Looking for a card that captures the matchmaking dichotomy of a certain San Jose, Calif.-based promotion? Look no further than Strikeforce "Miami" on Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.
The most intriguing, and perhaps most important, bit of business features Nick Diaz going against Lithuanian head-kick connoisseur Marius Zaromskis for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title. Backing up that quality violence, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos makes the first defense of her women's middleweight championship, while Robbie Lawler and Melvin Manhoef lock horns in a full-scale recreation of "Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah."
In addition to those compelling bouts, we have the professional mixed martial arts debut of former NFL running back and human push-up machine Herschel Walker, as well as World Wrestling Entertainment convert Bobby Lashley and his fight with Wes Sims on a week's notice. This should be interesting.
The breakdown: The stateside debut of Zaromskis, Dream's premier headhunter, coincides with Diaz's return to the welterweight division after an extended run at 185 pounds. During that run, Diaz often relied on his rangy Punch-and-Judy boxing style to stymie knockout-minded opponents, but Zaromskis seems like a different breed of beast.
The most glaring flaw in Diaz's striking remains his poor movement, which will leave him vulnerable against Zaromskis, who almost always attacks at an angle. Just as troubling, Zaromskis has the ability to use his punches to disguise the head kicks he often throws behind them. A sufficiently adrenaline-drunk Diaz will go Rocky Balboa on anyone, but Rocky never had to worry about Clubber Lang sneaking in a high kick.
Grappling remains the great equalizer in this fight, as Diaz's underrated ground-and-pound has proved just as effective as his Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Zaromskis relies mostly on using half guard and butterfly guard to create scrambles and escape back to the feet. However, Diaz has not used his grappling consistently for some time, and as the world saw in Zaromskis' bout with Jason High at Dream 10, obliging Lithuania's top Akuma fan for even a few moments can amount to a one-way ticket to the canvas.
The X factor: Diaz is tough enough that he could get dinged on the feet a few times before eventually taking down Zaromskis and performing some surgical work. Although most assume Diaz can ground Zaromskis whenever he pleases, the recent improvements in Zaromskis' takedown defense could make those assumptions presumptuous.
Like all great strikers, Zaromskis understands how to use range to his advantage and manipulate opponents into thinking they have to strike with him. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in kickboxing to goad Diaz into a brawl, and given his recent success going blow-for-blow, Diaz may be ripe for the kicking.
The bottom line: Diaz paid a heavy price for his Mickey Ward impersonation against Karl James Noons, and he has not made any discernible improvements in his technique since then. Some entertaining exchanges will pave the way to Diaz's doom as Zaromskis continues his head-kick KO tour by flattening the Stockton, Calif., native late in the first round.
The breakdown: Coenen, Holland's premier female export, has the potentially regrettable task of trying to pry the women's middleweight championship away from a full-fledged mangler. The only way Coenen can manage that feat is by hitting a takedown and working a submission before Santos flies into a rage and turns Coenen's head into a goblet.
However, Santos has proved borderline-impossible to move, let alone take down. Although Coenen has shown a fair amount of striking savvy before, she will find herself well out of her depth against Santos, who takes after the sadistic style of her husband, Evangelista. Consider it takedown or bust for Coenen.
The X factor: Not much technical panache exists in Santos' style; she comes forward and swings until her opponent stops moving. Coenen can take advantage of that by simply waiting on her inevitable bull rush and diving for her legs. Most of Santos' takedown defense relies on brute strength, but that same strength won't do her much good if she gets sucked into a grappling match.
The bottom line: It will take an awfully strong wrestler to beat Santos, and those are few and far between in women's MMA. Another premeditated assault by Cyborg will mercifully end in the second round. Coenen's face will bear the proof of Santos' dominance.
Tomas Rios is a contributor to Sherdog.com.