SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Nick Diaz finally showed Frank Shamrock some respect. Of course, it came after he battered the former UFC champion from pillar to post in their main event scrap at Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Diaz” before a crowd of 15,211 at the HP Pavilion.
The controversial and quotable Diaz (19-7, 1 NC), of Stockton, Calif., finished Shamrock with a salvo of punches along the cage after dropping the former UFC titleholder with a body shot. Referee “Big” John McCarthy implored Shamrock to defend himself, but he could not muster the strength to answer the Diaz outburst and McCarthy called a halt to the match at 3:57 of the second round.
“I give everything to Nick Diaz,” Shamrock said. “I knew he was a dangerous opponent. Nick kicked my ass tonight; there’s no two ways about it. Nick was just the better man. He hit me in the guts, and that was about all the juice I had. I doubled over, and he put a whoopin’ on me.”
Shamrock (23-10-2), fighting in his hometown, was expected by many to exploit a perceived striking advantage over Diaz and gain the upper hand. It was not to be.
Diaz seemed unconcerned about Shamrock’s offense and could be seen talking to him throughout the bout, taunting him at times while imploring him to keep coming forward. Diaz took control midway through the opening round when he caught a leg kick and planted Shamrock on the mat. He moved to side control before Shamrock could escape back to his feet. Diaz soon found himself back on top of a fallen Shamrock after he slipped trying another kick. This time, the Cesar Gracie protégé made it all the way to mount, but the bell sounded ending his attack and the round.
Round two was all Diaz. He found the mark with his strikes, marking up Shamrock in the process. Shamrock was left to single, lunging strikes that had no impact on the lanky Diaz, who maintained his distance and still connected on his own punches.
“The key was to get in here and feel good,” Diaz said. “It’s hard to hate that guy. He’s been doing what I want to do and saying what I want to say for a long time.”
In defeat, Shamrock vowed to return.
Gilbert Melendez got his Strikeforce lightweight title back -- albeit in a different form. His impressive knockout of late replacement Rodrigo Damm made Melendez (15-2) the interim champion and assured him of a return engagement with current titleholder Josh Thomson later this year.
Melendez, of San Francisco, was originally slated to rematch Thomson, the man who took his title last June. However, a broken ankle forced Thomson off the card just 10 days ago.
The opening round saw Melendez drop his Brazilian opponent with a right hand after catching an attempted kick. He rode the rest of the round out from top position, mostly within Damm’s half guard, striking to the body and head effectively but without doing much damage.
The damage came in the second frame. Melendez showed his hand speed with a pair of nice right hands that set up a takedown early in the round. Damm (8-3) quickly got back to his feet before Melendez sent him back down for good with a one-two combination. The former champion flurried on his downed opponent, riddling him with punches before referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in at 2:02 of the second round.
Scott Smith, perhaps sensing he needed a stoppage, went on the attack in the third and final round against Benji Radach and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a right hand that crumpled his opponent with just more than 90 seconds left in the bout.
Smith (17-5-1), of Elk Grove, Calif., was knocked to the canvas in each of the first two rounds but showed an impressive will in battling back. Radach (19-5) controlled the first two frames, using his jab to set up his power punches. He rose from the canvas after a grazing Smith right hand in the opening period and dropped him with a counter left hook. Radach then took Smith to the mat and pounded away until the bell.
The second round was even kinder to Radach. The Irvine, Calif.-based fighter dominated Smith and even looked close to stopping him with a standing guillotine choke. Smith, with blood flowing from his left eye, looked finished as the stanza came to a close.
Radach seemed to regain control in the third period when he slammed his way out of a Smith guillotine attempt, but after the fighters came to a stalemate along the cage, referee Herb Dean restarted the action in the center of the cage. That was when Smith finally found the mark with the big shot. He folded Radach with the right hand at 3:24 of the final round and claimed the victory.
Referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in to end a bout that nearly did not happen after Santos failed to make her contracted weight. Right from the start, Santos stalked her prey with punches and kicks. She never let Tokyo’s Akano (14-6) find any room to ply her judo or submission skills.
Santos -- a Curitiba, Brazil, native -- made her intention of fighting Gina Carano known after the bout. It has been widely speculated that the fight will occur at Strikeforce’s August event.
Brett Rogers (10-0) weathered Ron Humphrey’s frenzied early pace and a point deduction for holding Humphrey’s hair to remain perfect, as he stopped the former “Iron Ring” contestant with a pair of knees and two right hands at 1:38 of the second round.
Rogers, a St. Paul, Minn.-based heavyweight, landed at will throughout the fight, but Humphrey just kept coming at him. It was the first professional loss for Humphrey, an Atlanta native who dropped to 5-1.
Luke Rockhold (4-1) made quick work of Buck Meredith (3-3) with a modified rear-naked choke at 4:07 of the opening frame. The San Jose, Calif.-based Rockhold controlled the bout from start to finish en route to a dominating victory.
Concord, California’s Eric Lawson (9-2) walked away with a TKO victory after stopping Waylon Kennell (4-2) with punches from the mount that ended a back-and-forth battle. Kennell, from Los Angeles, seemed to have the fight won with an armbar but was reversed and finished by Lawson with just six seconds remaining in the first round.
Raul Castillo kept his ledger perfect, as he notched his sixth consecutive victory with a fast submission win over Los Angeles’ Brandon Michaels (2-3). Castillo, from Half Moon Bay, Calif., easily took Michaels to the ground and passed his defenses to lock up a rear-naked choke at 1:45 of the opening round.
James Terry (6-1) used an effective ground-and-pound attack to stifle San Francisco’s Zak Bucia over 15 minutes and garner a unanimous decision. Bucia (3-2) tried a number of submissions from his back but was thwarted time and again by the San Jose-based fighter. Scores were 30-27 on all cards.
In the opener, Shingo Kohara (1-0), of Foster City, Calif., grabbed a beautiful win over Jeremy Tavares (0-4) with a knockout just four seconds into round two. Tavares, from San Jose, Calif., shot in for a takedown as the period began but was greeted with a fight-ending knee.