Jake Shields looked flawless in submitting Robbie Lawler, while Brett Rogers shocked the MMA world by knocking out Andrei Arlovski in seconds as part of Saturday night's Strikeforce event in St. Louis, MO.
Here are quick-hit recaps of the five main fights on the televised card with some additional notes to follow.
Jake Shields def. Robbie Lawler by submission (guillotine) at 2:02 of the first round
This was a near-flawless performance by Shields who showed no ring rust in disposing of Lawler via a deep guillotine as you can see above.
Early on, Lawler was looking to land punches and was making Shields uncomfortable standing. As they moved into a clinch, Shields sunk in the guillotine choke which Lawler attempted to break by standing up, but dropped to the canvas again shortly thereafter tapping out.
Shields was ecstatic post-fight and is looking to get Cung Le in a Middleweight title match. Finding top fighters for Shields is going to be a challenge for Strikeforce in these early stages, but the catch weight possibilities will probably help them in that regard.
Lawler didn't have much to say post-event, but was obviously disappointed. He can still be a talented hand for the group and it will be interesting to see who they put him in there with next.
Brett Rogers def Andrei Arlovski by KO at :22 of the first round
Because of the camera angle, we couldn't really see what initially happened, but it was a quick KO. Arvloski connected with one leg kick and Rogers started swinging, connecting with a left hand and then a few more that put Arlovski out on his feet.
Because he got back up a few seconds later, it looked like an early stoppage, but the replays showed it was probably the right call.
I heard a smattering of boos as the fans seemed to be less than thrilled.
For Rogers, he definitely earned a Strikeforce Heavyweight title shot at Alistair Overeem sometime in the latter part of 2009, that is if Overeem can survive his next fight in August.
He now becomes a major part of Strikeforce's future in a division that is being swallowed up talent-wise by the UFC. For Arlovski, it feels like this is the end of a memorable MMA road as two straight KOs aren't going to do much for future drawing power.
And yes, I got this pick 100 percent wrong.
I didn't see it coming and I don't think anyone else did either.
Welcome to the mainstream, Mr. Rogers.
Nate Diaz def. Scott Smith by submission (RNC) at 1:41 of the third round
All in all, this was a fun and entertaining fight but a matchup that shouldn't have happened two months after both guys last competed. Perhaps it was Diaz's efforts that had him overwhelmed, but Smith looked worn out and not full on his game—not surprising considering he had been through a war with Benji Radach in April.
I understand the need to stack cards at this early stage, but Strikeforce did Smith a disservice Saturday night.
Diaz connected with a lot of punching combinations early on, using his unorthodox stance and showboating to throw off Smith who looked flat early and was swinging for the fences.
As the fight wore on, Diaz was landing everything—especially hardcore body shots that were crippling Smith. In what seems to be a trend, Smith looked out on his stool in between the second and third rounds and it was questionable whether he would be ready for the third.
In the third, Smith played the role of wounded animal in the corner yet again, but didn't have enough to combat what Diaz was bringing to the table.
Diaz connected with a liver shot, got Smith on the ground, and worked to get position to sink in a rear naked choke that made Smith tap rather quickly.
In all, Diaz threw 397 punches and connected in just over 50 percent of them.
It was interesting that during the fight, the commentators noted that Diaz was growing tired of playing the role of villain and that the media was spinning that angle. He reiterated that post-fight, but then went to call out Smith's training partners and essentially allude that they were leaking information to his camp.
He then invited Smith to train with his "real camp," which I thought was a bit out of place. Diaz wonders why people think he's a heel and then decided to throw those barbs out there?
Regardless, Diaz is on fire right now and can be a main event guy for them—a great asset for Strikeforce this year.
More after the jump...
Joe Riggs def. Phil Baroni by unanimous decision
This was a showcase for Riggs who got better as the fight wore on, punctuated by a dominant third round where he punched, connected with knee strikes, and threw everything at a game Baroni.
Many expected this to be a slugfest, but it was more of a wrestling match early on as Riggs kept taking Baroni down and looked for submissions.
The shredded Baroni didn't have an answer for Riggs, almost submitting to a triangle during the second round. Baroni looked worn out in the third round and had some nasty swelling above his left eye, but still was swinging for Riggs until the end.
The judges scored it 30-27 for Riggs, who said he had broken both of his hands during an emotional post-fight interview. He clearly wants Shields next and it will be interesting to see if he gets him.
Mike Whitehead def. Kevin Randleman via unanimous decision
Good lord, this couldn't get over soon enough.
A slow, plodding 15 minutes of nearly all ground game, Whitehead dominated a winded Randleman—save for a potentially fight-ending right hand that he didn't fully follow up on—for the unanimous decision victory.
All three judges scored the fight 29-28. This fight opened the show, but probably shouldn't have.
Randleman only threw 38 punches the entire fight to Whitehead's 111, and, despite looking great, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion was gassed in the first round.
I have zero interest in seeing either guy in the cage again.
Can we get rid of the stock music please?
John McCarthy's camera looks like a Bluetooth on steroids headset.
The overhead camera angles were bothering me all night. At some points (especially replays) that view is fine, but when two guys are on the ground I felt like I kept losing perspective.
They announced Gina Carano vs. Cris "Cyborg" Santos and Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson vs. Gilbert Melendez for 8/15 on Showtime.
Overeem was also announced for the card and they did speculate late that Rogers could challenge him at that point. This seems a bit too soon, but it's not like Rogers took any damage.
I hope Strikeforce can find a way to start pushing the fighter personalities more, ala UFC's Countdown show. There's a lot of young talent here that people really want to know about, so give the mainstream fans an easy way to absorb more information and sell these fighters as characters.
Works for the competition, right?
Strikeforce Challengers is next up on Jun. 19 on Showtime.
Did I miss an announcement of a working agreement between Strikeforce and Affliction?
There were plenty of plugs for Affliction's August PPV, including interviews with Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, and the PPV date on the Showtime Upcoming Events stills.
I get the feeling that if Affliction MMA eventually does go under, Strikeforce is going to absorb all of those contracts and then...things will get very interesting.
I know Affliction was a sponsor, but I didn't see any other sponsors get that much promotional love, ya know?
Josh Nason—josh [at] ropesringandcage [dot com] - has published MMA, wrestling and boxing blog Ropes, Ring and Cage.com since 2007. He has been a contributor to Fight Magazine since January 2009 and Bleacher Report since 2008.