It’s that time once again! The weekend is here, which means more MMA for all of us to predict, watch, critique, and (most importantly) bicker about. Tomorrow night brings us a couple of championship fights and some serious imported talent that American JMMA fans have been waiting for. As Tommy noted, this will be the first time that we get to see a Strikeforce event under their new management (or rather, owners), Zuffa. I’ve always been a fan of Strikeforce’s production, it’s just some of their matchmaking that drives me crazy, occasionally.
Back on track, though, Strikeforce is offering up some prime matchups this Saturday that offer some interesting angles.
(All photos courtesy of our friends at MMAJunkie.com)
Aoki vs. Beerbohm
Lyle Beerbohm was a highly-touted free agent when he signed with Strikeforce. He was able to rattle off 16 straight wins in a row before he suffered his first loss in a Strikeforce Challengers card. In his 16 wins, Beerbohm has racked up 7 wins via submission, 7 via a form of knockout, and 2 decisions. Even though his jiu-jitsu is highly touted, Beerbohm’s record shows how diverse his game really is.
His opponent, Shinya Aoki, really doesn’t need much of an introduction. The dude is a straight freak when it comes to grappling. Even though his last outing left him face-down on the canvas as a result of a well-timed knee, the match was technically an exhibition and won’t count against his MMA record. The Baka Survivor has officially won 6 of his last 7 outings, his only loss coming at the hands of Strikeforce lightweight champ, Gilbert Melendez.
Nate: As far as who wins this fight, I think Aoki has this one in the bag. Aoki is a vicious with his submission game and relentless with his grappling. I can’t imagine Beerbohm will be about to out-grapple Aoki in any way. Slightly changing my original prediction, Aoki wins this one in round 2.
Tommy: Even with his notable losses Shinya Aoki is a different beast than most, especially when it comes to grappling. His ability to pull out incredible submissions from disadvantageous positions is… well, incredible. Beerbohm seems like a likable guy and has taken home some nice wins, but I think he’s over his head when put up against someone like Aoki. I’m gonna call the exact same result, Aoki takes this with a submission victory in round 2.
Mousasi vs. Jardine
It’s hard to dislike Keith Jardine. The dude is just a blue-collar fighter who can put on a scrap. Unfortunately for him, possibly the best thing he did was also the worst. His victory over Chuck Liddell (before Chuck’s chin was formally called into question) catapulted him into the upper-echelon of light heavyweight fighters. After his win, Jardine was wrecked by Wanderlei Silva in just over 30 seconds. Since then, fate hasn’t been too kind to Jardine. He dropped four fights in a row and was released from the UFC and lost is Shark Fights debut for good measure. Since then, he’s assembled two wins in a row (one coming in the much-troubled Nemesis FC). He was signed to Strikeforce as a late replacement for Mike Kyle.
Gegard Mousasi, on the other hand, could not have had a more opposite story. He rattled off 14 wins in a row (including picking up the Strikeforce light heavyweight and DREAM middleweight belts). He lost a somewhat controversial decision to “King Mo” Lawal in a fight where it appeared Mousasi did more damage from the bottom than King Mo from the top. After losing to Lawal, Mousasi traveled back to Japan to capture the DREAM light heavyweight belt for good measure.
Nate: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where I stand. Even as cool as Jardine is, his chin isn’t prepared to stand in there with a striker as capable as Gegard. It pains me to say this, but lights out for Jardine in round 2, as well.
Tommy: Betting against Mousasi in this fight would probably make you crazy. With that said, stranger things have happend. The unpredictability is just one of many reasons that this sport is so great. However, I honestly find that Jardine is in for a rough night after the show closes. If this goes how I think it will Jardine will be leaving with a concussion to go alongside another loss. I don’t think this fight ends in round 1, look for Keith to stick around in the first only for Mousasi to turn it up and use his phenomenal kickboxing to dispatch the former UFC star.
Strikeforce Lightweight Title Bout
Melendez vs. Kawajiri
Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez is posed to defend his belt against two of Japan’s elite in back to back title defense. I’m not sure what that says especially about Strikeforce’s division, but with the buyout, perhaps we’ll see him face some slightly stiffer competition on a more regular basis. However, these two do have some history. They faced each other in PRIDE back in 2006 and Melendez came out on top via decision. His strong wrestling base is also what helped him stuff Aoki’s takedowns and keep the fight where he wanted it (even with the TERRIBLE refereeing).
“The Crusher” has won 5 of his last 6 bouts, most recently dominating American Josh Thompson at K-1/DREAM’s Dynamite production. If you’re a fan of MMAth, however, you would probably say that this fight is a no-win for Kawajiri. His loss to Melendez 5 years ago coupled with his most recent first-round loss to Aoki should put him at a stark disadvantage. However, I would say that’s not necessarily the case. Kawajiri possesses awesome takedown ability and had made a name for himself pounding on people when he gets them on the ground.
Nate: This fight could go either way. But, with the rumor that Kawajiri didn’t train in a cage puts him at a distinct disadvantage in this fight. Melendez is going to be more familiar with the environment and probably going to be able to use it to his advantage. With that said, Kawajiri’s wrestling is going to be MUCH better than Aoki’s. He should be able to neutralize any sort of takedown threat that Melendez has. Should Kawajiri wind up on top, Melendez could find himself in a world of trouble. If this were taking place in the DREAM ring (remember when Melendez was supposed to fight Aoki in Japan?), I’d take Kawajiri. However, since this is taking place in a cage, I’ll give the nod to Melendez via unanimous decision.
Tommy: Noticing a trend here? Another fight, and another agreeable prediction. That’s the beauty of most of Strikeforce’s match ups. Great fights, but usually favorable ones. This is no different. Considering the recent disasters that have unfortunately hit Japan and the fact that Kawajiri has not trained inside of a cage, I will give this fight to Melendez. I don’t think he’ll finish “The Crusher”, but I’ll think he’ll take home a tough fought decision win.. possibly controversial. Tatsuya is not an easy fight for anyone (aside from Aoki), and I expect him to give Gilbert the same amount of trouble this time as he did in their rematch. While I’m hoping for a win for the Japanese superstar, Melendez has my pick and holds on to the title.
Strikeforce Welterweight Championship
Diaz vs. Daley
Whenever Nick Diaz fights, trouble seems to follow. The pre-fight trash talk battles he has had could go down in the MMA hall of fame. It’s not just the trash talking that’s been epic either. Diaz has been on a roll, steamrolling 9 straight. He has victories over KJ Noons, Marius Zaromskis, Scott Smith, and Frank Shamrock, not bad competition. Diaz’s been criticized for his pitter-pat boxing, but at least it’s entertaining. Ask Zaromskis if those punches feel like pillows, I guarantee he’ll beg to differ. Although not flaunted as much, his jiu-jitsu is also fantastic.
Daley, on the other hand has less weapons in his arsenal. But don’t mistake fewer for weaker. What Daley does, he does extremely well. If we were going to rank knockout artists, he would probably be somewhere between Manet and DaVinci. When he throws punches, his opponent better not be in the way. Scott Smith was LEVELED by Daley in one of the years most impressive knockouts.
Nate: It’s no secret that people don’t like Nick Diaz. But, to say that Paul Daley is any less of a “villain” is to over-simplify things. If you take emotion totally away from this fight, Nick Diaz’s skillset should give him the advantage in this fight. However, should Diaz decide to put on a show (which, I certainly don’t mind) and stand with Daley, it could be an interesting fight. Diaz’s range might keep him out of trouble, but he’s not much longer than Daley. And with Daley, it only takes one. Should Nick fight a “smart” fight, he’ll try to wear Daley out and take him down in the later rounds. But, I’ll do a 180 from my original prediction and say that Daley catches Nick with a NASTY left. Paul Daley via TKO in round 2.
Tommy: Styles make fights and this fight should absolutely back up that statement. Diaz is a mediocre boxer who’s reach and style have given many trouble, but I fully expect him to be on the receiving end of some major damage tonight. Nick will not have a reach advantage tonight. I’m one of the few that honestly believes Nick’s wrestling is very subpar (as shown in the KJ rematch and against Cyborg), which will benefit Paul Daley who has some decent takedown offense against guys with alright wrestling. It should also be worth noting that while Daley has been criticized for his wrestling, or lack there of, Diaz has his own history of trouble with most of his losses coming against wrestlers as well. This fight is a lot more balanced than people are thinking.
Nick also has a history of absolute stubbornness and will stand toe to toe with the better strikers. I think that’s his downfall on this fight. Make no mistake about it, if Diaz does take this to the ground it will go in his favor. I just think that Daley will be able to keep this one standing and finishes Nick with a knockout victory in the early rounds that secures him the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship. I just hope he has a better game plan than Nick’s last few opponents, and doesn’t rely on landing one big punch.
And now some predictions from our fellow board members. Join us over at The B9 in our MMA thread.
The often controversial Mike Van Etten weighs in with his opinion on how this card will go:
Let me start out by saying this will not be an easy fight for Aoki. Beerbohm has never been submitted in 16 professional fights, and he’s a tough scrappy fighter that can find a way to win anywhere the fight goes. With that said, Aoki’s ground game is the stuff of legends. When the fight goes to the ground, whether from his back, on top, in side control – Aoki will find a way to break you….literally. Beerbohm has a punchers chance to win the fight, while Aoki is not really known for having an iron chin. But something tells me Aoki will get it to the ground and let go some of the butterflies he might have had fighting for the first time in the states. Aoki by triangle Round 3
The Dean Of Mean if nothing else is a very tough guy. Jardine will watch Mousasi across the cage, the bell will ring and Keith will come out swinging for the fences. Only problem with that strategy is Mousasi has world class stand up. Gerard will use his footwork and head movement to find the angles and put a 4 or 5 punch combo on Jardine. It’ll be quick, it’ll be fast and it will be brutal. Mousasi TKO round 1.
I’ve been hearing a lot about ring rust and the long lay off for Melendez. I don’t put too much stock in ring rust. Gilbert has the wrestling, fantastic cardio and very talented hands. Anywhere Kawajiri wants to take it Melendez will have an answer for. I see this fight being a war, a war Melendez will grind out and secure the W on the scorecards. Melendez via unanimous decision.
Paul Daley is an athletic freak. He’s a new breed of fighter finding his way into the sport that makes slow white guys like myself who once entertained the thought of stepping in the octagon as a possibility seem like a distant nightmare. The only problem is he is stepping in the cage with one of the best in the world at what he does. Nick Diaz has it all, his stand up despite what the critics say is fantastic, his gas tank has never been on empty and he has a legitimate Cesar Gracie black bet . The kid from the 209 is going to pepper Daley from the opening bell which will frustrate and neutralize Paul’s stand up. We know Diaz has cardio for days as the guy trains in super iron man competition for shits and giggles. What do we know about Daley’s cardio ? Can he go into the champion rounds? I doubt it. I see this from from the opening bell being non-stop pressure for Daley. About the 3rd round I expect to see Mr. Daley gassing and like a shark that smells blood in the water Diaz will attack. Nick Diaz by armbar round 4.
Jaredestroyer keeps it short and sweet:
Daley KO 2nd…Diaz straight asleep.
Melendez TKO 2nd
Mousasi KO 1st
Aoki Sub 2nd
Daley via 1st round TKO
Melendez via UD
Mousasi via 1st round KO
Aoki via 1st round submission