NEW YORK – STRIKEFORCE World Welterweight (170 pounds) Champion Nick Diaz (23-7, 1 NC) will make his second title defense when he faces Brazilian powerhouse Evangelista Cyborg (18-13) in main event action and STRIKEFORCE World Middleweight (185 pounds) Champion “Jacare” Souza (13-2, 1 NC) will put his belt on the line for the first time when he squares off with power-punching knockout artist “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-6, 1 NC) in the co-main event of a stacked Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight card at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
In other featured televised fights on SHOWTIME, football legend and MMA upstart, the incredible Herschel Walker (1-0) will return to the cage to face Scott Carson (4-1) in a heavyweight bout. The latest prospect from MMA’s first family, undefeated Roger Gracie (3-0), will battle former South African national wrestling champion and MMA star Trevor Prangley (23-6-1) at light heavyweight (205 pounds).
Tickets go on sale Monday, Dec.27, at 10 a.m. PT at the HP Pavilion ticket office, online at Ticketmaster.com and Strikeforce.com, and Ticketmaster by phone at (800) 745-3000.
The 27-year-old Diaz, of Stockton, Calif. has been unstoppable of late, winning his last eight fights. In his last effort, the 6-foot-1 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and potent striker settled a three-year old score with arch-nemesis KJ Noons, out-striking Noons en route to a five-round unanimous decision at HP Pavilion last Oct. 9.
Five months prior to the victory over Noons, the no-nonsense Diaz, one of MMA’s most intriguing figures, ventured to Saitama, Japan, to face top-ranked rival Hayato “Mach” Sakurai in a DREAM promoted affair. To the surprise of many, the southpaw Diaz made quick work of Sakurai, submitting the Japanese fighter with an armbar at the 3:54 mark of the first round.
Like Diaz, Cyborg, the husband of STRIKEFORCE Women’s Middleweight (145 pounds) Champion Cris Cyborg, possesses tremendous striking abilities, having KO’d 11 of his 18 victims. In his last outing, the 5-foot-10 Cyborg, who hails from Rondonopolis, Brazil, scored a first round TKO (punches) over highly-touted Marius “The Whitemare” Zaromskis at STRIKEFORCE: Live at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles last June 16.
Prior to defeating Zaromskis, Cyborg scored a first round-TKO on Daniel Zarate with a head kick and flurry of punches in Curitiba, Brazil on Dec. 12, 2009.
Souza, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, captured the vacant STRIKEFORCE middleweight crown last Aug. 21 when he earned a hard-fought unanimous decision over American military hero Tim Kennedy at Toyota Center in Houston, Tex. A slick submission specialist who has tapped out 10 of his 13 victims, the 6-foot Souza surprisingly opted to stand and exchange punches and kicks with his opponent for five rounds rather than take the fight to the mat.
A resident of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Souza, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Dec. 7, earned a crack at the middleweight title by winning his first two STRIKEFORCE starts. In his STRIKEFORCE debut on Dec. 19, 2009, he submitted 1996 Olympic wrestling silver medalist Matt Lindland with an arm triangle choke at the 4:18 mark of the first round. Last May 15, Souza earned a unanimous decision over Joey Villasenor at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Souza’s only defeats came in his first career match in 2003 and to former STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight Champion Gegard Mousasi at the DREAM 6: Middleweight Grand-Prix Final in Saitama, Japan, in 2008. The showdown with Mousasi came shortly after Souza had claimed victory earlier on the same night over Zelg Galesic with an armbar submission in the first round of a quarterfinal round tournament bout.
Over the course of the 2008 DREAM tournament series, Souza also triumphed over Ian Murphy with a first-round (3:38) rear naked choke and over superstar Jason “Mayhem” Miller via unanimous decision.
The 28-year-old Lawler’s title shot will take place less than two months after the former Pat Miletich protégé decimated Lindland with a single punch just 50 seconds into their matchup at Scottrade Center on Dec. 4.
One of the hardest punchers in his weight class, the 5-foot-11 Lawler is a two-time 185-pound world champion who has earned 15 of his 18 career victories via knockout or TKO.
Last Jan. 30, Lawler produced a dramatic, come-from-behind, first-round (3:33) knockout over highly regarded, fellow striking machine Melvin Manhoef at Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.
After turning pro at age 19 in April 2001, Lawler, who was born in San Diego, Calif., relocated at an early age with his family to Bettendorf, Iowa. He fought for years out of the Miletich Fighting Systems headquarters in nearby Davenport and eventually relocated to Granite City, Ill. His UFC bout with Aaron Riley on May 10, 2002, became the first MMA bout to air on network television (FOX Sports Network).
Lawler took on Scott “Hands Of Steel’’ Smith during the first-ever, live primetime network telecast of MMA on May 31, 2008, on The CBS Television Network. After the bout was ruled a no contest due to an accidental thumb to Smith’s eye, Lawler dominated Smith in their live CBS primetime-televised rematch on July 26, 2009, scoring an impressive second-round TKO.
The matchup between Walker and Carson was originally scheduled for Dec. 4, but was postponed after Walker sustained a cut above his eye during a training session.
Healthy, eager and ready to go, the 48-year-old Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time NFL Pro Bowl competitor, is undefeated at 1-0 in his latest athletic endeavor – MMA. A 1999 College Hall of Fame inductee who was also selected to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team that year, the 6-foot-1, 220 pound Walker of Atlanta already holds a fifth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and boasts additional training in the combat disciplines of Muay Thai and Kenpo.
On Jan. 30, Walker made an impressive professional MMA debut, scoring a third round TKO (punches) over 26-year-old Greg Nagy at Sunrise, Fla.’s BankAtlantic Center. Walker has been training in San Jose, Calif. with Team AKA, one of the most prominent MMA fight camps in the world that is also the home of former STRIKEFORCE world champions Cung Le and Josh Thomson.
The 6-foot-2-inch Carson, a resident of Gardena, Calif., turned pro in September 1999 and won his initial four starts through June 2001. He is a WEC veteran who scored a first-round submission victory over Bryson Haubrick at the inaugural WEC event on June 30, 2001.
After being sidelined with a back injury and due to several scheduled fights falling out, Carson, a former longtime training partner of MMA legend Chuck Liddell, was finally able to fill his desire to get back in the cage last June 12 in Los Angeles. A member of Reign Training Center in Lake Forest, he got knocked out in the first round by undefeated Lorenz Martin (3-0 going in, 5-0 now).
The 29-year-old, 6-foot-4 Gracie, the winner of the coveted ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, holds a second degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Carlos Gracie, Jr. He made history by submitting all eight of his opponents during the tournament, a feat that had never previously been achieved.
Not surprisingly, Gracie’s highly advanced submission skills have been his key to success in all three of his MMA starts. Last May 15, he made his STRIKEFORCE debut, submitting former UFC Heavyweight Champion and former NCAA National Wresting Champion Kevin “The Monster” Randleman with a rear naked choke in the second round (4:10) at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
A native of Brazil, Gracie resides in West London, England, where he owns and operates The Roger Gracie Academy.
One of the most feared and dangerous fighters in the light heavyweight division, Prangley has proven he is capable of defeating anyone on any given night. Since his pro debut in January 2001, the 6-foot Prangley has fought some of the world’s toughest opponents, including former STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight Champion “Babalu” Sobral, Jorge Santiago (his last loss) and Chael Sonnen. Prangley’s most significant victory may have come against Sonnen.
Prangley has competed in five STRIKEFORCE events, including Four Men Enter, One Man Survives, the first sanctioned MMA tournament in the state of California on November 16, 2007. During the second STRIKEFORCE event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Sept. 20, 2008, Prangley was victorious over Anthony “A Train” Ruiz by way of unanimous decision.
After winning a national wrestling championship in his native South Africa, Prangley left his homeland for The United States in search of the highest caliber wrestling training, and later established himself as a force in the sport of MMA. He is a member of Team AKA in San Jose.