The Scottrade Center in St. Louis was rocking Saturday night as Strikeforce 2.0 brought MMA fans their second fight card since acquiring the assets of Elite XC earlier this year.
Two of those assets collided in the main event with former Elite XC champions Jake Shields and Robbie Lawler facing off. Jake Shields made it quick and look easy as he submitted his way to victory in the first round.
Shields looked more then competent on his feet and kept the more powerful Lawler at bay with an effective use of leg kicks. Before the crowd realized it, Lawler was in one of Shield’s patented submissions (a guillotine) and was forced to tap out.
At the post fight press conference Lawler spoke about the fight, “I felt good out there…I stuffed his first takedown. He was getting good leg kicks off. I overcommitted with my right underhook when I had him (Shields) up against the cage. He transitioned right into a guillotine chock and put a lot of pressure on my neck and was able to sink it in. He is the best at what he does.”
For Shields, the win moves him to the head of the class in a stacked middleweight division.
“Robbie is a phenomenal fighter and it looked like we were setting up for a war. I was able to set him up with the leg kicks. From there, I was fortunate to find my opportunity early and I seized on it. Once I locked in that guillotine I just started squeezing tight and I could tell when Robbie knew it was over. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lawler and me fighting again soon.”
Shields went on to say he was comfortable fighting a both 170 and 185 pounds. “From here, I am looking for the biggest fights out there. That includes title fights in both divisions.”
In the nights other “middleweight” bought, fought at a catch weight of 180 pounds, Nick Diaz got the better of a game Scott Smith for two full rounds. While Smith put up a valiant effort, landing his fair share of shots, Diaz was too technical a fighter. Diaz peppered Smith with combinations that had Smith on the verge of quitting as the second round ended.
Smith mustered enough intestinal fortitude to answer the bell for the third round but was unable to last much longer. Diaz used his striking to put Smith on the ground. From there, Smith gave his back to Diaz, which allowed Diaz to utilize his Caesar Gracie learned jiu-jitsu and submit a gassed out Smith with a rear naked choke.
The middleweight division is currently on hold as current champion Cung Le is busy making movies. Earlier today, Cung Le spoke out about the short term future of the division.” I talked to Scott (Coker) and he said he is going to do an interim belt very soon. I talked to him last week and it is going to happen after (the Lawler vs. Shields) fight.”
Putting together an interim title fight got a bit tricky though based on the respective winners in the two middleweight bouts. Shields and Diaz are both Caesar Gracie pupils so a fight between the two for an interim belt is out of the question.
At the post fight conference Mike Afromowitz, Strikeforce director of Communications, said that they will have to take a look at what makes the most sense for their deepest division and move forward from there.
It will be interesting to see how Strikeforce moves around their middleweight pieces to put together the next logical fight. For now, the middleweight division looks to be at an impasse as Cung Le will likely be out of action for most of the rest of this year to finish his movie projects.
On to the Heavyweight division.
In what many MMA fans would consider a huge upset; Brett Rogers made quick work of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski.
Rogers pressed the action from beginning to quick ending, landing several punishing punches in the process. Fans and pundits alike were all shocked to see Arlovski, who was pushed against the cage by Rogers, crumple to the canvas in under a minute. Arlovski made an effort to get back to his feet but famed referee Big John McCarthy stepped in to end the fight. For Arlovski, his supsect chin was once again his downfall, although getting hit by the 260 pound Rogers is nothing to scoff at.
In the post fight press conference, Rogers, who ran his record to a perfect 10-0, spoke with a combination of confidence and humbleness.
When asked if he broke a sweat, Rogers quietly laughed and responded with, “A little bit man.”
“It was short and to the point. Basically, I wanted to go in and keep the heat on him. I didn’t want to give him a chance. I had a alot of respect for Arlovski going into this fight. I went in there with heavy shots and landed four or five. He (Arlovski) wasn’t really moving much; I am not really sure what was going on with him.”
The newest heavyweight star went on to say he wants a title fight with current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem. He also added that he wants to fight the best heavyweights in all of MMA and mentioned Fedor specifically. Fedor, who was in attendance for the post fight press conference, will likely keep an eye on the emergent Rogers.
Luckily for Rogers, his wish to fight Oveereem will likely be granted on August 15. That is the confirmed date for Strikeforce’s next fight card and Overeem has been penciled in for that card. The logical opponent would be Brett Rogers and when asked about the specific date, Rogers said he would be ready to go.
The fight would likely serve as co-main event seeing as how “Carano vs. Cyborg” has been slated for the first ever woman’s main event in the history of high-profile mixed martial arts. For the record, Mike Afromowitz confirmed the August fight card will be back in California.
Overall, tonight’s fight card was a positive step forward for Strikeforce as they continue to build their brand across the United States.
Mike Afromowitz said they were pleased with the response that St. Louis gave them. The Scottrade Center packed in nearly 9,000 MMA fans and Afromowitz said Strikeforce will definitely return to St. Louis in the future.
The emergence of Strikeforce on the national scene adds to the ever increasing amount of great fights fans can expect to see in the future – especially with Affliction and Strikeforce continuing to cooperate and co-promote future match ups.
With stars like Shields, Diaz and now Rogers in the mix, fans of MMA have a lot to look forward to.
Tags: Andrei Arlovski, Brett Rogers, Jake Shields, Mixed Martial Arts, Nick Diaz, Robbie Lawler, Scott Smith, Strikeforce, strikeforce results