Nick Diaz (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Downtime: Strikeforce Fights to Rewatch During the Coronavirus Shutdown

Right now, the majority of people are spending their days indoors and at home waiting out the eventual decline of the coronavirus. Combat-sports organizations have put on the brakes as well, canceling and postponing events out of an abundance of caution or due to government limitations put on large gatherings. How do fight fans fill this void? Well, let’s take a minute to remind the fans of some of the greatest Strikeforce bouts of the past. Sit back, relax and watch these fights to get your MMA fix over the next few weeks.

Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Santos
Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg — Jan. 29, 2011

Nick Diaz is arguably the greatest star Strikeforce had the pleasure of promoting during the company’s peak. Diaz’s brash personality, incredible fight pace, and notorious trash-talking provided fans with year-round entertainment no matter whom the Stockton native was slated to meet in the Strikeforce cage.

On Jan. 29, 2011, Evangelista Santos was awarded a title shot against Diaz for the Strikeforce welterweight championship. There was vocal opposition in the MMA community toward Santos being granted a title bid after compiling only an 18-13 record. However, Diaz simply did not care and was quick to combat the criticism by expressing his respect for Santos and praising his “going to war” fighting style. Although many fans and experts believed Diaz would win with ease, the bout proved to be wildly entertaining.


The combatants met in the center of the cage ready to deliver a night that those in attendance wouldn’t soon forget. The first round started with Santos aggressively attacking Diaz’s lead leg with heavy leg kicks. Diaz remained composed while Santos continued to utilize his extensive kickboxing background to slow Diaz down with inside leg kicks. Diaz took over in the second half of the round, though. He started to find a home for his trademark lead jab and crisp left hooks. Eventually, Diaz backed up Santos with a perfectly timed strike to the chin and followed up with a flurry of thunderous left and right body hooks to Santos’s midsection that had the arena in pandemonium before the round’s end.

The second frame produced more of the same. Santos continued to attack with heavy leg kicks and power punches, while Diaz used his signature volume striking to land various combinations of piercing jabs and precise left hooks on the Brazilian challenger. In the final minute, Santos moved to attempt a takedown that would surely secure the round in his favor if successful. Unfortunately for the challenger, Diaz was able to react quickly and soon after secured a perfectly executed armbar for a submission victory. The bout, which was the clear choice for “Fight of the Night,” remains one of the most memorable fights in the now-defunct promotion’s history books.

Cung Le vs. Scott Smith
Strikeforce: Evolution — Dec. 19, 2009

After defeating Frank Shamrock and stepping away from fighting to pursue a Hollywood career, Cung Le made his return in late 2009 to the delight of Strikeforce fans. The heavily favored Le was scheduled to face veteran Scott Smith, who was coming off a submission loss to Nick Diaz earlier in the year. Smith was an obvious underdog, with the majority of fans and experts giving the former UFC competitor virtually no chance in defeating the physically stronger and quicker Le.

The majority of the bout consisted of Le utilizing his superior striking ability to land various spinning and side kicks on Smith at will. Le continued to back Smith up against the cage with his crafty striking and dropped him several times for the first two rounds. Smith continued to take the punishment being administered by Le and showed no signs of changing his game plan to combat Le’s obvious advantages.

At the start of the third stanza, those watching couldn’t help but wonder how much more punishment could Smith take. Instead of a classic Le finish, fans were treated to one of the most surprising comebacks in MMA history. After gaining some momentum in the third round and being able to match the visibly tired Le, Smith clipped Le with a picture-perfect short left hook that sent the Vietnamese superstar to the canvas. Le was quick to get back to his feet, but he was visibly stunned by the shot. Smith seized the moment and continued to attack Le with a series of crushing straight rights that backed Le up and then sent him to the canvas yet again. Smith followed up with a series of ground strikes which eventually led to a referee stoppage at 3:25 of the third and final round. The crowd, still in shock of what they had just witnessed, cheered for Smith and his incredible comeback as the Nevada native revelled in handing Le his first professional loss in combat sports.

Robbie Lawler vs. Melvin Manhoef
Strikeforce: Miami — Jan. 30, 2010

When Robbie Lawler steps inside a cage, it’s safe to assume there is a good chance someone is going to get knocked out. Add a K-1 veteran who has almost 50 combined knockouts across kickboxing and MMA, and the chances of a knockout go from good to guaranteed!

Manhoef entered the bout as a slight favorite due to his extensive kickboxing background. The former K-1 standout dominated the first half of the bout by landing anything and everything on Lawler, including several powerful leg kicks. Lawler was visibly hurt at the three-minute mark, as he limped on his lead leg heavily and could not seem to match Manhoef’s superior striking and speed. In the second half of the round, Manhoef turned up the aggression. He backed Lawler up toward the cage, closing in on what was sure to be a stunning finish. With time running out and his injuries only getting worse, Lawler launched a Hail Mary overhand right that shut the lights off for the Dutch kickboxer.

After being dominated for the majority of the round, “Ruthless” came back with a jaw-dropping knockout that has resonated with fans for years.

Need more fights to keep you occupied right now? Check out parts one and two of our rundown of UFC fights to go back and watch.