The 411 MMA Top 10 02.04.12: Strikeforce’s Top 20 Fights: #20-11
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week will start a two part list looking at the best fights in Strikeforce’s history. The company finally shut down for good last month and the next two weeks will be looking back at it’s better days. I always liked Strikeforce as it was a solid alternative to the UFC for a couple years and I’m really looking forward to see how their top fighters do up against some of the UFC’s best. This week’s list is based mostly on fight quality, then the positive significance of the fight in relation to Strikeforce’s history, and lastly some of my personal opinion.
• Josh Thomson vs Gesisas Cavalcante
• Fedor Emelianenko vs Brett Rogers
• Fedor Emelianenko vs Fabricio Werdum
• Luke Rockhold vs Ronaldo Souza
• Robbie Lawler vs Ronaldo Souza
The Legend fought sporadically for the last couple years of his career that he spent in Strikeforce. Shamrock’s last fight took place in April 2009 as he took on Nick Diaz in a 179 pound catchweight fight. I’m pretty sure this is the lightest he ever fought at in his career. The first round had some nice exchanges with Diaz coming out on top. By the second round Shamrock was out of gas and he would lose by TKO with a little over a minute left in the round. This was like a changing of a guard as Shamrock was key to the company’s start and Diaz would become a top star in the next couple years. Shamrock would announce his retirement over a year later.
These two first fought in 2007 for the EliteXC lightweight championship. Noons won this one after the fight was stopped because of several cuts. Seeds for the rematch were planted after Noons defended his title against Yves Edwards. The Diaz brothers came to the cage to hype a rematch and Noons’ father would lunge at Nick after some trash talking. Nate threw a water bottle at his father, but fortunately things didn’t escalate past that. They would meet again three years later at Strikeforce 28. This time Diaz was the champion and it was at welterweight. Both guys were riding long winning streaks as well. Strikeforce would name this their fight of the year in 2010 as Diaz would win by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-47, 49-46). I would like to see the rubber match eventually down the road now that both fighters are in the UFC.
On August 13, Miesha Tate won two fights in the same night to win Strikeforce’s women’s bantamweight tournament and a future title shot. Coenen was going for her second title defense and was the favorite going into this one. Tate used her superior grappling to take rounds 1 and 3 and was nearly submitted multiple times in the second round, but showed great submission defense. Tate won with a nice arm triangle in the fourth round. This was Coenen’s last fight in the company and the first time she was submitted in her career.
Strikeforce: Miami was a stacked event. It had the company’s first welterweight title fight, Bobby Lashley and Herschel Walker’s debuts, Robbie Lawler’s awesome comeback KO, and Coenen vs Cyborg. This was Coenen’s second fight in the company and Cyborg’s first title defense. Coenen pushed Cyborg more than anyone was really able to at this point. She used her muay thai striking to really hang in the striking changes and get in a lot of damage. Though Cyborg’s striking would be too much for her as she would lose by TKO in the third round. Coenen is a fighter I really hope the UFC brings in soon.
This fight was to decide the first Strikeforce middleweight champion. The two started talking trash after Shamrock’s last fight with Renzo Gracie (he lost by DQ). Shamrock came out to an early lead, but he was deducted a point for punches to the back of the head. Baroni would get in plenty of his own shots and even some take downs, but this was The Legend’s night. He dropped Baroni at the end of the second round and choked him unconscious with a rear naked choke. Shamrock became the only fighter to hold championships in the UFC, WEC, and Strikeforce.
Nick Diaz was unstoppable in Strikeforce. Diaz moved back down to welterweight to win the title after a few catchweight fights. This was his second title defense as Cyborg somehow got a title shot after only going 1-1 in the company. Santos is one of the scariest looking guys in MMA though. The first round was a nice brawl. Diaz won the round, but Cyborg hung in there and got in plenty of his own shots in. Cyborg was looking even better in the second round until he unwisely decided to take the fight to the ground. Diaz then locked in the armbar with ease to finish it. I wonder if his ex wife would do a little better in a fight against Nick Diaz.
This night will always be remembered for when Werdum submitted Fedor, but this was the best fight of the night. This was between the best lightweights to fight in Strikeforce not named Gilbert Melendez. This was only Healy’s second fight in Strikeforce, but he made a name for himself competing in smaller promotions. During this time, Healy defeated top guys like Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, and Carlos Condit. This was The Punk’s first fight since losing the lightweight title to Melendez and he looked good. Healy came out with some strong wrestling as he broke two of Thomson’s ribs on the first takedown. Thomson was forced to fight more defensively than usual, but his jiu jitsu kept him in the fight. Healy had Thomson’s back in the third round, but Thomson got a nice reversal on the mat and managed to work from a north-south to a rear naked choke. Healy would hold on for a good 45 seconds before tapping with about 30 seconds left in the fight.
Robbie Lawler has had some nice knockouts over the course of his career but this one is the best. This was Manhoef’s first fight in Strikeforce after an impressive run fighting in Japan. While fighting for Dream and Dynamite, Manhoef knocked out Mark Hunt, Mizaki, and Sakuraba. Manhoef was looking awesome as he was just beating the crap out of Robbie Lawler. He was connecting with punches and leg kicks and had Lawler up against the cage when Lawler through a big right hand that knocked Manhoef to the ground. The right hand probably would have been enough but Lawler followed it up with a left that left him unconscious for a good while afterwards.
Dan Henderson’s debut in Strikeforce against Jake Shields was pretty bad, but he rebounded nicely once he returned to light heavyweight. He knocked out Renato Sobral to earn a shot at the title against Rafael Cavalcante. Feijão had just defeated Mo Lawal for the title a few months earlier. The first two rounds were closely contested with hard hitting action, clinch work, and some ok work on the ground. All the judges had it tied up at 19-19. Then Henderson dropped Cavalcante early in the third round and became a champion again at 40 years old.
This was the first meeting of the awesome trilogy. They first met in 2008, rematched in 2009, and finally in 2012. Gilbert Melendez won his first title when he defeated Clay Guida in 2006, but he barely competed in Strikeforce over the next two years as he spent some time fighting in Japan. While he was away, Strikeforce created their U.S. lightweight championship (just a cooler name for interim title), which Josh Thomson would win and defend. This was to merge the two lightweight titles. This was the weakest of their trilogy as it was before both fighters’ primes, but it was still awesome. Thomson was the better fighter at this point and would win by unanimous decision.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them and let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week I’ll finish up with fights 10-1.
Try not to die til next week.