Diaz, Jacare Retain Strikeforce Belts


Nick Diaz. Photo by Esther Lin/Strikeforce.

Nick Diaz and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza held on to their respective Strikeforce titles on Saturday night, albeit against tougher than expected competition.

Diaz survived a tough opening stanza to eventually submit Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos with an armbar while grappling wizard Souza overcame Robbie Lawler's smooth escapes before forcing a tap from a rear-naked choke in round three of their middleweight matchup.

The duo headlined "Diaz vs. Cyborg" at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA, which served as Strikeforce's first big event of the new year.

An always aggressive Diaz found trouble early against Santos, who smashed Diaz's legs with a constant attack of kicks that the Stockton native initially refused to check.

After wading through the many kicks and punches, Diaz began to find his range and started to pepper Santos with a variety of jabs, hooks and body shots. Diaz stunned Santos with an overhand left and nearly had the Brazilian finished at the end of an action-packed first round.

The second saw a slower pace and while Santos continued to hack away at the legs of Diaz, he began to fade rather noticeably. Diaz took advantage and pushed the pace, peppering his foe with more punches in bunches.

With less than a minute left, Santos attempted a spinning back kick and missed but a scramble ensued with Diaz winding up with his back on the mat. Diaz quickly shifted his hips for an armbar, elbowing and punches Santos' stomach and legs before cranking the hold back and forcing a tap.

"I should have checked his kicks a little better," Diaz said afterwards. "I started to check them and then I kind of settled in there. I think he tried to put everything into those first two rounds. I figured if I put pressure on him, he would have to do something. If he didn't want to take more punches, he'd have to take me down."

Souza meanwhile, wasted no time in taking his title defense right to the canvas, charging after Lawler and planting him on his back, a position where the majority of the fight took place.

"Jacare" spent most of the first round on top of his opponent, but a failed try at a guillotine choke allowed Lawler to stand back up. The former EliteXC middleweight champion rocked Souza and dropped him with hard punches. However, Lawler made a tactical error in jumping into Souza's guard in an attempt to finish the fight and "Jacare" was able to recover.

In round two, Souza smothered Lawler from side control and softened him up with punches. "Jacare" looked to be close to locking up a pair of fight-ending armbars but Lawler impressively snuck his way out of them.

As the bout wore on, Souza remained undaunted and took Lawler's back in the third. After sinking in a body triangle, "Jacare" caught the Miletich Fighting Systems product in a rear-naked choke. Lawler fought for a few moments before finally submitting.

"I came prepared for anything," Souza said. "I have a great coach. I have great friends and training partners. I feel great. I'll fight anyone Strikeforce brings to me and I can't wait to fight again."

Walker Remains Undefeated; Gracie Wins Easily

Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL running back Herschel Walker earned his second win as a professional, dominating Scott Carson for a little over three minutes en route to a quick TKO victory.

After fending off a fight-opening head kick from Carson, Walker dropped his foe with a left hook and immediately pounced on him. Carson was able to get back to his feet, only to be suplexed back down by Walker.

Walker then rode his opponent's back, punching away from behind and causing Carson to cover up without providing much in the way of offense. A scramble resulted in Carson being able to stand again, but Walker crumpled him with a left hand and the referee stepped in before Carson could take further punishment.

"I took a kick in the beginning. I think I got a little too excited there," Walker explained. "When you're in an MMA fight, you shouldn't take a kick like that. Javier [Mendes, America Kickboxing Academy trainer] told me to be on offense and being a young fighter, I have to be able to control that."

Roger Gracie used a perfect strategy in defeated seasoned veteran Trevor Prangley, capitalizing on a reach advantage before bringing the fight to the ground and submitting Prangley with a rear-naked choke in the first round.

Gracie created distance with a series of jabs and kicks that kept Prangley at bay and forced the South African to heavily consider using his superior wrestling against Gracie's legendary grappling skills.

A few minutes later, Gracie tripped Prangley and the two fell to the mat. From there, Gracie wasted no time, quickly achieved mount, which forced Prangley to give up his back and a match-ending rear-naked choke.

"People say that there is a lot of pressure and yeah, the Gracie name is heavy," the multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion said afterwards. "But when you have your family behind you, it's like there's another wave pushing you forward."

Preliminary Results

Nate Moore def. Nathan Coy - KO (Punches) 0:25, R2
Isaiah Hill def. Bobby Stack - Submission (Triangle) 1:02, R1
Ron Keslar def. Eric Lawson - Submission (Armbar) 1:57, R1
Germaine de Randamie def. Stephanie Webber - KO (Knee) 4:25, R1
James Terry def. Lucas Gamaza - TKO (Strikes) 3:26, R1

Jenna Castillo def. Charlene Gellner - KO (Knee) 2:57, R2

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