Nick Diaz and Jacare Souza cap main event slugfests with submission wins on stacked Strikeforce card in San Jose, Herschel Walker earns 2nd MMA win

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Sunday, January 30, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Nick Diaz defends Strikeforce Welterweight title with 2nd round submission of Cyborg Santos

Strikeforce Middleweight champion Jacare Souza submits Robbie Lawler

Former Heisman trophy winner Herschel Walker earned 2nd MMA win against Scott Carson

Strikeforce Welterweight title holder Nick Diaz and Middleweight title holder Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza defended their belts against agressive challengers in the San Jose based mixed martial arts promotion’s first championship series event of 2011. Stockton native Nick Diaz stalked his way through the mauling offensive attack of Chute Boxe Academy veteran Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos, earning his 9th straight win with an armbar in the waning seconds of round 2. Decorated Brazilian grappler Jacare Souza was wobbled by Robbie Lawler early in the first round. Lawler followed him to the ground in a tactical mistake and spent the majority of the second and third rounds fighting off submission attempts as a result. ‘Jacare’ earned his 4th straight win with a rear naked choke submission, successfully defending his title in the deep Middleweight division for the first time. Strong performances by Herschel Walker and Roger Gracie capped a stacked 13 fight card sprinkled with former headliners from top to bottom.

The tone of the Diaz-Cyborg main event was set early. In a departure from recent fights against K.J. Noons, Scott Smith and Frank Shamrock, there was no trash talking and both fighters got down to business in a very busy first round. The business for Cyborg was repeated heavy inside leg kicks, followed by wild winging combinations. The southpaw Diaz methodically pushed forward, making full use of his 2 inch reach and 2 and a half inch height advantage.

Cyborg continued working on the lead leg of Diaz. At one point he stopped Diaz as he came in, another time he nearly took out both legs with a powerful strike. In a head-to-head exchange halfway through the first, Cyborg gained the advantage landing 4 of 5 punches to the head of Diaz in a toe-to-toe flurry. Then came a turning point in the first. Cyborg slipped two Diaz punches, but a third landed cleanly to the head staggered him backwards. Head movement, footwork and positioning are constant necessities against a volume punching Diaz. Instead of 2-3 punch combinations, Diaz throws 7-8 punch combinations and he has the cardio to push the pace for 5 straight rounds.

Momentum swung completely to Diaz at the end of the first round. As the crowd chanted “Di-az, Di-az, Di-az,” the Stockton native piled up dozens of punches in succession to wear down his veteran opponent. At the end of the first, a weary Cyborg was telegraphing his punches like an archer pulling back to fire an arrow. The lead leg kicks were gone.

Diaz stood directly in front of Cyborg to start the second round, and the Brazilian answered with a series of short standing elbows. In Muaythai often the point of the elbow is intended to cut as much as inflict damage. Cyborg maximized the torque on each with a short downward blow. Cyborg then got a little out of his comfort zone with a spinning hook kick and a takedown attempt. It allowed the Cesar Gracie BJJ black belt to work his ground game. With less than 20 seconds left in the fight, a tired Cyborg tried to fight off an armbar submission but Diaz loosened him up with several strikes. The arm popped free with 10 seconds left and Diaz hyper-extended it at a gruesome angle to stop the fight. Cyborg pounded the mat in frustration, clearly emotional after only his second submission loss in 32 fights.

According to Compustrike, Cyborg landed more strikes (85-75), attempted more strikes (173-142), and landed more power punches (69-32) than Diaz. In the post-fight press conference, talk of future opponents for the welterweight champion was the focus of the assembled media. British striker Paul Daley, who lost a title elimination UFC fight with Josh Koschek, and rising undefeated welterweight Tyron Woodley (10-0) are options at 170 pounds. A catch weight grudge match with Nashville Brawl instigator Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller Could also be a possibility, although apparently an unpalatable one for Diaz. Palatable only if they paid him enough he noted.

Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza was again nearly tested to the limit in his first defense of the Strikeforce Middleweight title. After a difficult 5-round decision win over special forces member Tim Kennedy to win the vacant belt in August, Jacare was tested again by a focused and determined Robbie Lawler Saturday night in San Jose. Lawler, a former EliteXC and 2-time ICON Sport middleweight champion, was ticketed as a title favorite when EliteXC folded and Strikeforce absorbed a number of their contracts. Lawler struggled with setbacks against Jake Shields and Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral, but impressive first round KO’s over Melvin Manhoef and Matt Lindland made it clear he was a still a legitimate title contender.

Facing Jacare, who along with Roger Gracie and Marcelo Garcia are considered the ‘holy trinity’ of all-time great BJJ grapplers, Lawler would need patience and an intelligent gameplan. While Jacare’s striking is much improved, Lawler has a much more natural feel and the power to end the fight at any time with either hand. After a short feeling out process in the first round, Jacare scored a takedown and quickly worked for a deep kimura, and then transitioned for a guillotine choke. Lawler was patient, turning into danger then working to get back to his feet. Jacare landed a looping right hand, then connect with another wide left but Lawler answered with a short jumping knee that sent the 5-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion stumbling backwards. Backpeddaling, Jacare stepped backwards into the side of the cage.

Lawler pressed the action with a hard kick, and a pinpoint right handed that buckled and then dropped Jacare. The San Diego born, Illinois based Lawler then committed a crucial tactical mistake jumping into the guard of Souza. The Brazilian kept his opponent from posturing up, and used the time on his back to recover and listen to instructions from his corner. Referee Big John McCarthy stood up both fighters at the end of the round, and instantly Lawler scored a hard kick to the side.

The second round swung completely back to Jacare Souza. Scoring a takedown inside the first 40 seconds, Lawler was forced to defend repeated submission attempts over the next 3 minutes and 47 seconds. Tight to the body, Jacare loosened up Lawler with strikes, then expertly transitioned from an arm triangle, to side control to a leg lock. When Lawler stiffened up, Souza reach around and fired a backhand off his head forcing him to cover up. After spinning around to the front, Jacare went over the back to get control of the far arm. Lawler turned his body into the armbar and fought it off. 10 seconds later, Souza stepped over Lawler’s head to secure another armbar attempt. Lawler walked his legs back over the top of Souza and briefly was on top at the end of the second.

It was a phenomenal display of grappling over the first two rounds, but it took a heavy toll on Lawler. Jacare scored a single leg takedown, then kicked the legs out from under Lawler as he attempted to get back to his feet. The Brazilian got back control, quickly sunk both hooks in, and worked on a rear naked choke. After fighting it off for 20 seconds, Lawler tapped at 3:21. Jacare celebrated with an alligator crawl and alligator chomp in the center of the ring. The USA Today/SB Nation consensus #8 ranked Middleweight is actually top-5, and possibly top-3 material in the division.

Filling out the main event were two intriguing fights by Roger Gracie and Herchel Walker. Gracie, the grandson of Gracie Jiu Jitsu co-founder Carlson Gracie, entered the cage for only his 4th professional MMA fight against veteran Trevor Prangley. Considered one of the best grapplers of all-time, there was a strong Brazilian media contingent and several pockets of fans at HP Pavilion offering loud support for Gracie in Portuguese. Prangley, who fought Falaniko Vitale and Jorge Santiago on the same night for Strikeforce’s 4-man, single elimination Middleweight tournament in 2007, looked slightly intimidated by Gracie. Instead of holding him off with a stiff jab, Prangley allowed Gracie to lock in a standing arm triangle attempt. After clinch work by Gracie, he scored a trip takedown and forced Prangley’s back to the cage. The Brazilian quickly flattened him out and transitioned to back control. Prangley tried to back out, but a body lock by Gracie allowed him to maintain position and eventually lock in a RNC. Prangley fought off the RNC for 29 seconds but Gracie continued to improve his technical position, tightening his hands and squeezing a tight body triangle.

Prangley tapped at 4:19 of the first round. In a post-fight interview with Showtime announcer Mauro Ranallo, Gracie laid out his gameplan for the fight. “I knew he was heavy-handed, but I had the reach in my favor. I played with the jab. I knew he’d come in hard. The plan was to shoot in, and it happened exactly like that,” Gracie said. Roger Gracie also touched on the pressure of fighting for the family name. “I think that only those inside the family know what (the pressure is like). People say there is a lot of pressure. Yeah, the Gracie name is heavy, but when you fight with your family behind you, it’s another wave (of confidence) pushing you forward,” he said. The 4-0 mixed martial artist looked stiff and formal at the prefight weigh-in, almost treating Prangley as a hockey player would treat a Conference Final trophy, by remaining as far away as possible and not acknowleging its existence. After the win Gracie was animated, enthusiastically high fiving fans on his way back to the locker room.

The mainstream media buildup for the fight centered around the main event’s least experienced fighter. Former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker made a number of appearances in the national media. Local newspapers and local television also focused on the appearance of the 48-year old Walker, who would face 40-year old journeyman Scott Carson. After appearing somewhat stilted in his first fight against Greg Nagy in 2010, Walker looked fluid and effective in his second MMA fight. After being hit with a high kick early in the first round, Walker screamed ‘come on’ and came hard at Carson with a three punch combination. Carson slumped to the mat and Walker jumped in to take advantage. Working towards back control, Walker torqued Carson back down to the mat as he tried to regain his feet. The former USFL/NFL football star hammered his opponent with several heavy punches to the head. Twice he knocked out Carson’s mouthpiece, once sending it through the cage and onto the ring apron. After more uncontested punishment, the referee stopped the fight with a TKO (Strikes) at 3:13. A deferential Walker thanked his camp at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose and noted that his appearance was not a stunt or a gimmick, just one more step in his dream of becoming a mixed martial artist.

UNDERCARD NOTES: Strikeforce began as a regional kickboxing promotion 15 years ago, and a pair of prominent kickboxers were featured on the undercard. 45-0 as a kickboxer, Dutch native Germaine de Randamie earned a first round KO over Stephanie Webber. Trying to end the fight with a big left hand in the opening seconds, the ‘Iron lady’ scored a knockout with two heavy knees to the head in the corner. The flamboyant striker celebrated by jumping on top of the cage and screaming at the cameras. Local kickboxing standout Jenna Castillo has headlined recent muaythai cards from WCSC and Fairtex, but the Bay Area kickboxing fight of 2010 may have been Castillo vs. Tiffany Van Soest in August at the Playboy Fight Night to the Mansion. According to the undercard stream commentary by Sherdog analysts T.J. Desantis and Jordan Breen, she had only been grappling for a few weeks before her pro MMA debut. Against Newark native Charlene Gellner, Castillo wore her down with heavy knees in the first round, and short elbows and power hooks inside. She was forced to fight off triangle and armbar attempts at the end of the round. After a weak shot attempt in the second, Castillo unleashed a devestating series of flurries that ended with a pair of left and right knees to the head in quick succession. Cung Le USH Academy member James Terry earned his second win after a February setback to Tarec Saffiedine on a ShoMMA televised card. Terry stunned Stockon native Lucas Gamaza with a right hand in the first round, and a second right hand as he came in ended the fight. Gamaza’s recent step up in competition against Ky Hollenbeck and James Terry in 2 of his last 3 fights was unsucessful, but the Diaz stablemate did earn a RNC choke over Nick Christy on the Fight Militia Genesis card in Stockton last November. San Jose based Ron Keslar put on a grappling clinic against Concord’s Eric Lawson. After trying to lock in unusual front armbar and some sort of front triangle/omoplata combination, he locked in an armbar at 1:57. There was no clear replay of the submission, and with no announcement or graphic the high paced fight ended abruptly. Isaiah Hill earned triangle submission over the favored Bobby Stack. Stack had been featured prominently with multiple Comcast Sports Net features covering training for one of his previous fights. He was also interviewed by CSNCA prior to his fight with Hill. Isaiah “I don’t know whether to look at him or read him” Hill, winless in 8 of his last 9 fights, grazed Stack with a flying knee as he went for an early takedown. Hill then connected with a flying shin that wobbled Stack futhur. Stack was able to scramble into top position, but Hill locked in the triangle choke at 1:02. The main event fight on the undercard featured San Jose based Nate Moore vs former OSU wrestler Nathan Coy. Moore suffered a knockout loss to Tarec Saffiedine on a May ShoMMA challengers card, Coy was coming off a decision loss to Tyron Woodley on the same card. Moore earned Sharkspage knockout of the night. As Nathan Coy tried to slip under a punch, Moore connected with a right hand that flattened out and disabled his opponent. Attendace was announced at 9,059. In attendance was Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum, Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez, Women’s Middleweight Champion Cristiane ‘Cyborg’, UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, Josh Thomson, Jon Fitch, Daniel Cormier, Matt Hughes, Renzo Gracie and M.C. Hammer among others.

A rough photo gallery from the event is available here. Undercard fights are available for viewing online via

[Update] Official Results:

Strikeforce ‘Diaz vs. Cyborg’ MMA Championship Series
HP Pavilion – San Jose, CA
January 29th, 2011


- Strikeforce Welterweight World Title (2nd defense)
Nick Diaz (24-7-1) def. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (18-14)
Submission (Armbar) – Round 2, 4:50

- Strikeforce Middleweight World Title (1st defense)
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-2-2) def. Robbie Lawler (18-7)
Submission (Rear Naked Choke) – Round 3, 2:00

- Herschel Walker (2-0) def. Scott Carson (4-2)
TKO (Strikes) – Round 1, 3:13

- Roger Gracie (4-0) def. Trevor Prangley (23-7-1)
Submission (Rear Naked Choke) – Round 1, 4:19


-Nate Moore def. Nathan Coy
KO (Punches) – Round 2, 0:25

- Isaiah Hill def. Bobby Stack
Submission (Triangle Choke) – Round 1, 1:02

- Ron Keslar def. Eric Lawson
Submission (Armbar) – Round 1, 1:57

- Germaine de Randamie def. Stephanie Webber
TKO (Strikes) – Round 1, 4:25

- James Terry def. Lucas Gamaza
TKO (Strikes) – Round 1, 3:26

- Jenna Castillo def. Charlene Gellner
TKO (Strikes) – Round 2, 3:57


- Anthony Dariano def. Alan Perez
Unanimous Decision

- Ricky Jackson def. Niko Jackson
Unanimous Decision

- Armin Safiari def. Sam Bracamonte
Unanimous Decision

[Update2] Diaz Armbar Subs ‘Cyborg’ in Strikeforce –

[Update3] Strikeforce champ “Jacare” Souza ready for anyone, except “Mayhem” Miller –

Following the first successful defense of his 185-pound crown this past Saturday against Robbie Lawler (20-7 MMA, 2-3 SF), Souza scoffed at the prospect of again meeting Miller, who’s expected to face the man he beat to win the title, Tim Kennedy…

“You kidding me? I beat this guy two times, man,” Souza, who won his belt this past August, said. “No more.”

[Update4] Not really in a position to take photos at the event, but by request from a fan in Brazil here are two Roger Gracie photos from the weigh-in (one, two).

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