Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley

No matter what Dana White or any Zuffa-Strikeforce-Showtime executives say, its difficult-to-impossible to avoid looking at future Strikeforce events as lame-duck ceremonies. This is the first major Strikeforce event after the announcement that the UFC’s parent company has bought the Scott Coker-created fight promotion, the last viable competition to the UFC.

Setting that aside, Diaz vs. Daley has its own interesting identity. Whether intentional or by coincidence, the top matches here have a certain Strikeforce vs. The World theme to them, with almost all the televised matches showcasing a Strikeforce star against a foreign competitor who’s made his name in an organization other than this.

Due to the limited time between this piece and showtime (the proverbial one, not the channel), here’s a quick rundown of the televised matches on Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley.

155 lbs. – Shinya Aoki x Lyle ‘Fancy Pants’ Beerbohm: Aoki is the eccentric jiu-jitsu wiz from Japan whose big claim to fame, besides a very powerful family backstory and some impressive submission wins, are the loud, bright-colored tights he wears in his matches. And he’s the DREAM lightweight champion. Beerbohm is also known for his tights (hence the nickname). Beerbohm is a more well-rounded fighter, boasting as many striking finishes as submission wins. However, Aoki’s ground game is no joke, as he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. Aoki’s team must be aware that Beerbohm’s conventional strategy is to keep the fight standing, so they’re either going to have a counterstrategy for that or Aoki will stand and bang, which, in a classic example of it’s-so-crazy-it-just-might-work, is something a fighter like Aoki might try. Moreover, between the rules, the country, and the fighting stage (cage, not ring), Beerbohm has home field advantage.

The good of Shinya Aoki (his catchy theme song ‘Baka Survivor’ and energetic walkout is at 2:01):

. . . and the bad (in 2009, Aoki faced last-minute replacement Mizuto Hirota, breaking his arm in a hammerlock and uncharacteristically gloating over it. After the fight, Aoki blamed his overexcitement for his actions):

Prediction: Beerbohm via TKO (round three)

205 lbs. – Gegard Mousasi x Keith Jardine: Mousasi was initially slated to fight Mike Kyle, who withdrew due to injury. In steps the heavy-handed and seasoned vet Keith Jardine, who earned some admirable respect in his post-Ultimate Fighter UFC career until four straight losses forced him out. Jardine always comes to fight, and has faced tougher competition in the last several years than Kyle, or Mousasi, for that matter, has, which, in some ways, makes Jardine a more dangerous opponent. Mousasi has only gone the distance four times out of 34 matches, which would indicate that this match could be a scappy barnburner. Mousasi has finished a fair share of veterans, TKOing strikers like Gary Goodridge, Sokoudjou, and Renao Sobral, and submitting Tatsuya Mizuno and wrestler Jake O’Brien.  In that regard, age will play a factor, in that Jardine’s 35-year old reflexes will  have to be as sharp as those of the 25-year old Mousasi.

Prediction: Jardine via TKO (round two or three)

155 lbs. Strikeforce Lightweight Title – Gilbert Melendez x Tatsuya Kawajiri: Melendez outclassed Shinya Aoki for five rounds last year and Aoki submitted Kawajiri within two minutes shortly thereafter.  This sport is rarely as simple as that, and Kawajiri hardly tried to escape Aoki’s leglock, but this match is far too much on Melendez’ proverbial home turf. Kawajiri hasn’t fought in a cage or under Strikeforce rules, it’s his first fight outside of Japan, and between Melendez’ wrestling, familiarity with the environment, and the ephemeral support and pride of fighting in California, Melendez is far too great of a challenge for the Crusher’s first fight on U.S. soil. I expect a better showing by Kawajiri than he displayed in his Aoki match, but in the end, I don’t see Melendez losing.

Prediction: Melendez via submission (round two) or unanimous decision

170 lbs. Strikeforce Welterweight Title – Nick Diaz x Paul Daley: At first glance, this is a very interesting fight, as Daley’s combined punching speed and power should put him towards the top of the list of hardest-hitting strikers in MMA. However, Daley’s ground defense is penetrable, as Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and Nick Thompson proved. Diaz is a Cesar Gracie black belt, and beat hard-hitters like Smith, Frank Shamrock, Evangelista ‘Mr. Cyborg’ Santos, and Scott Smith in the standing game. I see Diaz wearing Daley’s cardio out for a few rounds, then engaging him on the ground to finish. That said, Daley has never been afraid of an opponent’s wingspan or staying in his pocket. If there’s somebody that could dethrone Diaz, it would be Daley. But it’ll have to happen early.

Prediction: Diaz by submission (round two or three)

The Finish

There’s been a great buzz about this show in the past several weeks, and it especially nice to see such a strong anticipation for a Strikeforce show, particularly after headlines about the sale. I haven’t heard anybody talking about it, but I think this show could be something of an audition for how long much support Zuffa will put behind Strikeforce for the next year or two. If matches play out flat (not that the lineup has those symptoms, but neither did it in Nashville last year), that could inspire the UFC to speed ahead to those interpromotional / absorption dream matches on the horizon.

All this said, I’m looking forward to all of these matches, and I expect that fighters will rise to the occasion to give fans some very memorable moments.

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