The 10 Best Strikeforce Fights of 2011
Strikeforce has undergone tons of changes this year.
The organization was once the biggest rival to the UFC, which has long been considered the pinnacle of the sport. However, the subsidiary that is Zuffa would later acquire the San Jose-based promotion.
Barring the obvious changes that have come along with the recent acquisition, Strikeforce still puts on some great and memorable fights that have garnered the praise of the mixed martial arts community—and rightfully so.
Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley
In his final battle with Strikeforce, Nick Diaz was looking to make the third defense of his welterweight title when he took on former UFC contender Paul Daley.
Though Diaz's easiest path to victory would be to work the heavy-hitting Brit to the canvas and hunt for the submission, the Stockton native opted to stand and trade with "Semtex."
As the action ensued, Daley eventually dropped and rocked Diaz with a counter left hook. The Cesar Gracie fighter quickly recovered and worked his way back to his feet.
Moments later, Diaz began to tee off on Daley, connecting on a short right hook that sent the Team Roughhouse product crashing face-first into the mat.
A few ground-and-pound blows later and the battle was finished, with Diaz taking home the surprise first round TKO victory.
Nick Diaz vs. Cyborg
After his rollicking victory over rival KJ Noons in October of 2010, Diaz returned earlier this year to take on Pride veteran Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos.
The Brazilian was fresh off of a surprise first-round knockout victory over Dream champion Marius Zaromskis, earning him his shot against the Strikeforce champ Diaz.
Though Cyborg hails from a touted kickboxing background thanks to his roots with the Chute Boxe Academy, it was Diaz's boxing that made the difference, rocking Santos on several occasions.
Cyborg proved to be game, answering Diaz's punches with crippling leg kicks, though the mounting blows from the Stockton fighter took their toll and Santos eventually opted to bring the fight to the mat in the waning moments of the third round.
In a matter of seconds, Diaz cinched up an armbar, earning the tap after nearly 15 minutes of exciting action.
Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza
Luke Rockhold's September battle with then-champion Ronaldo Souza marked the end of a 19-month layoff that the AKA product had incurred thanks to injury and failed fights having fallen through.
The homegrown Strikeforce star was undefeated in the promotion and had never made it outside of the first round in any of his fights. The Californian engaged the Brazilian early, fending off several takedowns whilst throwing some flashy kicks.
The back-and-forth battle had the crowd on it's feet as Rockhold continued to go mid-air with spinning back fists, kicks and jumping knees galore.
In the end, the talented but unproven Rockhold finally arrived, taking home the decision victory. In defeating Souza, Rockhold earned Top 10 status and the Strikeforce title in the process.
Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villante
In a reserve match for the promotion's Heavyweight Grand Prix, Gian Villante was looking to make an emphatic entrance into the Strikeforce show when he took on the gritty and grizzly Chad Griggs.
The action took off quickly as the wrestler-turned-kickboxer in Villante rocked Griggs with an early head kick. The referee proved to be a deterrent, as he stopped the action momentarily in order to pop in a mouthpiece.
Once the action restarted, Griggs connected on a hard right hook. A few mounting blows later and Villante hit the deck; though he sprung back up, he was dropped again with another right hand.
Some ground-and-pound blows later and Villante was done, giving Griggs the TKO victory in a little over two minutes of action.
Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche
Looking to make the first defense of her 135-pound title, Marloes Coenen took on the talented and undefeated Liz Carmouche.
Coenen was the consummate favorite leading into the bout, though "Girl-Rilla" proved to be formidable, as Carmouche mounted and reigned down blows on the submission-savvy Dutchwoman.
For three rounds, Carmouche dominated Coenen—who looked as though she would soon be on the end of a decision loss—before the Golden Glory product cinched up a fight-ending triangle choke 89 seconds into the fourth round.
Dan Henderson vs. Rafael Cavalcante
At 40 years old, Dan Henderson was looking to add another belt to the mantle when he took on then-Strikeforce 205-pound champion Rafael Cavalcante.
The Brazilian had earned the belt after knocking out Henderson's friend and former teammate Muhammed Lawal. The Team Quest product, Henderson, was dropped early by the heavy hands of Cavalcante, though he used his wrestling prowess to survive and take down the wily Brazilian.
In the next round, both men proved ground savvy; after Henderson took "Feijao" back to the ground off a takedown, Cavalcante managed to reverse positions and end back on top.
Heading into the third, the bout was up in the air with each man having taken a round each, eliciting a sense of urgency from Henderson.
The Californian pounced on Cavalcante early, dropping him with a swooping right hand. A couple more shots on the ground sealed the deal, and Henderson took home the TKO victory in just 50 seconds, adding another title to his long list of accolades.
Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko
In a battle of legends, Dan Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko met in a heavyweight collision this July.
There was no feeling-out process, as the Russian immediately pounced, throwing hooks galore on an unassuming Henderson, who responded in kind, backpedaling Emelianenko against the cage courtesy of a hard left hook.
The two were clinched against the cage and once they separated, Emelianenko rocked Henderson with short hooks and an uppercut which sent the Temecula fighter falling to the canvas.
Looking for the finish, an overzealous Emelianenko over extended himself, leaving Henderson room to catch a leg and reverse himself to the "Last Emperor's" back. Henderson dropped the former Pride champion with a crushing uppercut.
Emelianenko went face-first into the canvas; a few punches later, the deal was sealed, giving Henderson the surprise first-round TKO victory.
Jordan Mein vs. Cyborg
Budding star Jordan Mein took on arguably his toughest challenge to date when he took on former title challenger Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos upon his promotional debut.
Mein and Santos went back and forth with some heavy shots and kicks, though Santos appeared to be bearing the brunt of the blows.
Midway through the third round, Mein connected on a hard hook that had Santos rocked. As the Canadian waded in to finish the fight, Mein put Santos against the cage and connected on several hard, arching elbows which sent Santos falling to the canvas, giving the 21-year-old Mein the TKO victory.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robbie Lawler
Former three-time world champion Robbie Lawler had finally earned his shot at Strikeforce gold after an emphatic knockout victory over the world renowned Matt Lindland.
Then-champion Ronaldo Souza had a decided advantage on the ground, though Lawler set the tone of the bout early when the Miletich product dropped the Brazilian with some heavy shots in the opening round.
The end seemed imminent, though Souza survived into the second round. "Jacare" eventually earned the takedown, though Lawler fended off several submission attempts well and worked his way back to his feet on several occasions.
However, in the third, Souza took advantage of a fatigued Lawler, bringing him back to the canvas, where the jiu-jitsu black belt deftly took the back of Lawler, eventually cinching up the rear-naked choke finish.
Lyle Beerbohm vs. Pat Healy
In a pivotal lightweight affair, Lyle Beerbohm took on then his toughest test in the form of grizzly veteran Pat Healy.
In the early moments of the fight, Beerbohm took advantage of a slower Healy by out-hustling him thanks to his athleticism and speed, mixing in strikes with takedowns. A big slam helped earn the budding contender the first round, though Healy came on strong in the later stages of the fight.
Healy, the former MFC welterweight champion, was relentless in his pursuit of the finish as he tried to cinch up a triangle, inverted triangle, straight armbar and rear-naked choke, which quickly made the fight even at the end of the second round.
Both men were exhausted leading into the third round. But Healy gutted through, slamming Beerbohm to the canvas and immediately hunting for another rear-naked choke. "Fancy Pants" reversed and eventually took Healy's back in the process.
Beerbohm tried to mount some punches, but left himself wide open for a counter. Healy swept back to the top and eventually secured back mount again, to which Beerbohm reversed.
The back-and-forth battle was a memorable one; in the end, Healy handed the budding prospect the first loss of his career after three rounds of action were complete.