SAN JOSE, Calif. -- At just 25 years old, Nick Diaz has been a pro for seven years. He has battled bigger opponents regularly and won fans even in defeat. But there was no question who the better fighter was Saturday, with Frank Shamrock getting a potent dose of Diaz at his best in the main event of Strikeforce’s Showtime-televised card at the HP Pavilion.
Diaz outlanded Shamrock 129 to 42, cleverly working his range while peppering his foe with a mix of stiff punches and the occasional kick mixed in.
“That’s just how I fight,” Diaz said at the post-fight news conference. “He’s got a shorter reach than me. I was just trying to get him to throw the right hand (and counter), then get in his face. The key was to get out there. I felt good.”
Signed to a six-fight, two-year contract with Strikeforce, Diaz said he’s comfortable fighting anyone. That includes Cung Le, the organization’s 185-pound champ who stopped Shamrock in March 2008 but hasn’t fought since.
“Cung’s not a complete fighter. He’s never fought anybody,” said Diaz, who weighed 180 for the catchweight bout with Shamrock. “Not that Frank’s not a complete fighter.”
Often misunderstood given his penchant for straight talk and sometimes-abrasive moods, Diaz still feels he’s on a mission to help illustrate what mixed martial arts should be. With Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker saying that fighters from Japan’s Dream organization could be brought in for cross-promotional bouts, the Stockton-based battler said he likes the Japanese rules that encourage a more sportive feel.
“It’s a more technical fight,” Diaz said of the rules in Japan, which give yellow cards for inactivity and prohibit elbows to the head on the ground. “It’s more my game. (In America) if the guy is holding on, you have to either figure out what to do or hold on tighter to win. Plus I like the ring aspect. It helps the technical aspects of a standup fighter.”
Strikeforce aiming at August for Cyborg-Carano
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos cleared the way for a groundbreaking women’s superfight against Gina Carano with a punishing KO of a game but outmatched Hitomi Akano. Santos was clearly superior on the feet while stifling Akano’s ground game and punishing her in every phase of the bout.
Coker said that the Santos-Carano bout could be staged as a main event on a Showtime card.
“I think we’re very close,” Coker said. “That’s going to be the first Strikeforce women’s title belt. We’re shooting for August.”
“I’d fight Gina with pleasure,” Santos said through a translator. “But I’d prepare for her the same way I do for everyone.”
Melendez looking forward to Thomson
Strikeforce scrambled to find an opponent for Gilbert Melendez after Josh Thomson went down with an injury. Melendez said it was mentally exhausting to prepare for an opponent that kept changing, but he was impressive in scoring a second-round knockout of late sub Rodrigo Damm.
“Tonight I felt like I showed people what I’m all about,” said Melendez, 15-2, who won Strikeforce’s interim lightweight title and looks forward to facing lightweight champ Thomson in a rematch of their bout last June, which Thomson won via decision.
Scott Smith cemented his reputation as a comeback artist in an epic bout against Benji Radach. The middleweights slugged it out from the first round, and with both men badly stunned as the fight progressed, Smith was behind on all three judges’ scorecards coming into the third and final round.
Smith, whose Hail Mary KO of Pete Sell stands as one of the most stunning comeback wins in the sport, will be adding some footage to his highlight reel. Pushing forward in the third, he kept working his tiring foe and capped off the win with a dynamite right cross that drilled home inside a Radach jab. Smith pounced on a downed Radach with a right hand before referee Herb Dean stopped the bout.
The fighters had showed restraint and respect toward each other leading into the bout. Smith jokingly said he liked Radach so much, he wanted to have a long, tough bout before knocking him out.
“I should be careful what I wish for,” joked Smith, who said he was “knocked out a couple times” during the bout from eating Radach’s heavy shots. “I got five stitches on my eye, and two on my lip, and I saw Benji backstage getting stitches, too.”
Smith said that after a taxing second period, he wasn’t sure if he’d come out for the last five minutes. But he did.
“It’s just the fighter in me. I owed it to Benji to come out. I knew I had to go get it,” Smith said, adding that he was too counter-minded and should’ve been more aggressive from the jump. “I had to go full-steam ahead. I need to quit backing up.”
Radach told Sherdog.com that he broke his right hand in the first round and will have surgery Monday. He needed stitches over his right eye and also in his left cheek. Radach explained that his teeth went through his cheek when Smith landed his last punch.
Heavyweight Brett Rogers showed a good understanding of the clinch game, using good knees and striking to score a second-round stoppage of a willing but outmatched Ron Humphrey. Returning from a 10-month layoff, Rogers (9-0) showed patience as he hammered out the win in a bout that had nary a dull moment. Afterward, he said he has Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem in his sights.
“I give myself a B-minus,” Rogers said of his performance. “I wasn’t as crisp as I wanted to be. I know Overeem’s going to be a step up. But I can’t see me not making that a tough fight.”
Scott Coker announced that Strikeforce has signed former UFC champ Kevin Randleman. The explosive vet of the stateside and Japanese circuit will be in action on a future card.
“I’m a month and a half away from training wrestling again,” said a smiling Ortiz.
Ortiz had been hoping for a rematch with Shamrock, who beat him in 1999 in the UFC, but Diaz’s win scuttled that possibility.
“It’s like watching money go out the window,” said Ortiz, with a grin, congratulating Diaz on his performance.
Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral was cageside, and he and Ortiz had a few decidedly unfriendly words before the main card started.
“I might need a tuneup before Babalu,” Ortiz added. “But I feel great. It’s the first time in six years that I can wake up without pain.”