Friday, April 10, 2009

AOL Fanhouse's Michael David Smith talks to us about Strikeforce: Nick Diaz vs. Frank Shamrock and other MMA topics

You may not know this since the Record has yet to mention it, but local Mixed Martial Artist Nick Diaz is fighting in his first match since the Stockton EliteXC show this weekend against Frank Shamrock as the HP Pavilion in San Jose tomorrow under the Strikeforce banner. In anticipation of the event, and to give it some much needed local publicity, we asked MMA guru Michael David Smith of AOL Fanhouse to answer a couple of questions for us about the event and he graciously agreed. We were even able to slip a question about the EliteXC: Unfinished Business show in there. So enjoy the interview and don't forget to cheer on Diaz as he faces Shamrock live on Showtime tomorrow night at 7 pm. Or catch it online for the low, low price of 24.95. As always, words not written by us in bold.

Slick Diaz: This Saturday's Stirkeforce event marks the return to the octagon of both Frank Shamrock and Nick Diaz after a fairly long break. This will be Shamrock's first fight since breaking his arm in a match against Cung Le and Diaz's first since fighting here in Stockton at the EliteXC: Unfinished Business event last July. Do you expect either of them to show any ring rust this weekend? And how much of a factor (if any) do you think Diaz's legendary cardio should be?

Michael David Smith: I definitely think ring rust could be a factor with Shamrock. It's been more than a year since he's fought and he's 36 years old. I just don't know if any athlete in any sport can take a year off in his mid-30s and not lose something. Diaz I'm less concerned about because he's a decade younger and, as you note, he's got great cardio. He stays in shape with triathlons. That has to give him an advantage if the fight goes into the third round.

Slick: Speaking of the EliteXC event in Stockton, the event was largely considered a ratigns failure even though it featured the highly anticipated rematch between Robbie Lawler and Elk Grove's Scott Smith in the main event. How big of a role do you think that the poor ratings and with the low paid attendence figures for the sole CBS card to not feature Kimbo Slice played in ProElite's decision to close down and sell off their assets after the Petruzelli fight? Had the event done better would they have considered remaining open or did the positive drug test of Bigfoot Silva and the death of the legend of Kimbo Slice doom the promotion regardless?

MDS: The fundamental flaw of EliteXC was putting far too much of its promotional energy into a guy who simply isn't good at MMA, Kimbo Slice. You're absolutely right that the Stockton event didn't do very well, and because the Stockton card didn't do well, CBS officials worried that Kimbo (and to some extent Gina Carano) were the only draws they had, and then when Kimbo lost they didn't think a promotion could be built around Gina Carano. I don't think Bigfoot Silva's positive drug test had much to do with it; it's obviously embarrassing when your heavyweight champion tests positive, but he was not a particularly big draw for them.

Slick: Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos makes her Strikeforce debut this Saturday against Hitomi Akano, but all anybody can seem to talk about is her potential match with Gina Carano. How much are casual MMA fans (and possibly Cyborg herself) overlooking Akano who boasts and impressive 14-5 record with 11 submissions?

MDS: Excellent question. Akano's record is very solid, and Josh Barnett, who trains her, raves about her skills. She's won most of her fights by submission (and Cyborg's only loss is by submission), and in Cyborg's last fight, she couldn't finish an opponent who was ripe for being knocked out. I think Cyborg is the favorite in this fight, and I think Akano is a little small to be fighting someone Cyborg's size, but I think that if Cyborg comes in unprepared, she's in for a rude awakening.

Slick: How much of chance of you think Nick Diaz has of fighting in the UFC again, or have his character issues coupled with his sudden departure to Gracie Fighting Championships a few years back closed that door?

MDS: I wouldn't rule out Nick fighting in the UFC again. The bottom line is that the UFC wants good fighters. If Nick beats Frank and keeps winning in Strikeforce, at some point the UFC would have to be interested. Of course, if Nick keeps winning, Strikeforce will try hard not to lose him.

Slick: Jake Shields is considered one of the better welterweights in the World, but he seems to have a limited number of decent opponents at that weight. His next fight is a catchweight bout against Robbie Lawler in June. Besides his contract with Strikeforce, what's holding him back from joining the elite welterweights of the world in the UFC?

MDS: His contract with Strikeforce is all that's holding him back. But I think he'd rather keep working with Strikeforce than try to get out of his contract and hope UFC offers him something better. And that means Shields is probably going to have to move up in weight permanently, because Strikeforce just doesn't have any 170-pounders who can really give him a tough test. So I think we'll see Shields keep fighting at catchweights or even permanently move up to middleweight.

Slick: Will Diaz ever get his hands on KJ Noons?

MDS: I don't think so. KJ Noons had a big opportunity to fight on CBS, and he decided he didn't want to because he'd rather box instead. If he likes boxing better than he likes MMA, more power to him, but I personally think he's better suited to MMA, and I think it's too bad that we won't get to see a Diaz-Noons rematch.

Slick: Diaz himself has dabbled in boxing a bit. He had his first and only pro match in 2005 beating Alfonso Rocha by unanimous decision in Sacramento. Plus he's trained with former World champ Luisto Espinosa and Gold medalist Andre Ward. And chance he follows Noons into the world of boxing to continue their heated rivalry, even if just for the one match?

MDS: That's an interesting idea. I personally think Diaz would be better off sticking with MMA, but despite his jiu jitsu background, he loves to stand with his opponents and trade punches, so maybe he would try boxing. I'm guessing he doesn't do it, but I wouldn't totally rule it out.

Slick: And finally, which brother vs. brother matchup is more intriguing? Ken vs. Frank or Nick vs. Nate?

MDS: Well, as an old-school fan of the Shamrocks, I've always hoped to see them fight each other. I doubt it will ever happen, but I pick Ken vs. Frank.

Slick (note: This is the part where I bang my head against the desk as this was a follow up question and I totally brainfarted since he basically answered this in the last answer. Luckily he's a class act and answered it twice.): Obviously the Shamrock vs. Shamrock fight would have been a much better fight 5 or 10 years ago before people were practically begging Ken to hang it up. Given Ken's recent record (2-8 in his last 10 fights not counting the Clifton fight) and his disputed failed drug test, what are the chances this match happens? Or, perhaps more importantly, do you think it should happen?

MDS: I don't think there's much of a chance of it happening. I've interviewed both Frank and Ken and neither of them seem to think it's going to happen.

Thanks again to Michael David Smith for taking the time to answer our questions and for putting up with my fucktardery.

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