Love him. Fear him. Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos.
When Strikeforce announced that welterweight champ Nick Diaz' next fight would not be against Jason Miller, aka Mayhem, there was a collective groan from MMA fandom. When they announced that Diaz would be defending his welterweight title against Evangelista Santos, aka Cyborg, aka Mr Cyborg, aka Cyborg's husband, there was an even bigger collective groan.
Fans wanted to see Diaz defend his belt against Strikeforce's best welterweight. And there's no dispute that that man is UFC exile Paul Daley, aka "Semtex". But Daley wanted more time after his December bout with Scott Smith, so Cyborg it is.
My colleague Jonathan Snowden was pretty much the sole exception, writing that Diaz vs Cyborg "will deliver". The reason Snowden is so confident that this will be an action packed fight is simple. Nick Diaz plus a game and dangerous fighter = fun for fans.
And they don't come more game and dangerous than Evangelista Santos. He came up fighting for Brazil's legendary Chute Boxe academy when they were still producing the meanest fighters in the world. And Cyborg didn't just fight guys like Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in practice, he actually fought those guys in professional fights. Brutal professional fights. No one who saw those bouts has ever questioned if Cyborg threw those fights or took it easy on a teammate. They were pure brutality. Cyborg's shallow gas tank was the only thing holding him back from reaching the levels of his more famous teammates.
Well, the gas tank and a certain disdain for finesse.
But that's what we love about Cyborg. Then came his epic 2006 brawl with Melvin Manhoef for the UK's Cage Rage promotion. Sherdog named it the greatest brawl in MMA history:
After watching this fight, I lost all interest in B-movies that pit genetically engineered super-cobras against mutant Komodo dragons; there really is no more ringing an endorsement one can give a brawl. The stare-down alone was scarier than anything Hollywood has produced in years. In hindsight, it did not even begin to portend the insanity that awaited anyone lucky enough to be watching live. It bears noting that Manhoef was defending his Cage Rage light heavyweight title, but considering how both men fought, it seems more likely that they were fighting for a night with Jessica Alba.
Dizzying exchanges and feats of intestinal fortitude that defied human biology seemed to arrive with every passing moment, and neither fighter seemed interested in asking for or giving any quarter. With nearly two full rounds in the books, it looked like Santos had seized control of the bout. He employed brutal knees in the Thai clinch against Manhoef, who seemed to have no answer for the plateful of punishment being jammed down his throat.
It was then that Manhoef managed to break away and gather his senses long enough to realize there was only one way to win this fight. "The Hulk Out" was the foundation of Hulk Hogan's success and consisted of his becoming temporarily immune to pain and basically bench pressing opponents into oblivion. Manhoef did the standard bearer proud, as he scored an incredible come-from-behind knockout win before promptly passing out from exhaustion.
The full masterpiece is in the full entry.
But having a track record for participating in, and losing, legendary brawls from 2002 to 2006 doesn't really merit a major promotional title shot in 2011 does it?
Well not really, but I'll let Jonathan Snowden make the case for Cyborg 2.0, the welterweight:
The former Chute Boxe brawler doesn't want to let fighting go when he goes home at night. It's such a part of his life that he married a fighter. It's what he does and who he is. His contests in the cage are legendary, his famous battles with the likes of Melvin Manhoef still wowing and amazing daily on youtube. Against Marius Zaromskis, a title contender and exemplary striker, Cyborg showed the world he had taken his game to the next level. What was once wild "stand and bang" was now much more technical, his rage channeled into science. He's found the perfect weight class, improved his game, and is ready to make the huge leap from journeyman to champion.
I don't think Cyborg really merits a title shot but I can't wait to see the fight.