Preview of Strikeforce's card from Florida
By Ariel Shnerer, The Fight Network
Strikeforce hits South Florida on Saturday with a card featuring two hungry welterweights vying for the vacant crown.
The event will also feature the undisputed queen of female MMA defending her title for the first time, in addition to the Strikeforce debuts of a Dutch powerhouse, a former Heisman Trophy winner and a professional wrestler.
Here's a breakdown of all the action for Saturday.
Nick Diaz (20-7) vs. Marius Zaromskis (13-3)
Diaz, a UFC veteran who owns victories over Gleison Tibau, Josh Neer and Robbie Lawler, is on the longest winning streak of his career.
Since losing to K.J. Noons because of a cut at EliteXC: Renegade in November 2007, Diaz has been delivering sharp performances in the cage, stopping all five of his opponents.
In his last two outings, Diaz defeated Scott Smith and Frank Shamrock to prove that he's a force to be reckoned with in two weight divisions.
Diaz is a BJJ black belt under Cesar Gracie. He has exhibited some of the craftiest submission skills in the game, in addition to world-class cardio. Diaz regularly competes in triathlons as part of his training.
In addition, Diaz's lethal hands have evolved to the point that he signed a boxing contract with Don Chagrin last August. Before making his mark in the sweet science, Diaz will first get a crack at becoming a welterweight champion in the sport that he has been fighting in since 2001.
The Lithuanian Zaromskis captured the Dream welterweight title in Japan last year after wins over Seichi Ikemoto, Japanese legend Hayato Sakurai and standout American wrestler Jason High.
A veteran of the British Cage Rage circuit, Zaromskis is a dangerous kickboxer with a base in wrestling.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact Zaromskis has knocked out his last three foes with highlight reel head kicks, reminiscent of the Mirko "Cro Cop" era in Pride.
Both Diaz and Zaromskis are southpaws and it is likely they will engage in a standup battle, though Diaz will experience his greatest success on the mat.
This fight will be the biggest challenge of Zaromskis' career, by far. Despite impressive showings overseas, Zaromskis still has a lot to prove whereas Diaz has already faced some of the best opposition in the sport.
The X-factor in this fight will be Zaromskis' striking. With 11 out of 13 wins by knockout, the London Shootfighters product has significant power.
On one hand, Diaz is more efficient and liberal with his striking as he likes to throw out a lot of jabs and straight punches before eventually wearing down his opponent.
Zaromskis has great one-strike power. If Diaz keeps his hands low, Zaromskis could knock him out early.
Cris "Cyborg" Santos (8-1) vs. Marloes Coenen (17-3)
Interestingly, Santos and Coenen were slated to face off at an XMMA event last year in Montreal. However, Santos could not compete as she was later signed to a multifight deal with Strikeforce.
The Brazilian export Cyborg is a wrecking machine in female mixed martial arts. A member of the Chute Boxe Academy, Cyborg has amassed wins over top female fighters, most recently Gina Carano.
Now a purple belt in Brazilian jiujitsu under Cristiano Marcello, the wife of fellow Strikeforce combatant Evangelista Santos is more than just a heavy-hitting powerhouse.
Coenen, a product of Holland's world-class Golden Glory gym, is a solid submission grappler with dangerous striking. She avenged one of her three career losses by submitting Roxanne Modafferi last November.
Coenen should not be underestimated as she will present a tough test for Santos' first title defense. Coenen is more experienced, in addition to having a tremendous camp behind her.
However, the champion has brought a relentless pace in her last few bouts and her domination of Carano to claim the title last year was her most impressive showing to date. Although Coenen may be more technically proficient, Santos' sheer power is likely to be the deciding factor in this battle.
Robbie Lawler (16-5) vs. Melvin Manhoef (24-6-1)
In a real treat for fans, Strikeforce matchmakers have put together a middleweight slugfest between two of the division's toughest fighters.
Lawler, the last reigning EliteXC middleweight champion, is trying to rebound after a submission loss to Jake Shields last June.
With experience competing for the UFC, IFL, EliteXC, PRIDE and King of the Cage, Lawler has banged with the best of them.
His submission wrestling base should be a decisive advantage against Manhoef.
But Lawler, a great boxer, also likes to trade fists. If Lawler fails to use his traditional wrestling and engages Manhoef in a slugfest, he is likely to be knocked out early.
Manhoef will be making his long awaited North American debut and hard-core fans can attest to the Dutchman being one of the most entertaining fighters out there.
The former Cage Rage light heavyweight champion is a Muay Thai specialist with world-class kickboxing experience competing for K-1.
However, if Lawler's coach Matt Hughes should be able to convince him to take Manhoef down to the ground, it will be a long night for the Dutchman.
Herschel Walker (0-0) vs. Greg Nagy (1-1)
In what may seem too ludicrous to be true, one of college football's all-time greats is taking a plunge into MMA at the age of 47.
However, this fight is hardly going to be the freak show many fans are expecting.
Even at 47, Walker is the epitome of a dedicated athlete. He's put in his MMA training for over two years and is serious about pursuing the sport.
Unlike Jose Canseco, who took a stab at MMA last year, Walker has been training extensively with the American Kickboxing Academy under Javier Mendez and Bob Cook.
The two-time NFL Pro Bowler has been able to benefit from world-class training partners such as Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Cain Velasquez, Josh Thomson, Cung Le and Trevor Prangley.
Both Bobby Southworth and Luke Rockhold, Walker's teammates at AKA, are adamant he's the real deal.
Walker is attempting MMA because he legitimately wants to challenge himself, not because he needs a paycheck. He will be giving his full fight purse to charity.
At just 1-1, Nagy is also a relative novice to the sport. The 26-year-old Rage in the Cage veteran vows not to be a sacrificial lamb or stepping stone for Walker. Born in Hungary, Nagy now resides in the U.S. where he too has fully dedicated himself to the sport.
Bobby Lashley (4-0) vs. Wes Sims (22-12-1)
Rounding out the main card is another heavyweight showdown as Lashley makes his Strikeforce debut against Sims.
The pro wrestler Lashley trains at American Top Team where he has been building on his collegiate wrestling base.
Lashley has put his stint with TNA Wrestling on hold to focus his attention to MMA. He is coming off the biggest win of his career -- a first-round stoppage of Bob Sapp last June.
Upon transitioning to MMA, many pundits were already comparing Lashley to UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. While he may have the Wordl Wrestling Entertainment experience and the same massive frame, his collegiate wrestling credentials are not quite the caliber of Lesnar's.
But with a full-time camp at ATT, Lashley could become a major heavyweight contender.
Sims, who has trained at Hammer House under Mark Coleman, is a UFC veteran whose career highlight was a win over Kimo Leopoldo in 2006.
Most recently, Sims was featured on The Ultimate Fighter where he was a teammate of Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson on Team Rampage. Sims was eliminated after getting choked out by Justin Wren in the first round.
While he has the benefit of more experience, Sims has lost most of his high-profile bouts and this one should be no different.