Nick Diaz. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Many former EliteXC fighters were victorious during Strikeforce’s first event of the year on Saturday night in San Jose, California, but none of those wins were more emphatic than the one brash UFC and PRIDE veteran Nick Diaz earned over longtime veteran Frank Shamrock.
A younger, faster, and more well-conditioned Diaz pummeled Shamrock on the feet and on the ground over the course of nine minutes in the featured attraction of Strikeforce’s “Shamrock vs. Diaz” show before finally putting “The Legend” away, possibly for good, at least in terms of the sport’s relevant stars.
“I give everything to Nick Diaz,” Shamrock graciously said after the fight. “I trained for him 100% and I didn’t take him lightly. I knew he was a dangerous opponent, but I stepped up. I always fight the best and I come to entertain, but Nick kicked my ass tonight. There’s no two ways about it. He beat me.”
Despite the age descrepancy between the two, the elder Shamrock (23-10-2) came into the fight as a decided favorite. However, Diaz (17-9) proved the bookmakers wrong right from the start of the fight, keeping Shamrock at bay with a sizable reach advantage and beating him to the punch in just about every exchange.
A one-sided contest on the feet eventually went to the ground after Diaz was able to catch a Shamrock body kick and trip him to the canvas. From there, Diaz easily transitioned to side control and then mounted Shamrock, pounding away on the MMA pioneer during the final 20 seconds of the opening round.
The second frame saw much of the same. A bloodied and battered Shamrock continued to take punishment from Diaz until a right hook to the body sat him down three minutes into the round. Diaz furiously pounced on Shamrock and punched away at his defenseless foe until referee “Big” John McCarthy opted to step in and stop the bout.
Pre-fight trash talk was expected and delivered by both combatants in the weeks leading up to the fight. Barbs were exchanged, including some personal shots at one another, but both fighters apologized for their remarks in a post-fight embrace, stating that their antics were just “business”.
“It’s hard to hate that guy,” Diaz explained. “He’s been doing what I’ve been wanting to do and saying what I’ve wanted to say for years now. I just had to go out there and against a guy I look up to.”
Former PRIDE Fighting Championships standout Gilbert Melendez earned his first victory in over a year by knocking out upstart grappler and last-minute replacement opponent Rodrigo Damm in the second round of their fight
With the win, Melendez captured the interim Strikeforce lightweight belt, a title created after Melendez’s original opponent for last night’s fight, Josh Thomson, was forced to withdraw from the bout after breaking his ankle during training. The two are expected to meet to unify the titles once Thomson heals from the injury later this year.
Melendez (15-2) found early success in his meeting with Damm (8-3), dropping the Brazilian with a right hand after catching a body kick during the fight’s opening moments. The always energetic Melendez then forced an expected high pace on Damm, controlling him on the ground and throwing occasional strikes for the remainder of the first round.
After landing a combination and taking Damm down once again at the start of the second stanza, Melendez returned the bout to the feet where he cracked Damm with a flurry that put him directly to sleep. Melendez followed up with a couple of unneeded shots before referee Josh Rosenthal saved Damm from any further punishment.
Scott Smith yet again showed fans his ability to come back from the jaws of defeat, staging a remarkable come-from-behind knockout win over fellow heavy-handed striker Benji Radach in a much-anticipated middleweight showdown.
Smith (17-5-1) looked good early as he dropped Radach (19-5) with a grazing, but effective right hand during the first round, which also saw Radach send Smith to the canvas with a punch of his own and control Smith on the ground for the majority of the first five minutes.
Radach continued to muscle Smith around in the second, outlanding him during flurries and nearly finishing the UFC veteran with a standing guillotine choke. A visibly fatigued Smith headed into the third and final round with a likely loss nearing, but surprisingly caught Radach with a hard right hand that knocked him out and gave Smith his second straight win.
Rising female star Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos (7-1) scored a late TKO of Hitomi Akano (14-6) in a fight that nearly didn’t take place after Santos weighed-in several pounds over the contracted weight limit for the fight. Heavyweight prospect Brett Rogers (10-0) kept his undefeated record intact with an impressive second-round stoppage of Ron “Abongo” Humphrey (5-1) in the first televised fight of the night on Showtime.
Shingo Kohara def. Jeremy Tavares - KO (Knee), R2
James Terry def. Zak Bucia - Unanimous Decision
Raul Castillo def. Brandon Michaels - Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), R1
Eric Lawson def. Waylon Kennell - TKO (Strikes), R1
Luke Rockhold def. Buck Meredith - Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), R1
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