Bloody Elbow's Matt Bishop sat down Saturday afternoon to answer four burning questions for tonight's Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley, one for each main card fight. Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley airs live at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.
1) Can Shinya Aoki be a factor in American MMA?
This is a real tough one because the only evidence we have of Aoki in America was the thrashing Gilbert Melendez gave him a year ago. The fact of the matter is this: We really won't have anymore evidence on this one if Aoki wins because he is being given an opponent in Lyle Beerbohm who is tailor made for him. Beerbohm likely won't be a big threat on the feet to Aoki and will play right into his strengths on the ground. If Aoki loses this fight, though, that's some real bad news and you'd have to seriously question what he'd be able to accomplish in the cage and in America going forward. A loss to Beerbohm would be absolutely devastating to Aoki's career. I think when this fight is done, if Aoki wins, the jury is still going to be out on his upward mobility in America but we should at least get a feel for where he stands.
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2) Can Gegard Mousasi regain some of the traction he lost after losing the Strikeforce light-heavyweight title?
A year ago at this time, Gegard Mousasi was the next big thing in the world of mixed martial arts. Then he lost his title to Muhammed Lawal and spent the rest of 2010 competing in an absolutely worthless DREAM Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix, where he beat Jake O'Brien (who absolutely should not have been fighting) and Tatsuya Mizuno. At 30-3-1 in his career and still only 25-years old, Mousasi has a ton of time left, but needs to start fighting more relevant fights. He still is a special talent in my mind, but it's time for him to get going and really take fighting in Strikeforce seriously. This fight here against Keith Jardine will be a real interesting test to see where Mousasi's at. If he comes out and dominates, I'd like to see him in a big fight in the near future.
3) Can Tatsuya Kawajiri hang with Gilbert Melendez?
I want to see a competitive fight here, but I think Melendez is really going to roll. Think about this: Melendez, one of the best lightweights in the world, hasn't fought in 51 weeks. Fifty-one weeks! That makes me incredibly sad because he is, like Mousasi, a special talent. He's coming off dominant performances against Josh Thomson and Aoki and is really hitting his stride. Kawajiri is no pushover, don't get me wrong, but I think Melendez, with the camp he's been in (with Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and Nate Diaz all getting ready to go at the same time), is going to have a distinct advantage here. Kawajiri, to his credit, is coming off a very good win over Thomson, but I see Melendez neutralizing him for the most part, winning a decision.
4) Will Nick Diaz stand and trade with Paul Daley?
It probably wouldn't be the smartest thing to do, but I think he will. We've seen Diaz stand with Scott Smith (albeit a half-dead one) and K.J. Noons and have success. But as the old saying goes: If you play with fire for too long, you'll get burned. Things heated up yesterday at the weigh-in and I expect these two to get right down to business. Diaz really needs to frustrate Daley on the feet and take him out of his game. Then when Daley gets wild, he needs to step in and take him down. Diaz has a decided advantage on the ground and needs to make the most if it in this fight. With this being the new Strikeforce, every fight is taking on added importance. If Diaz comes up with a big win here, his stock will go up significantly. We'll see what he decides to do.