If Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm (15-1) was looking to rebound quickly after suffering the only loss of his career on Feb. 18, he will get the opportunity in a major way when he faces DREAM Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki (26-5) on Saturday, April 9, in a featured fight live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif.
The non-title lightweight bout between Beerbohm, of Spokane, and Aoki, of Tokyo, rounds out a telecast highlighted by a STRIKEFORCE World Championship Doubleheader.
In a potential candidate for Fight of the Year in the main event, sizzling STRIKEFORCE Welterweight (170 pounds) World Champion Nick Diaz (24-7, 1 NC), of Stockton, Calif., will seek his 10th consecutive victory when he defends against the hard-hitting, notorious British striker, Paul “Semtex” Daley (26-9-2), of Nottingham, England.
Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (18-2), of San Francisco, by way of Santa Ana, Calif., will make the second defense of his STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight (155-pounds) Title against top-ranked Japanese superstar Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri (27-6-2), who unanimously outpointed former STRIKEFORCE lightweight belt-holder Josh Thomson in his last start on Dec. 31, 2010.
A fourth fight on SHOWTIME will feature the return of former STRIKEFORCE light heavyweight titlist Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi (30-3-1) of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Mousasi will be opposed by powerhouse Mike “Mak” Kyle” (18-8-1), of San Jose, Calif.
An exclusive, special two-day pre-sale ticket purchase opportunity for STRIKEFORCE: Diaz vs. Daley will take place for “STRIKEFORCE Insider” e-newsletter subscribers (www.strikeforce.com/signup.asp) beginning at 10 a:m. PT tomorrow/Thursday, March 10, and ending at 10 p.m. PT on Friday, March 11. STRIKEFORCE Insiders will receive a special
e-newsletter Wednesday night with the pre-sale code.
Tickets, starting at $25, go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. PT this Saturday, March 12, at Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena), all Ticketmaster locations (800) 745-3000, Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com) and STRIKEFORCE’S official website (www.strikeforce.com). The first non-televised, undercard fight starts at 4:30 p.m. PT.
Aoki, a winner of three straight fights and six of seven, is a flamboyant submission artist who’ll be making his first start in America since dropping a decision to Melendez on April 17, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn., on SHOWTIME.
A perennial top-10 contender at 155 pounds, the 5-foot-11, 27-year-old registered a 1:00, first-round submission (keylock) over Yokthai Sithoar in his last outing on Oct. 24, 2010 Aoki, nicknamed “Tobikan Judan,” has not lost an MMA bout since retaining his DREAM strap with an impressive first-round submission over Kawajiri on July 7, 2019.
Aoki, who holds a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and judo, has forced opponents to tap out in 16 of his 25 wins.
Beerbohm suffered his first MMA defeat – amateur or pro – on a close, unanimous decision (29-28 three times) to veteran Pat “Bam Bam” Healy in the main event of a STRIKEFORCE Challengers event on SHOWTIME at Cedar Park, Texas. on Feb. 18.
This will be the fifth start for STRIKEFORCE for the 5-foot-10, 32-year-old Beerbohm, who has won 13 of his fights by stoppage, and his first on a televised Saturday card.
“Losing that last fight was disappointing, but this is a golden opportunity for me to get right back in the thick of things,” said Beerbohm, who holds notable triumphs over four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, Duane “Bang” Ludwig and Rafaello Oliviera.
Beerbohm literally began his pro career after serving 366 days at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla as a result of felony convictions, all related to a crystal meth addiction. The day he was freed from prison, he visited a Jiu-Jitsu gym. He had his first amateur fight eight days later. “I traded one addiction for the other,” he says. “I traded meth for MMA.”
The championship fight between the no-nonsense, brutally honest, outspoken Diaz, whose proclivity for engaging has made him more popular and appreciated than ever, and the brazen, fast-talking, heavy-handed Daley will be a non-stop action slugfest.
It will be the third title defense for Diaz, a Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt who was superlative en route to turning back a determined bid by challenger Evangelista Cyborg and scoring an impressive second-round submission (armbar) in his last outing on Jan. 29 in San Jose, Calif., on SHOWTIME.
“Daley has great stand-up but he likes to talk a lot of (expletive) and I’m not really impressed with him as a mixed martial artist,” said Diaz, a 6-foot-1, 27-year-old southpaw. “We’ll see how it goes and see how he does on April 9. Let’s see if he can walk the walk. I seriously doubt it.”
One of the most recognizable, intriguing and skilled personalities in MMA, the superbly conditioned Diaz is 14-1 with 1 NC dating to May 2006 and hasn’t lost in more than three years.
Daley’s style is a mix of striking, striking and more striking. He’s won four consecutive fights and eight of nine. In a spectacular STRIKEFORCE debut, the 5-foot-9, 27-year-old demolished Scott “Hands Of Steel” Smith, knocking him out with a single, perfectly placed, ferocious counter left hook at 2:09 of the opening round on Dec. 4, 2010, in St. Louis, on SHOWTIME.
The brash Brit toyed with and outclassed Yuya Shirai en route to a 1:46, first-round knockout (punches) this past Feb. 26 in Japan to secure the title shot.
“I am a striker – there is no secret about that,” Daley said. “I like to knock people out quickly and aggressively. No one in MMA hits like me. I’m faster and more explosive than Diaz. Diaz doesn’t have good wrestling. There is no way he’Il stand with me. I’ll smash him within three rounds. I will knock him out.”
The confrontation between Melendez, a Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylist who re-upped with STRIKEFORCE in February, and Kawajiri, a former Shooto welterweight champion, will be a rematch of a fight that Melendez won on a close, unanimous decision on Dec. 31, 2006.
The 5-foot-9 Melendez will be making his first start since scoring a lopsided five-round decision over Aoki on April 17, 2010, in Nashville, Tenn., on SHOWTIME. Melendez has been triumphant in his last four starts, including a unanimous decision over Thomson in a rematch to regain the title on Dec. 19, 2009.
“My hand is healed and I’m 100 percent ready,” said Melendez, a highly decorated wrestler and Pride Bushido star who turns 29 on April 12. “I want to prove I’m the No. 1 fighter at 155 in the world. Kawajiri is one of the best anywhere. This is going to be a hard, excellent fight and I am looking forward to it. I don’t want to leave any doubt this time around. I’m ready to rip.”
Kawajiri is 8-2 since the controversial defeat to Melendez. Nicknamed “Crusher” for his devastating power and ground and pound fighting style, the Japanese destroyer holds notable wins over Thomson, Yves Edwards, Luis Azeredo, Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and Ribeiro from whom he captured the Shooto belt.
The 5-foot-7, 32-year-old Kawajiri’s Bushido Tournament match with Takanori Gomi was voted PRIDE Fighting Championship’s Fight of the Year in 2005. Kawajiri’s only losses came against superstar Eddie Alvarez and Aoki.
A winner of his last two fights (both by first-round submission) and 17 of his last 18, Mousasi will be making his first appearance for STRIKEFORCE since getting dethroned by “King Mo” Lawal on a five-round decision on April 17, 2010, in Nashville on SHOWTIME.
Still one of the most talented fighters in the 205-pound weight class, the 6-foot-1, 26-year-old Iranian-born Armenian had won 15 in a row dating to August 2006 before losing to King Mo. Mousasi captured the STRIKEFORCE belt with an impressive 3:43, first-round TKO (punches) over Renato “Babalu” Sobral on Aug. 15, 2009.
Kyle’s last effort ended in a better than looked, confidence-building second-round TKO loss on Dec. 4, 2010, to Antonio “Big Foot” Silva, who went on to defeat Fedor Emelianenko two months later. Despite taking the fight on short notice, the 6-foot-3, 31-year-old Kyle was competitive throughout and scored a knockdown in the first.
Overall, the well-rounded Kyle has gone 5-1 with one No Contest since losing to Fabricio Werdum on Aug. 15, 2009. Since April 2008, Kyle is 8-2 with one NC.