Breaking down the Strikeforce card
This Saturday's Strikeforce "Noons vs. Diaz II" event is like a teenager full of rebellious fantasies and high-fructose corn syrup -- getting attention for all the wrong reasons.
Whether it's the unnecessary publicity for the extra security on hand or the ongoing drama between Sarah Kaufman and Strikeforce, there are a bunch of silly stories overshadowing what is a fine collection of violence.
Security team aside, the rematch between Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz and Karl James Noons will go a long way toward deciding how their first encounter is remembered and who gets final bragging rights. Kaufman, the reigning women's 135-pound champion, will continue trudging along the road of winning respect for her sport by trying for another successful title defense, this time against Dutch grappling ace Marloes Coenen. Those two key title bouts are joined by a battle of elite lightweights and a welterweight match pitting two of Strikeforce's best prospects against each other.
Seriously, if "Dexter" isn't enough to get you to shell out for a Showtime subscription, this card had better do the job. Otherwise, I shall be forced to question how grizzled and/or grown you truly are, and we don't want that at all. Not one bit.
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Three years ago, Diaz entered an ill-advised game of razor tag with Noons and walked away with a face that not even a mother could love. An unfortunate postfight brawl that took place several months later overshadowed the circumstances of their initial encounter, and it's in those circumstances that the differences between their first meeting and the upcoming rematch can be found.
Diaz is at his best as a lanky welterweight, but EliteXC's bizarre weight-class structure had him fighting as a gaunt 160-pound shadow of his usual self. As for Noons, he often looks out of shape when fighting at 155 pounds, and his match with Conor Heun further cemented the notion that he might lack a commitment to cardiovascular conditioning.
However, the advantages Noons has over Diaz haven't changed since their first fight: Noons is still the better boxer, and his counterpunching in particular is anathema to Diaz's looping punches. If this fight turns into another game of Diaz trying to overwhelm Noons with volume, he'll lose to Noons' accuracy just about every time.
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This all assumes, of course, that Diaz won't be thinking takedown right off the bat. Given the size advantage he'll enjoy and Noons' complete aversion to hitting the floor, it's hard to imagine that Diaz won't look to work his superb ground game against a seemingly one-dimensional opponent. Although Noons was able to shuck off Diaz's takedowns the first time around, the role of physically dominant fighter will be played by Diaz on Saturday.
That is a hugely important role reversal from the first fight, and as long as Diaz uses it wisely, this is his fight to lose. Far too much stock is being placed in Noons' power as he makes the trip all the way to welterweight, and his still-unproven ground skills create a distinct air of uncertainty around him. Even a few moments on the ground with Diaz may be too much for Noons -- and that's exactly the scenario Diaz will seek out.
The idea that Diaz is some brainless fighter is silly given the number of times he has used his grappling to win fights. I struggle to imagine him standing in the pocket with Noons and allowing the first fight to play out all over again. Instead, we'll finally get to see Noons on the floor, and Diaz will find him wanting in short order.
Tomas Rios is a contributor to Sherdog.com.