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Snowden: Strikeforce Strikes Hard

A couple of days ago, I opined right here at Five Ounces of Pain that Scott Coker and Strikeforce had plenty to prove when it comes to running a national MMA promotion.

Yesterday, they took a strong first step, showing me they understand what it’s going to take to attract a significant audience. The first main event for the newly national Strikeforce features not just great fighters, but also two guys that can sell the promotion and the show to both casual fans and (just as importantly) the MMA media. Nick Diaz and Frank Shamrock are both awesome.

I know this is editorializing (this is an editorial after all), I know this is purely my opinion, but how could you possibly deny that both these men are endlessly entertaining? Frank Shamrock is arguably the greatest fighter in the short history of MMA. He destroyed everyone in his path, winning the light heavyweight title despite weighing 185 pounds soaking wet. Not only was he a dominant fighter, he also has a unique gift of gab and a special ability to get under his opponent’s skin. His promos prior to the Cesar Gracie and Phil Baroni fights are legendary. His trash talk towards Gracie is part of what made this fight happen.

Diaz was offended for his mentor and challenged Shamrock on the spot. At the time, the fight didn’t interest Frank. He was looking for opponents that he could draw a crowd with and rightly saw Renzo Gracie, Baroni, and Cung Le as more appropriate prey. Today, it’s a different story.

Diaz has established himself, not just as a great grappler and solid boxer, but as a character. His feud with K.J. Noons set the sport on fire (before Elite XC and Noons unwisely let the heat fizzle out). He understands how to bring passion into the cage, whether it is real or feigned, and he will no doubt be smoldering by the time Frank is done with his inevitable verbal assault.

“Nick Diaz is similar to me. He grew up in a broken home, had abusive parents, and really had a tough childhood,” Shamrock said. “So we have common bonds…I know he wasn’t too happy when I knocked out his coach Cesar and he said some words afterwards that got him into this fight. We’re in a fight. I don’t care about Nick. He’s a nice guy and I’m going to knock him out and we’ll go on to the next one.”

Internet critics are already complaining about the weight disparity for this catchweight fight that will be contested at 179 pounds. Despite Diaz fighting primarily at 170 pounds and Shamrock at 185, the men are very similar in size.

Shamrock walks around at close to his fighting weight, while Diaz has to cut significantly to reach 170 or 160.

“My natural body weight is about 184 pounds,” Shamrock said. “I don’t know how these other guys gain this weight and do this crazy stuff (extreme weight cutting), but I’ve always weighed 184 pounds…I think I’m just going to skip a meal, stop drinking beer for lunch, and I should be 179 pounds.”

Both will be healthy and strong at the catchweight, and a past-his-prime Shamrock is a winnable fight for a top-of-his-game Diaz. This should be a fantastic contest between two of the sport’s very best trash talkers-and two guys who can bring exciting action on their feet and on the mat.

“We’ve had a few fights at a catchweight,” Strikeforce President Scott Coker said. “But not too many. Once in awhile, when you can put something special together… This story just made sense between Cesar and Frank and the Gracies and the Shamrocks.”

The other good news was a proposed undercard featuring Benji Radach-Scott Smith and Gilbert Melendez-Jorge Gurgel. Other featured fighters could include Josh Thomson and Cris Cyborg. This shows me that Coker and company are serious about providing recognizable and competitive fights from top to bottom. And a proposed Kimbo Slice-Bob Sapp fight for a future card in Tacoma shows they understand what they need to do to score the kind of ratings they will need for a CBS show.

“UFC is very good at what they do and we’ll be very good at what we do,” Coker said. “We’re going to run our business and provide the best fight in the history of Strikeforce with this matchup.”

Yes, Strikeforce is off to a very strong start.

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