The sport of MMA finds itself at an important place tonight—important because for the first time since EliteXC signed a deal to air on CBS, there is a legitimate shot at another organization breaking through to catch the mainstream fan interest and make the industry better as a result.
On Saturday night, Strikeforce will return to Showtime with a main event of Frank Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz. Normally, an event like this would fit in with the rest of the MMA found on TV today and not necessarily stand out.
But tonight is a lot different because if Shamrock/Diaz and June's Jake Shields/Robbie Lawler event can do what so many hope they will, the UFC will have some true competition on their hands and that can only be a good thing for fighters, fans and the industry as a whole.
Having said all that, let's get to the preview of tonight's show which you can catch on Showtime at 10 pm tonight. If you have some extra cash, you can actually go to the Showtime web site and for $24.95, choose from different camera angles, announcing options and more.
If you want to hear my audio preview from my Thursday appearance on Fight Network Radio, here you go.
Frank Shamrock (23-9-2) vs. Nick Diaz (18-7) - 180 pound catchweight
Shamrock has lost two of his last three fights and this is his first since his March 2008 defeat to Cung Le. He may be in great shape, but that's a long time to be out of action. Meanwhile, Diaz has been victorious in his last three fights, all by way of TKO, with his last action coming in July.
While Diaz can be a grating personality for a lot of people, I think Shamrock's ring rust and the age difference between the two is going to come into play. Luckily for Strikeforce, they'll have a great villain to book for the rest of '09.
Pick: Diaz via second round TKO (punches)
Interim Lightweight Title: Gilbert Melendez (14-2) vs. Rodrigo Damm (8-2)
I don't like the fact this is for a title, even if it's for the interim belt as I don't feel that a late substitution fighter like Damm should be getting a title shot. It sets a bad precedent and to me, says that they just want someone with the belt.
Regardless, the guy that comes in late seems to always pull it out but I don't think that will be the case here. Melendez has been off since June and has gone the distance in six of his last seven fights. Damm is a sub for Josh Thomson and five of his eight wins have come by submission.
Pick: Melendez via unanimous decision
Benji Radach (19-4) vs. Scott Smith (14-5)
This is going to be a great fight. I'm a bit partial to Radach as I just did a feature on him for this month's FIGHT! Magazine, but I wouldn't be surprised if either man wins via KO.
Smith is coming off a November KO of Terry Martin and always comes out swinging. The one thing I don't like with Smith is that in the past few years, he hasn't got a good win streak going of more than two in a row.
Radach has had a lot of stops and starts in his career, but his fights rarely last that long. As he has a full-time job with LA Boxing, the question will be whether Radach has really got to train as much as he's wanted.
He last was seen KO'ing Murilo Rua in October and if he's preparing like he said was during our interviews, he is ready to be unleashed Saturday night.
Pick: Radach via first round KO
More picks after the jump...
Cris 'Cyborg' Santos (6-1) vs. Hitomi Akano (14-5)
Shockingly, this one was very close to not happening as Santos wildly missed the 145-pound contracted number she was supposed to hit. Akano's side didn't want to go through with it, but a deal was struck in the wee hours of Saturday to make it happen.
Santos is expected to enter the ring at more than 160 pounds for tonight and despite the ridiculousness of the last 24 hours, she will have zero problem with dispatching Akano quickly.
Pick: Santos via first round KO
Brett Rogers (8-0) vs. Abongo Humphrey (5-0)
Rogers has been out of action since last May at which time people were thinking he might be a great opponent for Kimbo Slice. Oh, how times have changed. Humphrey comes from BET's Iron Ring promotion where his wins were unsanctioned so the 12-0 mark some are touting is kind of hollow.
He could surprise Rogers, but we'll go with the guy we saw debut on the first CBS/EliteXC show to win convincingly.
Pick: Rogers via first round KO
See you back here tonight for results and analysis from the big event. Let's hope it's a good one!
Josh Nason - josh [at] ropesringandcage [dot com] - has published MMA, wrestling and boxing blog Ropes, Ring and Cage.com since 2007. He joined up with Bleacher Report in 2008 and achieved Columnist status in 2009.