In the main event of the evening, current Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz (23-7-0-1, 4-0 SF) will eye a second defense of his title as he battles Brazilian Muay Thai striker Evangelista Santos (18-13, 1-1 SF), husband to current Strikeforce women's middleweight champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos. Diaz has been on a tear over the course of the last two years, winning eight consecutive bouts following his upset loss to K.J. Noons back in 2007 under the now-defunct EliteXC banner. Victories over Frank Shamrock, Scott Smith, Marius Zaromskis, Hayato Sakurai, and KJ Noons has fueled speculation that Diaz belongs in the UFC, but the 27-year-old Stockton, California-native re-signed with Strikeforce in December, putting any hopes of that on hold for now.
Santos hasn't enjoyed the success that Diaz has produced in the last two years, nor has he shown the skills to become a fighter worthy of being called a champion over the entirety of his career. He has, however, been involved in some exciting performances that have helped him gain some notoriety among fans. If you haven't watched the epic brawl between Santos and Melvin Manhoef, you're missing out on something truly spectacular.
The knock on Santos has always been a combination of his failing gas tank and waning technique as a fight progresses. His conditioning has improved over the last couple of years, and his Muay Thai striking has shown flashes of surgical precision in his most recent wins over Daniel Zarate and Marius Zaromskis. There is, however, still doubts as to whether he can overcome a well-rounded fighter like Diaz who possesses solid boxing, unlimited cardio, and excellent ground skills.
Santos' last two performances put some doubt into whether Diaz can run over him as easily as many fans have claimed this fight will go down. Santos has shown good use of his kicks to cause opponents to fall off balance and into precarious positions, and his hands have been much more crisp in terms of technique. I think, overall, he's improved despite being a 33-year-old fighter who's battling the age factor, but will it be enough?
I don't think it will, but I do think Santos deserves some credibility as a legitimate challenger in this contest. If Nick decides to stand for the course of this fight, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Santos' improved Muay Thai striking skills produce positive results. The problem I forsee, however, is that Diaz has the conditioning to outlast Santos' technical prowess, which usually only lasts through two rounds. Once fatigue sets in, Diaz will turn up the pressure and eventually knock Santos out late in the fight.