MMA – Strikeforce

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MMA: Strikeforce – Diaz vs. Daley

Saturday, April 9, 10 p.m. ET

Nick Diaz (24-7) vs. Paul Daley (27-9-2)

Fireworks in April. That’s really the only way I can describe this title fight between champion Nick Diaz and the explosive loud-mouthed brit Paul Daley.

Not since Madonna and Dennis Rodman hooked up have we seen a matchup with two people so colorful and stylistically different at the same time. Diaz is the outspoken welterweight champion and former UFC and EliteXC veteran. The Stockton, Calif. native is well known for his all-out battles and spectacular finishes to go along with top-notch trash talk.

Diaz is a Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt who believes firmly that your training partners are your family and everyone else is the enemy. He’s got a spectacular knack for pulling off submissions no matter where you have him on the mat. Need an example of how good he is? Well he can claim being one of only two men to successfully pull off a gogoplata in an MMA bout (Google “gogoplata” because I can’t even begin to explain its level of difficulty here). Being a sparring partner of WBA world middleweight champion Andre Ward will do that for you and his bravado in the stand up department is the only way he could lose this fight.

His opponent is Paul “Semtex” Daley, a team Rough House member and thoroughbred thumper. The major difference between Daley and his team Rough House brethren is that he has legitimate HGH-era Barry Bonds power in both hands to go with absolutely flawless technique. Daley wins his fights one way and that is going 100 percent from start to finish and knocking people out cold. He might as well change his nickname to “Ambien” because he literally puts his opponents to sleep.

For all Daley’s power, he lacks any sort of wrestling base or jiu-jitsu defense, and that’s always been his downfall. Well, that and his temper. After being wrestled to death by Josh Koscheck in what was essentially an eliminator fight at a shot at the UFC welterweight title, Daley waited until after the final bell to walk up behind Koscheck and sucker punch him out of frustration. He was immediately booted from the UFC permanently and he’s been clawing his way back to this chance ever since.

This fight is a trendy pick for an upset special because of a combination of Daley’s ridiculous power, and Diaz’ willingness to stand and trade with superior punchers. I’m not buying it though, as Diaz has shown he’s got a chin as good as anyone in the business and he’s made a career of beating people at their own game. I think Daley comes out firing in this fight and may hurt Diaz, but he won’t be dumb enough to follow him to the ground leaving Diaz to recover. After letting Diaz gain his wits, it’s only a matter of time before he gets Daley to ground and wins via submission.

Gilbert Melendez (18-2) vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri (27-6-2)

This is another title fight for yet another fighter out of the Cesar Gracie camp in Gil Melendez. It seems like all these guys do is win titles.

Melendez is widely regarded as one of the best lightweights in the world, and his glowing record speaks for itself with wins over Shinya Aoki, Clay Guida and Josh Thompson. He’s also already beaten Tatsuya Kawajiri once in the past. Melendez uses a combination of stifling wrestling with some good boxing to keep his opponents at bay. The champ is almost always able to enforce his will on his opponent, and wear them down with his power and control. Coming from the Gracie camp, he’s rarely fazed by submission or ground and pound experts, as evidenced when he manhandled Japanese submission king Shinya Aoki on the ground nearly a year ago.

Kawajiri is a former Pride veteran as well as Shooto champion. He bases his style off of overpowering his opponents, and showcasing a strong ground and pound game. He’s had some solid wins in his career, but has fallen short against most of his big-name opponents. Unfortunately, Kawajiri was displaced recently due to the disaster in Japan. While he claims the time it took him to get out of the country isn’t that big of a detriment, I can’t imagine that isn’t weighing on his head. He’s also never fought inside an actual cage before, as Pride and Shooto use the standard boxing ring style for their fights.

Kawajiri is in a rough spot here stylistically because no matter how strong he is on the ground, he’s not going to consistently be able to get advantageous positions on Melendez because his wrestling is sub-par and he just doesn’t have the stand up prowess to threaten in that aspect. While I think the fight will be a bit closer than the first matchup, I think the combination of Melendez’s wrestling combined with Kawajiri’s altered prep time will mean another unanimous decision for the current champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez.

Shinya Aoki (26-5) vs. Lyle Beerbohm (15-1)

Is there a post-fight award for least intimidating nicknames? I think “Tobikan Judan” and “Fancy Pants” would win that one hands down.

To me, Shinya Aoki is one the least likeable fighters in MMA. He looks annoying, his prefight trash talk is annoying, and win or lose he’s a poor sport. After breaking an opponent’s arm on New Year’s Eve a couple years ago, he promptly found his way around the referee to give his opponent (who was rolling around in horrible pain) the middle finger and taunt him on the loss. Then when he himself loses, he cries about refs and how he wants to quit fighting altogether. He usually runs from a stand up battle and does whatever he can to slow the fight down and bring his opponent to him. Aside from all the reasons to dislike Aoki, he’s one of the premiere submission specialists in all of MMA, and he can virtually pull of a win from anywhere on the mat.

Lyle Beerbohm seems to be the polar opposite as far as personality is concerned. “Fancy Pants” is just a tough dude who comes to brawl and always puts on a good show. His personal story is amazing, having spent time behind bars for drug-related offenses after a promising high school wrestling career only to get his life together and become one of the better prospects in MMA. He’s got a stellar record, but unlike Aoki he has no real signature wins to anchor his resume. Beerbohm has a good blend of power and submission knowledge and he’s capable of finishing a fight standing or grappling.

While Aoki’s attitude has me personally wishing for a loss here, I’m disheartened by how badly Beerbohm was manhandled in his first ever loss, and I can’t help but think the slippery Aoki is going to get his hands on a limb and go to town. I think Aoki runs away from the stand up as always and pulls off an early submission here, but this is one fight where I’ll be glad to pick wrong.

Gegard Mousasi (30-3-1) vs. Keith Jardine (17-9-1)

This fight would’ve been a lot more intriguing a few years ago when Gegard Mousasi was just gaining steam and Keith Jardine’s skills hadn’t fallen off the planet.

=Mousasi is the former Strikeforce 205-pound champion, and at 25 years old he’s still got plenty in the tank. Mousasi’s also held titles in numerous other organizations in different weight classes. He’s truly capable of doing it all in the cage, as he’s well versed in the ground game to go along with a diverse and powerful striking game based in kickboxing. The only thing that concerns me is that sometimes he seems disinterested and generally lacks aggression, and that cost him the belt a year ago. At such a young age, he holds several notable wins over major players in MMA such as Jacare, Hector Lombard and Denis Kang, and only his own passive attitude can slow him down.

Jardine is a former UFC standout whose decline in skills has landed him on a major rough patch in his career. Once on a tear winning four of his first five fights in the UFC, “The Dean of Mean” went on a skid that saw him lose five of his next seven. He subsequently had his contract terminated with the organization. After a couple of “gimme” fights, Jardine is back with a major organization as a short-notice fill in. In the prime of his career, his strong wrestling base and often unorthodox striking game gave his opponents headaches, but his chin betrayed him and he found it hard to overcome the holes in his game with pure toughness any longer. He’s reportedly been close to retirement recently.

Mousasi should have an easy road here against a short-notice injury replacement like Jardine. Anywhere this fight takes place, Jardine is outgunned and overmatched. I expect Mousasi to blitz Jardine early and end this fight via TKO in the first.

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