With Strikeforce officially blinking out of existence, it’s time to reflect on some of the organization’s top offerings, including some of the entertaining title-fights fans were offered over the years. In the following piece I’m going to reflect on three of my favorite championship clashes. There were moments in the Strikeforce cage that may top my selections, but things are always different when there is championship gold and glory on the line. Strikeforce, and all of their fighters, have forever etched their names into the annals of mixed martial arts, but these were the champions’ best moments.
Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley
April 9, 2011
Valley View Casino Center
San Diego, California
We get used to the tiresome rhetoric from MMA fighters, and the phrases begin to mean less and less. It’s hard to tell if they are serious if they say things like, ‘We’re going to go toe-toe.’ Since Paul Daley had little to no ground game at the time, we all knew he had no choice but to stand and trade with Nick Diaz. As for Diaz, when he says he is going to throw hands with someone, you can assume he means it 99.99% of the time.
Everyone knew what was going to happen in that fight, and it somehow lived up to everyone’s expectations. As usual, Diaz came forward and was the aggressor, but Daley slipped a punch early and landed a counter that dropped Diaz. The Gracie fighter turtled up and kept calm, regained his composure, and came back to finish Daley with three seconds left in the round. When great champions are tested, they do exactly what Diaz did in San Diego on that night.
Another important tidbit in this fight is that Diaz would land 44 significant strikes in the round with an accuracy of 54%, scoring on 65 out of 103 strikes. The bout made it on to many Fight of the Year lists, but Diaz-Daley is the only one on the list that was a title defense.
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson
March 5, 2011
Columbus, Ohio, USA
Dan Henderson came into Strikeforce with much anticipation, but when he lost to Jake Shields in a middleweight title fight, questions began to rise again about Henderson’s age. The 40-year old wasn’t having it though, and found himself in a light heavyweight title-eliminator with Renato Sobral. The win set Henderson up for his championship clash with Rafael Cavalcante, which silenced many pundits who had concerns for Henderson’s age.
Cavalcante had success in the fight, but it was Henderson who was able to turn it into his type of tilt. Henderson used his grappling to force “Feijao” against the fence, and used his dirty boxing too, positioning to win the second stanza after a very close first round. In the third frame it was all Henderson, as “Hendo” landed the same right hand that has haunted many fighters along his MMA journey. The blow dropped the Brazilian in the first minute of the round and set Henderson up to attack from above. After securing his position, Henderson landed enough shots to convince referee Dan Miragliotta to jump in and save Cavalcante.
Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey
March 3, 2012
If you were one of those people who thought women’s mixed martial arts was on its deathbed at the end of 2011, then there is no doubt that current UFC champion Ronda Rousey was the defibrillator that kept it from flat-lining. Sometimes the stakes are even higher than a championship, and many argue Rousey won much more than a fancy belt that night. In reality, the fight had historical implications, as it helped seal the future of women’s MMA on a large platform.
Miesha Tate will be known as the only person to last longer than a minute in the cage with Rousey in her Strikeforce run, and to her credit she showed a tremendous amount of will to struggle out of submission attempt after submission attempt. Rousey was pretty much glued to Tate the entire fight, and kept her thinking about the lifespan of her limbs the whole time. With 33 seconds left in the opening frame, and her arm bent at an obscene angle, Tate submitted, giving the Olympic Judo Bronze Medalist her first taste of Strikeforce championship gold.
Photo Credit: Strikeforce