Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg Results, Analysis and Live Reactions from San Jose
Strikeforce is back in its favorite neighborhood for a couple of championship bouts and the return of Herschel Walker to the cage.
The HP Pavilion in San Jose will be abuzz when California kid and Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz steps into the cage to defend his belt against Evangelista Santos
However, before those two gladiators square off, the crowd gets quite a nice primer. Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo Souza faces a co-main-event challenge from the always-exciting Robbie Lawler.
Additionally, Walker continues his back-nine charge at mixed martial arts legitimacy against the legendary Scott Carson while Roger Gracie (Renzo's cousin) grapples with UFC exile Trevor Prangley.
And if you're not making it down to San Jo for the live festivities?
No problem—Scott Coker and friends will be streaming six preliminary contests on Sherdog so you don't feel left out of the fun.
The action starts around 5 PM (PT) and I'm off to hit the highway, so check back in a few hours for live results and reactions once the gloves touch.
Sam Bracamonte vs. Armin Safiari—Welterweights (Amateurs)
The amateur bouts are always a little surreal because of the full shirts and the arena with about 90 percent empty seats except for a few friends/family cheering wildly.
Anyway, the first bout between Bracamonte and Safiari is a grappling-only affair and I mean that as literally as possible. As long as striking is legal, there will be a few feints and maybe even a jab or two landed. But that was IT in this baby.
And the Armeniac Safiari took it via unanimous decision with ease.
Armin Safiari defeats Sam Bracamonte by unanimous decision.
As usual, there is a strong showing of love for an Armenian fighter. Safiari's crew is conspicuous in its enthusiasm in the midst of all this vacancy.
Ricky Jackson vs. Niko Jackson—Catchweight at 165 lbs (Amateurs)
In this battle of the unpaid, we had East Palo Alto's own Niko "The Heat" Jackson and he must've be the prohibitive favorite because his brother from another mother Ricky (because of the same last name, not because they're both black) didn't get intro music nor even an announcement.
The Heat certainly had the crowd behind him and was the aggressor on the feet.
There he got the better of the battle and decisively so, but Ricky caught him in a standing guillotine choke in the second and used it to drag the issue to the canvas. There Niko didn't seem overwhelmed, but he certainly didn't enjoy the experience.
Nevertheless, the third went to the ground immediately, but this time with much better results.
Ricky caught Niko in a triangle, but the Heat pseudo-Rampage'd his way out of the submission and the slam convinced the non-Heat Jackson to relent on the ground battle. Ultimately, the slam wasn't enough to save the fight for Niko.
Ricky Jackson defeats Niko Jackson by unanimous decision.
Anthony Dariano vs. Alan Perez—Catchweight at 150 lbs (Amateurs)
In our last amateur bout of the afternoon, we've got another local boy from San Jose in Dariano facing off against a guy who's not exactly a foreigner. Perez hails from Santa Clara, which is about 15 minutes away driving slowly.
This was another grappler's delight with both men looking extremely comfortable on the ground and maybe no so much on their feet.
Perez looked to be getting the better of the early going in the first two rounds, but Dariano's constant pressure and activity wore his adversary down. In the third stanza, it was all Dariano from the get go as he secured a takedown, dominated on the ground and then snapped on a standing guillotine when Perez escaped momentarily.
The judges saw it the same way.
Anthony Dariano defeats Alan Perez by unanimous decision.
Jenna Castillo vs. Charlene Gellner—Womens' 120-lb Bout
The live-stream portion of the show has started on Sherdog and that means the production value has been kicked up a notch. Not quite to the "Live on Showtime" level, but still several orders of magnitude beyond what it was for the amateurs.
There's also been a Fabricio Werdum sighting, he's posing for photos and generally making nice with the fans. As he passes behind me, I can tell you he's not an enormous guy—definitely not someone you'd be intimidated by in a bar.
Which is scary.
The first pro bout of the card is a female affair between what would appear to be two strikers since there hasn't been much pretense of a ground game from either lady. The mohawked and heavily tattooed Gellner survived an early onslaught from Castillo before equalizing a bit.
But then the fight does go to the ground and Gellner proves to be at least threatening off her back, momentarily putting Castillo in danger with a triangle before the latter escaped. A brief standing exchange yielded little, then gives way to another serious-looking submission attempt from Gellner (this time an armbar).
Still, Castillo is pressing the action and doing most of the damage, especially on her feet. I'd give her the round, 10-9.
The second stanza begins with Castillo throwing kicks and landing a few before making the strange decision to join Gellner on the ground. She doles out a bit of punishment and then thinks better of the strategy, backing off her opponent to bring the tussle back to the feet.
Gellner clearly doesn't want to be here so she works for a takedown and finally scores a nice trip off the fence. Unfortunately, the move backfires and lands Castillo on top of her victim. She's not able to do too much except control the position so backs away again.
Castillo is obviously the superior striker as she breaks out the axe kick to answer a feeble attack from Gellner (it misses). A few big bombs do get through the defense, however, including a crushing straight right that puts Gellner on Queer Street.
Castillo finishes the matter with some gnarly knees to a her dazed prey.
Jenna Castillo defeats Charlene Gellner by KO (punches and knees) at 3:57 of the second round.
James Terry vs. Lucas Gamaza—Welterweights
No time for star-gazing before this one tips off—Terry comes out true to his "Intensity" nickname and begins his perpetual motion with an array of kicks. Nothing much lands however and Gamaza seems to be having an easier time finding the range.
Lucas is the taller and longer fighter, but neither attribute is helping him at the moment as Intensity has his knees a little rubbery. He seems to be out of immediate danger, but he's still a little lead-footed out there.
For instance, a head kick lands flush on Terry's face, but it doesn't even wobble James.
On the other hand, a huge overhand right from Intensity signals the start of the end for Gamaza. The shot folds Lucas up a bit and Terry pounces on him to add insult to injury before the ref steps in to stop the punishment.
James Terry defeats Lucas Gamaza by TKO (strikes) 3:20 of the first round.
Germaine de Randamie vs. Stephanie Webber—Womens' 135-lb Bout
The first five minutes gets off to a quick start with de Randamie flooring Webber with a hard punch within the first three seconds, but then it stagnates badly.
Webber shows a hell of a chin by jumping right back up from the opening, and then asserts control via the ground game. Eventually, de Randamie is able to fend off the ground assault and the scrap goes back to a one-sided striking engagement with Germaine doing the one-siding.
The fighter from Dublin doesn't seem to have as good a gas tank as Wonder Women Webber's as she seems to be breathing more heavily.
Of course, it doesn't make much difference after a couple soporific knees find Webber's head and seal the deal.
Germaine de Randamie defeats Stephanie Webber by KO (knees) at 4:25 of the first round.
Eric Lawson vs. Ron Keslar—Catchweight Bout at 180 lbs
Keslar scores immediate points with me by using Metallica as his walkout music.
Granted, there are about 15 songs he could've used that would've been better than "Sad But True," but it's still Metallica.
This is another all-Cali matchup between San Jose's Keslar and Concord's Lawson. Guess which way the crowd's leaning.
Lawson's in all sorts of trouble from the second the clock starts winding.
Keslar manages to take the bout to the ground immediately and starts working for his opponent's back. Eventually, he's able to get it and traps one of Lawson's arms in the process. From there, he isolates Eric's left arm and looks to transition to possibly an armbar before ending up in what looks like an awkward triangle while still holding the armbar.
There's a bit of confusion as Lawson "taps" without tapping. He's not protesting, however, so he must've done so verbally because the replay still doesn't show much of a tap.
Regardless, San Jo has another winner.
Ron Keslar defeats Eric Lawson by submission (armbar) at 1:57 of the first round.
Bobby Stack vs. Isaiah Hill—Lightweights
We're really hustling through the preliminary card at this rate as both Hill and Stack are already in the cage. That leaves just one more undercard bout before the big dollars step through the door.
Whoa, the gentle feeling out process gives way to a spurt of extreme violence without a moment's notice.
Stack comes shooting in for a takedown attempt and Hill times his counterstrike, a jumping knee, almost perfectly. It's good enough to sideswipe Bobby's noggin, though, and that does the trick. Stack is clearly at sea and Hill takes advantage with another flying knee that lands even more accurately.
Isaiah follows his antagonist to the ground and then it's just a matter of time. A fuzzy Stack finds himself in a triangle choke and must tap.
Isaiah Hill defeats Bobby Stack by submission (triangle choke) at 1:02 of the first round.
Nate Moore vs. Nathan Coy—Welterweights
You can always tell when the main event is bearing down on the evening because the real glitterati come out for the cameras.
And by "real glitterati" I mean Cain Velasquez, then Vai Cavalo crossing paths with MC freakin' Hammer as if the two were from different planets. Which, of course, they might as well be.
Still a pretty classic sight.
The first fireball of the night goes to Nate Moore, who opts for the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage."
Ironically, Coy's approach anthem was The Prodigy's "Firestarter" yet he gets no pyrotechnics.
Coy is getting plenty of fireworks in the cage, though.
Unfortunately, he's on the receiving end—he wears some striking abuse in the opening few seconds and then Moore secures a nice takedown before threatening with a few sub attempts. Coy's able to stem the tide and actually pulls a reverse to take control of the scrap.
He's not doing much damage to this point, which is a problem because he'd be well-served to turn this rally into some pain for Moore.
Coy, who is rocking an eagle of chest hair for the festivities continues to dominate after a shaky opening minute or so, or at least he's dominating on the scorecard via control. Call it an uneventful 10-9 for him.
Whoo doggie, Nate Moore might only have enough wind for a strong opening couple of flurries, but that'll work if he makes 'em count.
And that's exactly what he does in the second stanza.
It's over in a matter of seconds as Nate lands a nighty-night right hand, then follows it with a left to the chin that puts Coy on the fade. Literally.
As his opponent pitches over and hits the canvas, Moore pounces and puts an exclamation on the finish with another right.
Nate Moore defeats Nathan Coy by KO (punches) at 0:25 of the second round.
Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley—Light Heavyweights
All this downtime makes me wonder why the rush for the preliminary card, but oh well.
It gives me time to people watch and that's an MMA fight is a ripe environment for such activities. There's always a lot of talent (with varying degrees) in addition to throngs of people following the celebrity du jour.
Josh Koscheck almost sneaked by because he's shorter than most of the crowd and he time his exit with the Rockstar Girls' entrance. But once that first person spots you and whips out the camera, it's over.
As it is for Kos at the moment.
Okay, intermission over and the contestants are finally entering the cage.
Prangley goes first and opts for Drowning Pool's "Bodies," which I guess is fitting. Gracie follows him to some Jay-Z I can't place (though it's the one that's spliced with Linkin Park).
The Gracie name's been taking a beating in modern MMA so let's see if Roger can win won for the good guys.
The crowd is a little impatient as the boos start inside the first minute of feeling out; gotta give them at least a chance to size up the situation. Roger's finding the range for a pretty sweet-looking jab and keeps Prangley at bay until he can secure the takedown with about 2:45 left in the round.
This isn't where the South African wants to be. You know, since the Brazlian's is the first family of jiu-jitsu.
Yep, Gracie manages to snake into full mount in about 60 seconds and then sinks in a body triangle from behind as Prangley writhes for escape. Time might be on Trevor's side with less than a minute left, but it is NOT.
Gracie sinks in the rear-naked choke and forces the tap. Score one for the Gracies.
Roger Gracie defeats Trevor Prangley by submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:19 of the first round.
It warrants mentioning that Roger Gracie is the only mixed martial artist I've seen enter the cage with nary an endorsement on his shorts. All black, baby.
He also remains undefeated with a third consecutive rear-naked choke.
Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson—Heavyweights
Cue up "Bring in the Clowns" because here comes the latest installment in the pseudo-circus that is Herschel Walker's developing MMA career. It's a little strange to look up at the big screen and see NFL highlights scrolling across a hype reel, but that's the treatment when Walker enters the cage.
He's set to face Scott Carson, who is quite possibly the softest 4-1 professional fighter you'll ever see. The Warhead's four victories came from 1999 to 2001 and the loss happened last year.
This is the "challenge" that awaits the former All-Pro running back and US Olympian.
The snag is that this can only go badly for Walker—he's facing a guy who's been brought in to lose, though nobody will admit that. So even if he wins by first round knockout, it's a baby step forward.
On the flip side, if he loses or is unimpressive, it's gonna be bad.
Give Carson credit, he's not inching into this thing.
The fists and feet start flying early, and Carson even manages to catch Walker with a head kick before Herschel knocks him to the canvas. Now, the ex-NFLer is dominating his made-to-order victim by holding him on the ground and pounding him with fists and knees.
This travesty won't last long at this rate; Scott is basically turtling while mustering nothing in the way of offense or effective defense.
Carson's mouthpiece just went flying and we're essentially just waiting for a stoppage that should be forthcoming momentarily.
And there it is.
Carson briefly freed himself from Walker's grasp and struggled to his feet, but another big shot from Herschel put him back down and the ref had finally seen enough.
Herschel Walker defeats Scott Carson by TKO (punches) at 3:14 of the first round.
I'll say this for Herschel Walker—that is NOT what a 48 year-old man is supposed to look like. Dear me, he is utterly shredded.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Robbie Lawler—Middleweight Championship Bout
No lengthy break this time; Ruthless Robbie Lawler's already making his approach, nondescript rap division. What is very non-nondescript is his beard—THERE is a beard you should fear.
Ronaldo Souza is already ahead on my scorecards as Jacare enters to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." That's one of the best rock anthems and a dandy of a choice to use as you enter a gladiatorial arena. The champ looks amped up for this one.
Big John McCarthy gets the honors inside the cage.
The Northern Californian crowd isn't living up to its mellow stereotype tonight as they're booing inside of 45 seconds this time. Jacare is clearly wary of Ruthless' much-ballyhooed power because he tentatively sizes up his opponent before working in close for the clinch/takedown.
Now the Brazilian is methodically working himself into better position and currently sits in side mount as he pulverizes the challenger with short fists and elbows.
Hold the phone—Lawler stands back up and begins unloading on the champ. A few big shots filter through Jacare's defense and one big right hook clips him. A false step reveals the champion is on tilt and another HUGE shot from Robbie sends Souza ass-over-tea-kettle to the canvas.
Some ground-n-pound doesn't produce enough action for McCarthy so he stands the fighters back up and Lawler lands a crushing kick to the body prior to the horn. Call it a resurgent 10-9 round for the challenger.
The second stanza has another slow start, but this one's much shorter as Jacare comes shooting in for the takedown with much more urgency. Wise since Lawler was decisively getting the better of the standup in the first round.
Souza's much more active on the ground this time, working to side control again after a nanosecond of feverish thrashing when it appeared a side choke might be there for the taking. Robbie's demonstrating adequate defense to any attack from the Brazilian, but that's where his efficacy ends.
I don't know if the American punched himself out in the first, but he looks totally uninterested in doing anything in the second.
Jacare is putting on a grappling display, rolling to and fro while mixing in armbar attempts and various other perilous positions.
But Ruthless Robbie's up to each challenge, defends and finishes the round standing over a prone Jacare.
Still, that was a 10-9 round for the champ.
Ronaldo shakes things up a bit to start the third, deploying a sincere Muay Thai clinch and scoring with knees before pursuing the takedown. He gets it and Lawler finds himself on his back yet again. The American seems to have conceded any sort of offense and has shifted to survival mode.
Jacare's now on his back with a body lock anchoring him in place. The rear-naked choke is coming and there it is; Ruthless Robbie makes a token show of resisting the tap, but it's inevitable.
Ronaldo Souza defeats Robbie Lawler by submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:00 of the third round.
Good exhibition from the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion—he survived a rugged start and a little bit of trouble from a serious striker before imposing his will on the challenger. He'll need to shore up that striking game if he wants an extended reign in the throne.
But he's got the goods on the ground.
Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Santos—Welterweight Championship Bout
Time for the main event, or co-main event as the case may be.
Evangelista Santos enters first and suffice it to say the Brazilian is not the crowd darling tonight. He does get pyrotechnic treatment, however. He's flanked by his champion wife, Chris, and opts for that common heraldic tune that you might find in Gladiator, Braveheart or something along those lines.
It actually might be the same as that used by the UFC to hype every main card.
The champion gets a heroes welcome from the San Jose arena as everyone looks to be on their feet for his entrance. Can't place his music.
For the record, I'm a big Nick Diaz fan—I can take all the mean-mugging and extracurricular stuff because my man is a beast in the cage. Considering the brawling rep of the two participants, this one doesn't feature to go the full five.
Damn, the HP Pavilion is absolutely savaging Cyborg. That's pretty rough treatment for a guy who gives both barrels every time out and whose only sin is not being Nick Diaz.
Josh Rosenthal gets the action.
No touching of gloves here as Cyborg comes out throwing spinning kicks and Diaz adopts his usual pose, equal parts taunting and reaching in anticipatory defense.
Evangelista is sticking with the kicks until the Stockton Bad Boy gets close enough. At that point, the Brazilian unleashes with his ferocious hooks to the body, but they trouble the American not at all. He smiles, taunts and lands a shot to Santos' dome.
Cyborg isn't backing down (does he ever?) as he wings a salvo of power hots that do some damage to the champ. One scuffs up his face while a few more land to the body. They're followed by some chopping leg kicks that have Diaz spinning almost completely around.
Another fierce combination lands for Cybord, but Diaz simply eggs him on.
Now it's Nick's turn to go on the offensive as Evengelista's head starts snapping back with regularity. One particular smashing straight left staggers Santos back to the fence and forces him to cover up as Diaz wades in with measured shots to the body and shoulders.
A leg kick is checked by Diaz as the back-and-forth starts in earnest, but the horn ends it. Call it a close 10-9 round for the champ.
Cyborg is definitely looks like he's throwing the bigger power punches, but Diaz reminds me of a power pitcher with an easy delivery—appearances can be deceiving.
it looks like Diaz just peppers his opponent with irritating little shots, but then he'll mix one in that sends his prey reeling backwards.
Anyway, the second round finds Diaz back in his comfort zone—landing those gnat-like jabs that seem to frustrate or distract his adversaries until an opening for a larger shot presents itself. Additionally, his superior conditioning is coming into play as Santos has slowed considerably.
The Brazilian's still throwing and lands with a few knees, then a spinning back kick.
All to no avail as Diaz uses the kick to secure a takedown, lock onto an arm that subsequently sends both men into a rolling frenzy and then finishes with a vicious armbar that ends the fight as quickly as you please.
Nick Diaz defeats Evangelista Santos by submission (armbar) at 4:50 of the second round.
The San Jose crowd boos a crying Chris Santos—not its finest moment.
That's nine straight wins for the Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.
Can you say Georges St-Pierre?