Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg Picks and Preview

Four fights will be featured tonight from San Jose as the Strikeforce World Welterweight and Middleweight crowns will be on the line. So here’s a quick look at what you’ll see if you’ve got Showtime, which I now do (Thank you, UVerse).

Roger Gracie vs. Trevor PrangleyThe South African Hammer is one of MMA’s elder statesman, at 38. He’s been fighting all over the world since 2001 (which all of the sudden seems quite long ago…) and has an impressive 23-6-1 mark to show for it. Prangley has fought in the UFC, Strikeforce, BodogFights and a ton of regional promotions, and is coming off a split decision win over Keith Jardine at Shark Fights 13. Fighting out of AKA, his striking game is still evolving, but he is solid on the ground with his wrestling and ju jitsu. However, the best way for him to leave the cage with a win is to keep it on the feet, which is probably the game plan anytime you face a Gracie. Roger Gracie has spent the better part of a decade owning ju jitsu and submission grappling tournaments. He is, surprise surprise, a 2nd degree BJJ black belt under cousin Renzo. His record in submission wrestling competitions is incredible> He is undefeated since 2008, is 65-7 since 2002 (Notable names on his hit list: Demian Maia, Robert Drysdale, Jacare Souza, Fabricio Werdum, and Shinya Aoki, not a bad pedigree) and it’s said he hasn’t been submitted since he was a blue belt. He’s 3-0 in MMA fights and all three came via submission. No surprise there. The key to this fight is simple. If Gracie can get the takedown, it’s only a matter of time before he submits Prangley. Prangley has to use his more refined striking to keep Gracie at a distance, work his angles and get ready to scramble should Gracie get his hands on him.

Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson
First off, bravo to Carson for taking this fight on relatively short notice. There’s not too much to say about him as very few people have seen him fight. He’s 4-1 and is coming off a win in June, but took a 9-year hiatus from MMA after losing by submission on the first WEC card back in 2001. Walker is making his second appearance inside the cage, with a KO of Greg Nagy a year ago. That’s the biggest problem I see for him really. Before you rail me for forgetting how in shape Walker is, a year is a hell of a long time to go without a fight. Yes, I think I believe him when he says he could still play running back in the NFL. He is more of a genetic freak than Randy Couture, who is a year younger than Walker. And if you watch the Nagy fight, it’s hard to think that’s a 46 year-old (at the time) man in the cage. His martial arts pedigree is also impressive as a 5th degree black belt in taekwondo. It’s no mystery what Walker is going to try to do. Hit Carson, hit him fast and hit him hard. The real question is still what will and can Scott Carson do? Las Vegas wants to know too. Carson sits at a +275 dog this morning.

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship: Jacare Souza (c) vs. Robbie Lawler
The challenger is another guy who has a long and storied career that has taken him all over the world. He’s fought for PRIDE, Stikeforce, Elite XC, the UFC and the IFL. Little known fact: Lawler holds the honor of having won the fight mixed martial arts fight aired on US cable television back in 2002. Lawer is coming off a win over Matt Lindland back in December, when it took him just 50 seconds to put Lindland to sleep with a vicious right hand. He’s a knockout artists, as his 17 wins via KO suggest, and brings vast boxing skills to the game. The striking is where he’s got the advantage on Jacare, whose never won a fight due to KO. Ten of his 13 wins have come by submission though and he loves to end fights with a variety of holds. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention black belts in judo and BJJ. I think I’ve said this before, but to win the belt, Lawler has got to keep his distance, use his fast hands to keep Jacare at arms length and off of his body, avoid clenches and takedowns. If it goes to the ground, Jacare has the advantage and isn’t afraid to grind the win out.

Strikeforce Welterweight Championship: Nick Diaz (c) vs. Evangelista Santos
Cyborg got his shot at the belt thanks to a sick head kick KO of Marius Zaromskis in June (and the fact that Nick was ready to fight before Paul Daley was, sorry Cyborg). He’s fighting at 170 for just the second time. He’s another of these recent crop of Brazilian fighters who have a black belt in BJJ and a wealth of submission skills, but prefer to throw leather. 11 of Cyborg’s 18 have come by knockout, so you know he’s got the power and would love to stand and trade with Diaz. The one knock on him his whole career has been his endurance and if this fight gets into the championship rounds, there’s little question that it’ll belong to Diaz. The champ is on an 8-fight win streak which has included TKOs over Frank Shamrock and Zaromskis, a submission win over Scott Smith and a decision in a rematch with KJ Noons. Diaz will gladly trade punches with Cyborg and has shown for a long time that he’s got a steel chin. He hasn’t been stopped by punches since 2002. I think Nick’s the better striker of the Diaz brothers (which says something) and has the faster hands. Despite both men having BJJ black belts, it’s hard to see how Cyborg has more than a puncher’s chance tonight. It seems like Diaz gets the checkmark in every aspect of the game. Then again, that’s why we hold the fights.

So after those slightly convoluted previews, you want to know how we think tonight’s fights will go.

Fight Armando Casey TJ
Gracie vs. Prangley Gracie Gracie Prangley
Carson vs. Walker Walker Walker Walker
Jacare vs. Lawler Jacare Lawler Lawler
Diaz vs. Cyborg Diaz Diaz Diaz

Casey currently holds a 2-pick lead over Armando and a 3-pick lead on TJ. Can those other two close the gap or will I continue to dominate through the first month of 2011? The card starts at 10pm EST on Showtime.

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