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Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons 2 Predictions

Nick DiazTwo Strikeforce belts are on the line Saturday in San Jose, with Nick Diaz defending his welterweight title in a rematch with K.J. Noons, and Sarah Kaufman defending her 135-pound title against Marloes Coenen. There are also a couple of entertaining undercard fights, and we've got the full preview and predictions right here.

What: Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II

When: Saturday, the Showtime card starts at 10 PM ET

Where: HP Pavilion, San Jose

Predictions on the four televised fights below.

Nick Diaz vs. KJ Noons
The first Diaz-Noons fight, in November of 2007 for the EliteXC lightweight belt, was an absolute barn-burner for five minutes. Noons showed off his superior striking, knocked Diaz down and badly cut Diaz's eyes, and after the first round the cageside doctor ruled that the cuts were too bad for Diaz to continue. There was a confrontation in the cage afterward, and there's been bad blood ever since.

But there hasn't been a rematch because Noons defended the EliteXC lightweight title just once after that (needing only 48 seconds to TKO Yves Edwards) before leaving MMA and trying to make it as a professional boxer. He went 4-1 as a boxer in 2008 and 2009 but then came to the (correct) decision that MMA was the better sport for him. He's now won three more MMA fights to earn his shot at Diaz's Strikeforce welterweight belt.

Diaz, meanwhile, has won seven in a row since losing to Noons, and he's a better fighter now than he was then. He's also fighting at a better weight class for him: The fight three years ago was at 160 pounds, while this fight is at 170. That's an advantage for Diaz.

Ultimately, I see this fight coming down to whether or not Diaz fights smart: He's a more complete fighter and much better on the ground than Noons, and if Diaz fights his fight he's going to win. The only way I see Diaz losing is if he decides he wants to be a tough guy and stands and trades punches with Noons -- if that happens there's a chance Noons takes this one. But although Diaz is something of a head case, he's not stupid and he knows what he has to do to win. I like Diaz to get this fight to the ground and finish it there.
Pick: Diaz

Sarah Kaufman vs. Marloes Coenen
Although 145-pound champion Cris Cyborg is Strikeforce's top female fighter, the promotion's best and most competitive women's fights are at 135 pounds, where Kaufman is the champion. The 12-0 Kaufman is coming off a great knockout slam of Roxanne Modafferi in her last fight, and now she has another good opponent in Coenen, who represents a different kind of challenge than Kaufman has faced to date.

Coenen is 17-4 in her career and has won 12 fights by submission, and she'll have a significant advantage if the fight goes to the ground. Coenen also has a major size advantage, although I suspect she's going to lose some strength in cutting down to 135 pounds, and therefore negate that size advantage. Coenen can take a punch with the best of them -- she showed incredible toughness in her loss to Cyborg -- but I think Kaufman's superior striking will be enough to win a decision.
Pick: Kaufman

Josh Thomson vs. Gesias Cavalcante
It's exciting to see the Brazilian Cavalcante, who has spent most of his career fighting in Japan, coming back to the United States. Cavalcante was once widely regarded as one of the top lightweights in the world, but his career was derailed by injuries that limited him to just one fight in a period of more than two years from 2008 to 2010. Cavalcante looked good in his most recent fight, beating Japan's Katsunori Kikuno in July, and now, in Thompson, he's taking on a tougher test.

I think it's going to be too tough a test. Thomson has more experience than Cavalcante and a lot more experience fighting in a cage, and I like Thomson to control the pace of the bout and push Cavalcante against the fence for much of the fight, winning a decision.
Pick: Thomson

Tyron Woodley vs. Andre Galvao
Woodley was a good college wrestler at Missouri and in his two-year MMA career has shown that he can get fights to the ground and dominate there. But he hasn't gone to the ground with anyone who has even close to the grappling skills of Galvao, who's a seven-time world jiu jitsu champion. I expect Galvao to make Woodley tap.
Pick: Galvao

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