With Nick Diaz and KJ Noons less than five feet apart, separated by only Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker during Thursday's press conference, it would have seemed a safe bet that the verbal fireworks would come courtesy of the bitter rivals.
Instead, the two avoided anything close to enmity. In the absence of the expected scene, it was former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson
who stole the show, blasting the media for its lightweight rankings. Interestingly, Thomson wasn't defending his own placement on the list, but rather that of his Saturday night opponent, Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante
, who is 15-3 with one no contest in his career.
Though Cavalcante's lost two of his last three, Thomson believes he is among the top lightweights in the world, saying "he should be ranked in the top five." But Thomson was just getting started, eventually taking aim at the WEC 155-pound champ, Ben Henderson
"I think it's a joke that you guys have guys like Ben Henderson ranked above guys like JZ," he said. "You guys got to be freaking kidding me. This kid is a beast. The guy's a great fighter. He's well-rounded, has great ground and pound. He's fought Masato [Kobayashi] in K-1. Are you guys kidding me? Really?
"You guys have a guy named Ben Henderson ranked above this guy?" he continued. "You guys are out of your mind. This guy's a savage. He's good on the ground, he's got good submissions, he's got everything you need."
While Cavalcante is considered a massive talent, his ranking has likely been hurt by inactivity. The 27-year-old has fought just three times in the last 30 months, losing decisions to Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri while defeating Katsunori Kikuno by earning the judges' nod.
"He's one of the best fighters I'm ever going to face in my life," said Thomson, who is 17-3 with one no contest.
Asked how he would combat someone with such a strong all-around game, Thomson was blunt about his chances.
"I told this to everyone I did interviews with: I could go out there and fight the fight of my life and still lose," he said. "That let me know when I started this camp how hard I had to train and what I needed to do, and I'm prepared for that.
"I'm not going to go out there and get in a slugfest with him," he continued. "There are times I'm probably going to chase after a knockout if it's there, it presents itself. But the last thing I want to do is stand in front of him and get hit. I'm not going to go out there and shoot a single leg takedown without setting it up. It's got to be something where everything works to my advantage. I've got to bait him on the feet to get the takedown. I've got to shoot the takedown to maybe land something on the feet. I've got to beat him everywhere. There's no way I'm going to win this fight by just doing one thing. "Check out Thomson's quotes are below.