ProMMAnow.com “Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg” staff picks

SAN JOSE, Calif. — “Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg” will take place Saturday, Jan. 29, at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. and will broadcast LIVE on Showtime starting at 10 p.m. ET/10 p.m. PT (delayed on West Coast).

The ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) staff has come together to give our thoughts and predictions on the fight card which features welterweight champion Nick Diaz defending his title against Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos in the main event.

We also look at Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Robbie Lawler, who will be battling for “Jacare’s” middleweight title, Roger Gracie vs. Trevor Prangley, Herschel Walker vs. Scott Carson and Eric Lawson vs. Ron Keslar.

170 lbs. title – Nick Diaz (23-7, 1 NC) vs. Evangelista Santos (18-13)

ODDS: Nick Diaz -500 vs. Evangelista Santos +300

JACK BRATCHER: Nick Diaz deserves to be fighting the type of competition that is in the UFC. Unfortunately Strikeforce’s welterweight division is not comparable in the same way their heavyweight division is. Cyborg’s brawling and aggressive style will be no match for Diaz on the feet. Santos hits hard but Diaz has an epic chin and should be able to withstand it if he does get hit. Diaz’s boxing continues to improve and those “pitter-patter” punches now seem to have more snap and power to them. His out-striking and out-boxing of K.J. Noons in his last fight was something beautiful to behold and I predict he will pick Cyborg apart in the same technical fashion. Nick Diaz will win it’s just a matter of where it will happen. He will also have the better conditioning and endurance in this five round fight. Nick Diaz wins via submission.

JOHN BUHL: I don’t expect this fight to be boring, but I’m really not all that excited about it. Diaz doesn’t have great takedowns and I personally don’t think his boxing is as good as some people think it is…hopefully we’ll see him test it against someone like Paul Daley one of these days. Cyborg can hit pretty hard and make things interesting. Nevertheless, I expect Diaz to find a way to win. If he doesn’t, his stock is going to take a hard hit. Diaz by third round submission.

BRIAN FURBY: Nick Diaz.

DENNY HODGE: “Cyborg” will come out quick and blitz Diaz trying to overwhelm him early, but Diaz as always, will be calm during the storm. After he weathers the early aggression from Santos, Diaz will take control of the action with non-stop boxing action, and will pick apart “Cyborg” in the action on the feet. Diaz will then get the fight to the ground and finish it there. Diaz is simply too much for Santos. Diaz by TKO.

BRIAN IMES: Nick Diaz via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: “Male Cyborg” earned a shot at the Strikeforce welterweight title after winning one fight at the weight. I guess that is better than Nick Diaz’s last challenger, KJ Noons, who had never fought at 170 pounds. Santos is a solid striker and also Trenta for the weight, but Diaz always wins a battle of attrition. I expect Santos to look good early and maybe land some leg kicks. However after the first round, Diaz will keep coming forward and eventually break down Santos.
Pick = Nick Diaz.

185 lbs. title – Ronaldo Souza (13-2, 1 NC) vs. Robbie Lawler (18-6, 1 NC)

ODDS: Ronaldo Souza -240 vs. Robbie Lawler +190

JACK BRATCHER: I really like Robbie Lawler. There are few people in this sport who can take a beating from Lawler and remain cognizant enough to describe what happened at the end of the bout during a post-fight interview. However, there’s only two people who have bested “Jacare”. One of them was Jorge Patina in the first fight of “Jacare’s” pro MMA career in 2003, and the other one was Gegard Mousasi, when he stopped “Jacare” with an up-kick during the Dream middleweight tournament in 2008. And there’s almost  always a little luck involved when you land a fight-ending up-kick. The majority of Lawler’s losses have come via submission. That sounds worse than it really is. He has really only lost three fights due to a legit submission. Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Evan Tanner and Jake Shields are the three guys who submitted Lawler and Jacare’s grappling skills are beyond all three of those gentlemen, although it’s a shame we never saw “Jacare” vs. Shields in the cage. To the point here, “Jacare” will submit Lawler.

JOHN BUHL: In complete contrast to the main event, really looking forward to this fight. Jacare actually has pretty good striking for a BJJ champion (see: Tim Kennedy bout). Is he going to want to test it against Lawler? I don’t think so. Jacare’s takedowns aren’t that bad, but Lawler probably has the better pure wrestling. It should come down to whether or not Jacare can set up his takedowns or if Lawler can stay in the pocket long enough to land some bombs. Complete pick ’em fight, but I’ll take Lawler by second round TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

DENNY HODGE: “Jacare” has shown improved stand up in recent outings, but he would be crazy to try to stand in the pocket and engage with the heavy handed Lawler (see Matt Lindland.) If Souza follows a sound game plan, he will try to take Lawler into his world on the mat, but it won’t be easy for him to close the gap and get the fight to the ground. Lawler is a better wrestler than he is given credit for, and “Jacare” is going to eat some shots trying to get the fight to the mat. Trouble is, it only takes one from Lawler to end a fight, and that’s what he’s going to do. Lawler by KO.

BRIAN IMES:  Robbie Lawler via decision.

RICHARD MANN: Every once in a while the fight gods put together a fight that extremely difficult to predict. Sure I, and pretty much everyone else, gets fight completely wrong. However, in this fight there are convincing rationales for each fighter winning. Robbie Lawler struggles against fighters with submission chops. This short coming isn’t immediately apparent, because he does not fight a lot of such fighters. However, if you watch his fights against Jake Shields and Jason “Mayhem” Miller you will understand what I am talking about. In the interests of brevity, let’s just that “Jacare” has some skills in the submission arts. On the other hand, “Jacare” has shown some weakness in the chin department. I am not ready to add him to the Jonathan Goulet Chin All-Stars yet, but the upkick from Gegard Mousasi and the punch from “Macaco” did not seem devastating. Once again, in the interest of brevity, let’s just say that Lawler has a bit of power in his hands. I favor “Jacare” since he has shown better cardio in his recent performance. Also, he has worked diligently on his striking game, so he may be able to survive a stand up skirmish with Lawler. Pick = Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza.

205 lbs. – Roger Gracie (3-0) vs. Trevor Prangley (23-6-1)

ODDS: Roger Gracie -165 vs. Trevor Prangley +135

JACK BRATCHER: Whenever a Gracie fights, the world takes notice. Many MMA fans probably subconsciously watch and wonder who will he the next Gracie to replicate the early days of Royce. Could it be Roger? He is definitely off to a good start, albeit he is averaging about one fight every two years instead of  two or three a night like uncle Royce. Trevor Prangley is coming off a split decision win over Keith Jardine. He was a South African national champion wrestler and a two-time All-American. He’s also been training BJJ for well over a decade and the majority of his pro MMA wins are by submission. That experience should be enough to keep him from getting submitted by Roger. His MMA and striking experience should pay dividends here as he grinds out a decision. Prangley via decision.

JOHN BUHL: With Prangley’s considerable MMA experience advantage, I’m not confident that Gracie will get the submission he needs here. Gracie’s three wins over Randleman, Kondo, and Waterman have one thing in common: three guys who were long in the tooth and/or well past their prime. Then again, Prangley is getting up there at 38 and going 1-1-1 in his last three. Prangley should have the edge in striking, but I don’t see him brutalizing anyone on the feet necessarily (he only has a few KO/TKO wins in about 30 fights). It’s a very doable challenge for Gracie, but Prangley is well-rounded enough that there isn’t a clear scenario where I see Gracie taking control in this one. Prangley by split decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Roger Gracie.

DENNY HODGE: Prangley is a very tough competitor with a solid chin, but it will be the ground game (thanks Captain Obvious) that he has to worry about with Gracie. Gracie will have a reach advantage on the feet, and even if he ends up on his back eating some ground and pound, he will find a way to easily sweep Prangley if he likes, or work his sub game from his back. Gracie by submission.

BRIAN IMES: Trevor Prangley via decision.

RICHARD MANN: Obviously, Roger Gracie is a great grappler. Great really isn’t a strong enough word. He is one of the five best grapplers of all time. However, he has not faced a fighter like Trevor Prangley in his MMA career. Age seems to have hurt Prangley’s wrestling game a bit, but he still has the All-American pedigree. He should be able to keep the fight on the feet and score with his hands. I am locked in with Prangley, but I still want to see the fight. A win here for Gracie would signal that he is a serious commodity in Strikeforce’s light heavyweight division. Pick = Travor Prangley.

265 lbs. – Herschel Walker (1-0) vs. Scott Carson (4-1)

ODDS: Herschel Walker -500 vs. Scott Carson +300

JACK BRATCHER: Herschel Walker is a specimen of a man. He’s ripped to the gills. He is in tremendous shape. He’s in a great camp and has been taking his training and MMA very seriously. He uprooted himself from his home and left behind a highly successful chicken business (although he is vegetarian) all so he could move to San Jose and train full time. Who knows what Scott Carson was doing for the nine years prior to getting knocked out in the first round last June by a very capable Lorenz Larkin (7-0). Three of Carson’s four wins have come by submission, so he could very well submit Walker, but the odds favor the 48-year-old Heisman Trophy winner grinding out a three-rounder. Herschel Walker via decision.

JOHN BUHL: OK, so Carson is 4-1! Problem is he’s had one fight since 2001, a KO loss this past June 12. It’s only Walker’s second fight, and regardless of what physical shape he’s in at 48, he’s still 48. Nevertheless, I don’t doubt his dedication and the quality training he’s getting at AKA. Between that and his natural athletic ability, I think Walker will get by Carson via second round KO.

BRIAN FURBY: Herschel Walker.

DENNY HODGE: Both guys are over 40 years of age, but Herschel Walker is not your average 47 year old man. Carson has never been in a fight that went past the first round, and if he survives that long against Walker, his cardio will truly be tested, because Walker will work nonstop to finish this fight. Walker will overwhelm Carson and put him away by TKO.

BRIAN IMES: Herschel Walker via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: I have been saying for years now that when Strikeforce needs to get one of their guys win they really step up to the plate. Coker and company are once again feeding the golden goose here. I doubt they will flip out Jared Shaw style if Herschel Walker loses, but Scott Carson is being set up to lose. He has only fought once since 2001 and he got knocked out in the first round. Pick = Herschel Walker.

180 lbs. – Eric Lawson (9-3) vs. Ron Keslar (5-3)

ODDS: Eric Lawson -275 vs. Ron Keslar +215

JACK BRATCHER: Eric Lawson has not fought in nearly a year due to a host of injuries. He is 5-1 in his Strikeforce career and has spent time training with Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields in the past. Keslar is a member of American Kickboxing Academy alongside such top fighters as UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. I think Keslar is going to be very hungry coming off two losses. Combine that with the fact he stayed active with three fights in 2010 and I’m going to take Ron Keslar to win via decision.

JOHN BUHL: Both guys are coming off of losses (one for Lawson and two for Keslar). For Lawson, he has a couple more quality wins in his career, but Lawson, training out of AKA right in San Jose, so he could have a bit of a home field advantage. I guess what I’m trying to say is I have no clue who will win this. Lawson by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Eric Lawson.

DENNY HODGE: Lawson is looking to avenge his first loss under the Strikeforce banner, while his opponent Ron Keslar will be looking for his first win in the Strikeforce cage (0-2). Lawson has said he is ready for anything in this fight, and there should be some good ground action between these two when the fight hits the mat. Lawson will outpoint Keslar over the 3 round affair, and will win by decision.

BRIAN IMES:  Eric Lawson via submission.

RICHARD MANN: Ron Keslar has gone 0-2 since getting the call up to Strikeforce. Eric Lawson was on a pretty nice roll before he caught and submitted in his last fight. He should be able to stay out of danger in this fight and pick up another win. Pick = Eric Lawson.

NOTE: All fight odds provided by Pro MMA Now sponsor Linesmaker.com.

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