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Shields, Melendez Retain, King Mo Reigns at Strikeforce: Nashville

By on April 18, 2010

shieldsContinuing a very strange month for mixed martial arts, the presence of three title fights on one card were upstaged by a brawl in the cage on Strikeforce’s latest CBS-televised effort. Airing from Nashville, Tennessee, the event featured King Mo impressively besting Gegard Mousasi in a war of attrition, while champions Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields held onto their titles after wins over Shinya Aoki and Dan Henderson, respectively. The night was also notable because all three championship fights went the full five rounds.

Still, the night will ultimately be remembered for what followed Shields’ win over Henderson: fellow middleweight Jason “Mayhem” Miller entered the cage, presumably without the knowledge of Strikeforce officials, and interrupted Shields’ post-fight interview. He used the microphone to ask Shields about a rematch, and Shields smiled, but he and Melendez pushed Miller away, regardless. Mayhem looked to be coming back towards Melendez to shove him back, and things got ugly really quickly.

The version that aired on television was hard to follow, as there was a brief cut-away after Miller got on the mic, but an alternate angle on YouTube showed the Nate Diaz grabbing Mayhem around the waist while Nick Diaz and other members of Shields’ team started striking him. The officials in the cage seemed more worried about getting Mayhem restrained, even as he was being beaten on up several pro fighters, although Mayhem seemed unharmed when things got broken up.

It would seem that the Diaz brothers and Melendez were annoyed with Mayhem upstaging Shields’ big win over a “living legend” in Henderson. However, they ironically upstaged that win even more by engaging in a brawl in the cage right after the fight, didn’t they? If Mayhem had been allowed to make his challenge without incident, the talk would still be about Shields’ impressive victory, after all.

Impressive it was, as Shields took Henderson down with stunning regularity and wore him down throughout the fight, all after surviving a very difficult first round with the former Pride champion. Henderson knocked Shields down twice in the first stanza, including one knockdown that sent Shields in a face-first nosedive on the canvas, which seemed to “wake him up”, as Shields snapped out of it and was able to regain his composure soon after. For the other rounds, though, Shields worked hard and consistently threatened stoppages with great positioning, strikes and submission attempts. It certainly was not the rather dull type of performance that Shields has been (unfairly?) known for throughout his career.

The judges rewarded Shields with a comfortable decision victory over Henderson, who was successful early on in defending Shields’ takedown attempts (or standing up after being taken down), but slowed down as the fight went on. Early in the fight, Henderson was setting up his right hand power punches well with repeated jabs and occasional left hooks, but as the fight went on, he also began head-hunting a little more obviously, perhaps also due to his being fatigued. After the fight, Henderson gave credit to Shields and conceded that his stamina was a factor as the fight went on.

Meanwhile, Shinya Aoki found nothing but frustration in his trip to the United States to face Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gil Melendez. Melendez avoided the guard of Aoki for the majority of the fight, instead choosing to frustrate Aoki with elusive movements and effective striking. Later in the fight, Aoki continued to stubbornly invite Melendez into his guard, and Melendez obliged him a few times, staying out of trouble while pounding Aoki with lefts and rights. After the fight, Melendez acknowledged that he wanted to finish Aoki, but had to respect his dangerous ground game at all times. For his success, Melendez was awarded a unanimous decision victory.

In the first title fight of the evening, Gegard Mousasi was undersized and outwrestled against phenom-in-the-making “King Mo” Lawal. Mo came out of the gates with guns blazing, taking Mousasi down and pounding away at the champion, all while Mousasi stayed calm and worked strikes from the bottom and upkicks when Lawal would stand up in his guard. It appeared at first as if it was a brilliant strategy by Mousasi, as Lawal looked absolutely gassed after the first round, while Mousasi looked as fresh as ever.

In the second, Mo worked for a couple of takedowns but looked clearly fatigued, as Mousasi took the round with relentless strikes from his back and potent strikes when the two were standing. It appeared as if Mo had used up all of the gas in his tank, so to speak, and that he would be in deep trouble with three rounds remaining. However, from the third round onward, it was Mousasi that suddenly looked depleted of energy, as Mo seemed to get a second wind. For the last three rounds, Lawal took Mousasi down at will and pounded away, as Mousasi offered less and less of a fight to his challenger. In the end, King Mo earned his first major championship with a dominant unanimous decision victory.

In other action, the start of Mayhem Miller’s night was much better than the end of it, as he defeated Tim Stout by TKO in the first round. Miller got an early takedown and from there, Stout offered little defense to his opponent, as Miller continued striking from a dominant position to force Stout to give up his back. It was just a matter of time then, as Miller got referee Mario Yamasaki to stop the fight when Stout had taken one too many unanswered shots.

Cale Yarbrough defeated Josh Schockman early in the second round by TKO, while Zach Underwood bested Hunter Worsham by unanimous decision in their bout. Meanwhile, Dustin Ortiz used superior grappling to control Justin Pennington and finish him with a rear naked choke within one round, and Cody Floyd punished Tom Campbell en route to a third round finish where Floyd put Campbell away with a powerful knee to the head.

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