Nick Diaz walked out of the HP Pavillion with his welterweight title still hanging from his shoulder, as he submitted Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos at 4:50 of the second round in their title fight on Saturday night at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg.
An armbar by Diaz late in the second round was the defining moment of the bout, signaling the end of Santos’ attempt at gaining welterweight gold.
The main event began with Santos attempting to throw a couple of kicks, failing to land them, and Diaz taunted the Chute Boxe fighter. However, Santos’ kicks eventually found their home and he punished the champ’s inside leg time and time again. Diaz’s lead leg kept taking punishment and Santos then utilized a good amount of combinations, both upstairs and downstairs. A left hand by Diaz changed the tides, however, and the challenger looked rocked. Diaz continued to pepper Santos for the remainder of the round. The change in pace made the opening five minutes almost too close to call.
Round two saw Santos regain some composure and bring back his low kick on Diaz’s lead leg. Diaz seemed to cover up in an effort to let the challenger tire himself out with punches as the fight continued to stay on the feet. From here, the two welterweights continued to trade with each other for a majority of the round, offering fans an entertaining exchange, showcasing Diaz’s boxing and Santos’ Muay Thai. Later, a spinning back kick by Santos just grazed Diaz’s lead leg. This closed enough distance for Santos to secure the fight’s first takedown. The inside trip by Santos had Diaz on his back for the first time in the evening.
The transition to the ground was the beginning of the end, though. Diaz, a jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, had Santos land in his guard where he was able to transition into a picture perfect armbar. Santos tried to fight off the submission attempt, but he wouldn’t last long as Diaz stretched the arm enough to have “Cyborg” tap with just 10 seconds left in the second round. The win stands as Diaz’s ninth in a row.
After the loss, Santos’ wife, Strikeforce women’s 145-pound champion Cristiane Santos, was visibly upset that her husband just lost his fight. Overwhelmed with emotion, Mrs. Santos wiped the tears from her eyes as Fabricio Werdum attempted stepping in front of the cameras and block off the vision of her unhappiness.
The champion Diaz stood with Mauro Ranallo at center cage after the fight and talked about if he was surprised at Santos’ takedown attempt in the second round.
“No, I figured I put pressure, so he’s got to do something.” he said. “He’s gonna have to take me down.”
Ranallo made a point to say that Diaz seemed to show a lot of respect for Santos going into this fight. Diaz explained the situation to the San Jose crowd.
“It’s really because I respect the way he fights,” he said. “He don’t play around. He (came) out here and fought me. He came out here to fight. He doesn’t play a game to win. He tries to come out here…(and) put on a show for you guys.”
The question now lingers: Who will Strikeforce pit against the champion Diaz next?