Strikeforce hit us with another night of fun finishes and very few surprises on Saturday night, as both champs retained their titles and a Heisman Trophy-winning running back beat up the guy who was hired solely to get beat up by a Heisman Trophy-winning running back.
Success? That depends on how you define the word when it comes to fight promotion. For a look at the aftermath of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg, join me below as we examine the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between.
Biggest Winner: Nick Diaz
'Cyborg' Santos wanted to brawl? Diaz had no problem with that. He took everything the Brazilian challenger had and then gave it right back to him. And, as Takanori Gomi discovered before him, Santos also found that taking Diaz down is not the answer to your problems. But now what for MMA's most ornery champ? Strikeforce is quickly running out of credible challengers for him, and he doesn't seem terribly fired up about fights with Paul Daley or Tyron Woodley. He wants a truckload of cash to fight 'Mayhem' Miller, and yet it's the only fight with any heat behind it. Maybe Scott Coker could make a down payment on that truckload and write him an IOU for the rest?
Biggest Loser: Robbie Lawler
Right off the bat it was clear that he had no prayer of hanging with 'Jacare' Souza on the mat. His strategy seemed to be to lie on his back, protect his face, and wait for an opportunity to scramble up. But Lawler has the lottery ticket of knockout power, and he came so very close to cashing it in. He had Souza wobbling like an Ikea desk before he put him down, but then he made the mistake of getting stuck in the quicksand of Jacare's guard, allowing the champ to recover. By the time Jacare tripped him to the mat and sank in the choke, it looked as though Lawler had already given up. Now Lawler is 3-3 in his last six fights. The promise of his brain-scrambling power always makes him fun to watch, but you need to be more than just a one-punch artist to find real success in this sport. Otherwise you're just hanging around, living from haymaker to haymaker.
Most Surprising: Roger Gracie
Whether people realize it or not, the fight with Trevor Prangley was a major risk for Gracie. Prangley had 30 pro MMA fights compared to Gracie's three, and he had a relatively solid all-around game, even if most casual fans had no clue who he was. A loss to a guy like that could be crushing, but Gracie absolutely dominated him on the mat. On the feet, Gracie still seems about as comfortable as Brock Lesnar at an Elton John concert, so there's obviously room for improvement. Still, if he gets busy in the next year and makes a real commitment to MMA, he might really turn into something.
Least Surprising: Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza
Though Jacare has vastly improved his stand-up in recent years, we saw on Saturday that his bread and butter is still jiu-jitsu. Every moment he stood in front of Lawler was a gamble, and he almost paid dearly for it. Now he faces the same conundrum as Diaz, since Strikeforce doesn't have a ton of highly ranked middleweights. When asked about a fight with Miller, Jacare seemed disgusted, even speciously claiming that he 'beat this guy two times.' That's not actually true, of course. He beat him once via decision, and then the rematch ended in a 'no contest.' Unless Strikeforce signs some new middleweight talent out of nowhere, he'd better reconcile himself to the idea of fighting some of the same guys – Tim Kennedy included – over and over again.
Most Heartbreaking: The Cyborg Family
How can you watch Evangelista 'Cyborg' Santos kiss his wife – herself a dominant MMA champion in the same organization – before going into battle and not feel a warm, violent little glow in the center of your chest? Santos is a tad limited as a fighter, but he gave it everything he had against Diaz and still, somewhat predictably, came up short. The tears streaming down his wife's cheeks afterward proved that yes, Cyborgs do feel emotions, even if they don't seem to feel pain. It was a sad moment for the Santos family, and one that was broadcast on live TV. Then again, it's not just the thrill of victory that makes MMA so compelling. Name me one other sport that could have produced that particular type of high drama. Seeing your husband lose a tennis match is just not the same as seeing him get beat up.
The Meaningless Fun Award: Herschel Walker
When it comes to the former NFL running back, there seem to be two distinct camps. One insists that his inclusion on Strikeforce cards is nothing but a stupid gimmick, while the other replies, 'Hey, he's almost fifty years old and he can still scrap, so shut up.' Both points of view have merit. Is Walker a serious MMA fighter? In the sense that he takes his training and competition seriously – probably more seriously than Kimbo Slice did – yes. But serious in the sense that he's trying to climb up the rankings, or that Strikeforce is interested in seeing him do anything other than beat up hand-picked nobodies? Not at all. There's something oddly appealing about seeing this physical freak of nature take on MMA, but there's also something contrived and false about seeing him do it against guys who barely seem like they want to be there. Will he change the world of MMA? Nope, but he won't ruin it, either. Guess we'll have to live with that, for now.
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