What: Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg
Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose
When: The Showtime card starts at 10 PM ET on Saturday.
Predictions on the four televised fights below.
Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos
Diaz's welterweight belt is on the line, but I don't view Cyborg as a legitimate No. 1 contender for it. The fact that Diaz-Cyborg is a title fight says more about the dearth of welterweight contenders in Strikeforce than it says about where Cyborg ranks in the welterweight division. Cyborg looked good in his one and only fight of 2010, a first-round TKO over Marius Zaromskis, but that shouldn't have been enough for him to get a title shot, and Diaz should make short work of him.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Robbie Lawler
It's easy to see why Jacare is favored to retain his title: He's one of the best -- maybe the very best -- Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioners in the world, and Lawler's greatest weakness is his submission defense. Jacare winning by submission wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
But I'm picking Lawler. Jacare's chin is suspect, and Lawler has serious knockout power, and I think Lawler is going to connect to that suspect chin, pull off the upset and become the middleweight champion of Strikeforce.
Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson
Before I get into this, let me just say that Walker is one of my all-time favorite athletes. I've been a fan of his as far back as I can remember. When I was a kid playing youth football I found an article about his workout regimens and decided to start doing pushups and situps during commercials while I watched TV, just like Herschel (I didn't quite stick with it the way he has, so I don't quite have the physique he has). He's one of the all-time great college football players and his NFL career is under-appreciated. I love that he challenges himself with new things (like he did when he competed in the 1992 Olympics in bobsledding), and I love that he loves MMA.
But I don't love the fact that Walker vs. Carson is on the televised card of a major mixed martial arts promotion. The first time Walker fought, against Greg Nagy last year, it was sort of justifiable for Showtime and Strikeforce to put it on, simply for the curiosity factor. But it's sort of silly for them to keep doing this unless Walker is going to fight someone noteworthy, which Carson certainly isn't. In terms of the quality of the MMA skill on display, this will be as bad a fight as you'll see from any of the major American promotions.
As for the fight itself, well, I don't know much of anything about Carson, but I know that he's fought exactly once in the last nine and a half years, and that one fight was a first-round knockout loss. Strikeforce set this fight up to give Walker another win, and that's what he'll get, for what it's worth.
Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley
Gracie is one of the most talented members of the first family of Brazilian jiu jitsu and one of the best submission grapplers in the world. He's fought three times in MMA and won all three fights by submission, but I don't think he's quite ready for an MMA opponent of Prangley's level. Prangley is coming off one of the best wins of his career, over Keith Jardine on the Shark Fights card in September, and I think he's going to be savvy enough to keep the fight off the ground and effective enough standing up to win a decision.