Correct Picks --- Incorrect Picks


Most hardcore MMA will easily find fault with Strikeforce: Miami's second-rate presentation and shoddy matchmaking, but very few would claim they were not entertained. It was also a decent night for my predictions. I went 5-1 with a correct main event pick, bringing my overall score to 147-82 (%64.2), and 19-6 (%76.0) in main events.

Detailed thoughts follow:

Nick Diaz def. Marius Zaromskis by TKO, Rd. 1 (4:38); Wins Vacant Strikeforce Welterweight Title

Straight-up: if you even dare to suggest that this fight was anything but awesome, you are not a fan of MMA. You may not even have a pulse. You should get that checked.

In the very first minute, Nick Diaz (21-7) and Marius Zaromskis (13-4) let loose with simultaneous flurries, which was enough in itself to make the fight memorable. Ultimately, Nick did precisely what most prognosticator's assumed he would, landing at a rate many professional boxers would envy. He scored his TKO a full three rounds earlier than I predicted, so, at this point, I would say that we can all stop talking about the cumulative power in Diaz' strikes. He hits hard and he hits a lot, that's it.

Beyond that, I was impressed with Diaz' tactical use of knees along the fence. He realized early that a slug-fest might not go his way and immediately changed his approach. That allowed him to regain his bearings, while also providing an opportunity to dole out some punishment. Nick also demonstrated his famous resilience by surviving a scare around the three-minute mark when Zaromskis dropped Diaz on the canvas with a left hook.

When Diaz returned to his feet, the air seemingly left Zaromskis' sails almost instantly, while Diaz poured on the aggression. That demonstrates a couple of key points. The first is that Zaromskis is not used to having golden-opportunities slip away and was unsure of how to proceed once one did. It also suggests that Diaz' triathlon-level cardio conditioning allows him the luxury of fighting full-bore for an entire round, which is both rare and incredibly advantageous.

The fall-out from this match will also be fascinatingly to observe.

For his next fight, Marius Zaromskis returns to Japan to defend his welterweight belt at DREAM.13 (March, 22nd). He will face against submissions specialist Kiyoshi Tamura (32-13-3). Unofficially, I like Zaromskis to win, but, in any case, from now on the linear DREAM 170lb. champion will have to be considered inferior to the linear holder Strikeforce welterweight belt. Unless another fight occurs in which the DREAM representative prevails, that is. This fact would be less troubling for DREAM if there weren't already an apparent pattern in place in which Japan-based fighters come to North America only to get slaughtered. It happened with Ryo Chonan (16-10) and Akihiro Gono (31-15-7) in the UFC, for example, and it happened twice tonight if you include Manhoef's loss.

As for Nick Diaz, this is definitely the biggest win of his Strikeforce career. At the same time, it is extremely dangerous to heap too much praise on the new Strikeforce Welterweight Champion. Lead Showtime play-by-play announcer, Mauro Ranallo, actually had the outlandish gall to call Diaz a potential pound4pound top-ten fighter, which is simply infuriating because Zaromskis, who had Diaz hurt, was not even ranked in the WW top-ten going in. Diaz certainly displayed a lot of skill and courage at Strikeforce: Miami and, perhaps deserves a WW top-ten spot, but that's it. His next fight is likely to be against Jay Hieron (19-4), who defeated Joe Riggs on the undercard by unanimous decision, but Hieron is not ranked in the WW top-10 either and will do little to advance Diaz' legacy.

After that fight, assuming Diaz wins, Strikeforce will find that its welterweight cupboards are utterly and completely bare. The UFC currently controls each of the world's top-12 welterweights and a fight between Diaz and Jake Shields (24-4-1) is not an option since the Nick and Jake are training partners and longtime friends.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos defeats Maroles Coenen To Defende Her Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.

Maybe I just got caught up in the excellent hype-job done by the Stikeforce broadcast team, but as this match began I was starting to doubt that Cristian Santos (9-1) would have as easy of a time in this fight as I had predicted. I even started to think that Marloes Coenen (17-4)’s superior striking technique and significant grappling advantage might be enough to secure the win, especially if she could tire Santos out.

As it turned out, though, “Cyborg’s” strength advantage made the difference once again. That was clearly on display throughout, but it was not the whole story: her punches were noticeably crisper, she utilized stellar takedown defense, demonstrated a granite chin, scored several particularly crushing takedowns , and also exhibited a veteran's patience in picking her shots from guard. On top of all that, “Cyborg’s” gas tank seemed nearly limitless.

If Cristiane Santos, who is still fairly young at just twenty-four years old, can continue to improve her technique, and combines that with her obvious physical advantages, she can likely retain her Strikeforce Women's Lightweight Title (145lbs.) for a long, long time.

Again, the much trickier question for Strikeforce down the road could be, who fights Santos next? Aside from Erin Toughill (10-2-1), who has been signed by Strikeforce, but has yet to make her debut, there is no woman out there who poses a credible threat to Cyborg's reign.

Herschel Walker defeats Greg Nagy by TKO, Rd. 3

From the very first stiff jab to his eventual third-round TKO from back-mount, Heisman Trophy winner, Herschel Walker (1-0) took the fight to Greg Nagy (1-2). Walker's leg kicks were crisp, his transitions were of sufficient speed, and his sprawl was nothing short of textbook. It was a particularly impressive performance for a guy making his MMA debut.

That’s not to say that Walker’s performance was flawless. There were instances throughout the fight in which he had achieved dominant position, including several opportunities from of both full-mount and back-mount, but Walker was unable to capitalize until late in the third. The ability to finish can, of course, come with time, but, at forty-seven years old, time is the one thing that Walker doesn’t have a lot of.

In his post-fight interview Walker was very humble and credited his coaches and training partners for the victory. He also implied that he is interested in fighting until his body no longer holds up, which, judging by his ridiculously ripped physique, could be some time away yet. Walker will never be a champion for Strikeforce, but he doesn't need to be. He can be a key draw for Strikeforce if matched properly with intriguing opponents and also lends credibility to the organization and the sport of MMA with his wide-spread appeal in the wider sporting world.

Robbie Lawler defeats Melvin Manhoef by KO, Rd. 1

Melvin Manhoef (24-7-1) looked more patient and better-prepared than we have ever seen him. He came out with purpose and was picking Robbie Lawler (17-5) apart, especially with those devastating leg kicks. To say Manhoef looked absolutely terrifying for the first three-minutes-and-thirty-seconds of this fight would be a gross understatement. Then, as if realizing he could not take any more abuse, Robbie Lawler poked his head out of its protective shell just long enough to launch that counter right hook that switched off Manhoef's lights.

Lawler certainly scored an impressive finish, but the performance was nothing to hang his hat on. He connected on only three strikes the entire round and was limping noticeably both during the fight and afterward. It will be difficult for Strikeforce to match Lawler with the winner of Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields until he turns in at least one more-complete performance-- perhaps he can face the loser of that fight.

As for Manhoef, it appears that years of fighting like a half-crazed wolverine have finally taken a toll on his synapses. Sure, anyone can get caught, but Manhoef, who was out cold from one hook, is no spring chicken at nearly thirty-four years old and should probably at least begin considering a new line of work.

Bobby Lashley defeats Wes Sims by TKO, Rd. 1

It was over pretty quick, Wes Sims (22-13-1) would say too soon, but it feels more like this fight didn’t happen at all.

We learned nothing about Bobby Lashley (5-0)’s developing skill-set by watching him maul Sims for just over a minute. I realize that Strikeforce wants to protect Lashley and that he wants to learn the game at his own pace. That’s all fine and good, but if they’re going to continually set him up with punching bags as opponents, can't they please spare us all the insult of watching him do so on a major show?

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