MMA: Diaz, Melendez Dominate, Retain Titles as New Strikeforce/Zuffa Era Begins

Anthony Hardin Sr@AnthonyHardinContributor IApril 10, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 13:  Dana White, UFC President, speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

The Strikeforce/Zuffa Era kicked off in San Diego, Calif., and as many questions were answered, many more were posed.  The biggest being: When will MMA fans see UFC fighters cross over and matchup with fighters from the Strikeforce stable?

On a night where some fighters proved that they belong under the brightest of lights, others proved that the long road to redemption is always difficult.  And several were left asking: What happened and where do I go from here?


Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm

Beerbohm has now suffered two loses in a row and along with those loses will come the criticism of his overall skills and MMA record.  Beerbohm has a bright future in the sport, but he obviously has to go back to square one and reevaluate his bloated record. 

Let’s be honest, it would do him good to go back and string together some wins against top up-and-coming talent on the Strikeforce Challengers circuit. 

Beerbohm is a victim of having fought very weak opponents early in his career.  If he can rebound from this loss mentally, he should have no problem climbing his way up the ladder and eventually earn the attention and praise that he will ultimately deserve.

Aoki looked calm and smooth in what was his first return to the States since he last fought on U.S. soil and lost to Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez. 

Aoki was looking to win convincingly, and that is exactly what he did in making quick work of Beerbohm.  Aoki obviously took the Melendez beating seriously and will be looking to avenge that loss sometime in the near future. 

Could a possible Aoki vs. Thomson match be looming on the horizon, with the winner getting the next crack at the champ Melendez?


Gegard Mousasi vs. Keith Jardine

The fight goes the distance and everyone in attendance is treated to an action-packed and all-out brawl.  Jardine must be given credit for taking the fight on short notice, and unfortunately it showed, as his mouth was open and he was breathing from the first round until the end of the third. 

Even with the point being taken from Mousasi for the illegal upkick, it was clear to all that Gegard Mousasi clearly won the by stalking and punishing Jardine for the majority of the fight. 

Mousasi fed Jardine a steady diet of jabs and counter-strikes.  Jardine did make it interesting by landing several takedowns, but if anything, they were merely for show.  The fact that this fight was ruled a draw only proves that there is clearly a glaring problem with the judging system in mixed martial arts. 

Up next for Mousasi?  A possible rematch with "King" Mo Lawal, or a title fight with Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson?


Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

The one question going in to this fight was: How will lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez look after taking more than a year off? 

Melendez wasted no time in shaking off the year-long, ring rust by punishing Tatsuya Kawajiri from the opening bell. 

The only negative, if you can call it that, was the fact that Melendez let Kawajiri recover from the early onslaught of punches, only to unleash a ferocious barrage of punches and elbows not long after that.

Melendez proved to the fans in attendance and the MMA fans watching all around the world that he is the best lightweight fighter in the world.  Kawajiri had a chance as he walked to the cage, unfortunately for him; once that door closed, it was all El Nino. 

Melendez successfully defended his Strikeforce lightweight title in a lopsided annihilation of Tatsuya Kawajiri. 

Melendez voiced his opinion about unifying the Strikeforce and UFC lightweight titles, and MMA fans can only hope and pray that his words were heard high atop the Zuffa mountain.

Other than the obvious matchups with the UFC lightweights, there really are no fighters under the Strikeforce banner that are worthy of challenging the champ.

Possibly a Thomson vs. Aoki fight with the winner getting a rematch, or maybe a K.J. Noons vs. Josh Thomsom fight will get fans excited.


Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley

As expected, both fighters came out with every intention of putting the hurt on each other—and that is exactly what they did for the almost the entire first round. 

The action was non-stop as both champion and challenger traded punches with neither fighter looking to give an inch.  The biggest difference was the ability of Diaz to land the ground strikes and make them count. 

Diaz is clearly the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and there is no one in sight that can take that title from him. 

Much has been made of a Nick Diaz vs. Tyron Woodley fight, but right now they are in completely different stratospheres. 

In the end, the champion Diaz was able to finish off Daley, win his 10th consecutive fight and retain his Strikeforce welterweight championship title. 

Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez easily walked over Kawajiri, and gave Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu a clean sweep on the night. 

Both Diaz and Melendez are just too good to be fighting in such talent-lacking divisions.  The only logical step would be for them to cross over and challenge the champions of the UFC in their respective weight classes. 

The question fight fans are dying to know is: When, if ever, will this happen?