In the Strikeforce: Miami main event, 2009 DREAM welterweight Grand Prix champion and current DREAM welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis (13-3, 0-0 SF) will make his first foray into the North American mixed martial arts market as he battles UFC veteran and medical marijuana advocate Nick Diaz (20-7, 2-0 SF) in a bout that will determine Strikeforce's new welterweight champion.
Diaz enters this contest after demolishing the heavy-handed crowd favorite Scott Smith in June and beating down MMA legend Frank Shamrock back in April. Zaromskis tore through the field in the DREAM welterweight Grand Prix tournament in 2009 with surprising head kick knockouts of both Hayato "Mach" Sakurai and Jason High, and he also ended Ho Bae Myeon's night at DREAM.12 with a devastating head kick in his most recent battle.
This should be one of the most intriguing fights on the card for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, nobody really knows what Nick Diaz will bring to the table when it comes to a style match-up that easily suggests he should try to out grapple his opponent. As we've seen time and time again, Diaz loves to stand and bang, and his mentality that he's the "baddest" man alive seems to get him into these brutal striking wars that he probably shouldn't be doing with small ounce gloves on his hands. This isn't boxing, and I sometimes think he believes he's wearing large 12 ounce gloves and standing in the pocket will be a worthy endeavor.
The second reason is that Marius Zaromskis has been brutalizing opponents like a man possessed with the hatred of Hades. His stoic demeanor wouldn't signal that type of power, but his ability to throw kicks that are being compared to that of a vintage Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic gives off the sense that Zaromskis has a lot of pent up aggression. Furthermore, the lackadaisical strikers who tend to stand in front of him end up getting their head caved in later in the fight.
Those reasons give us some questions that can be answered by the opinions of the entire fanbase. Can Nick Diaz stand in the pocket and pepper Zaromskis with strikes? Will he be able to put Zaromskis to the floor and grapple his way to victory? In my mind, Diaz can do both, but he may pay the consequences if he tries to box with Zaromskis.
Zaromskis' past fights have been pretty similar to how I believe this fight may go down in the striking department. Zaromskis doesn't throw pitter-patter shots or set-up jabs. He's mostly known for countering that type of offense with powerful overhands and low-to-mid kicks to set-up his head kick. The reference to Mirko "CroCop" is used quite regularly by many fans because it's similar to CroCop's setup in his PRIDE days.
But Zaromskis isn't a speedy striker with his hands like say... KJ Noons displayed against Diaz. He throws his kicks off his hips with tremendous speed, but his jabbing and overhands are avoidable. Diaz could easily pepper Zaromskis with volume while avoiding those powerful blows from Zaromskis.
The grappling department is a different story altogether. Diaz should hold a significant advantage once the fight hits the floor, but Zaromskis has shown some very good takedown defense in the past. The Jason High fight in DREAM was a perfect example of some of the versatility that Zaromskis possesses in avoiding takedowns, but High was still able to maintain top control at times in that fight. Even Seichi Ikemoto was able to put Zaromskis in some bad positions on the floor, so he'll want to keep the fight on the feet.
I want to go against the "pros" here and pick Marius Zaromskis, but his past fights against lesser competition don't inspire confidence that he'll be able to dominate Diaz. His recent performances have been incredible to say the least, but Diaz will beat up Zaromskis in a striking war as Diaz closes distance and eliminates his kicking ability. Zaromskis' strength is a factor, but Diaz will wear him out. I'll take Nick Diaz in a late round finish. I will throw the dough down on Zaromskis though.