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Diaz, Noons finally get to settle score in Strikeforce main event

It's strange to think that with all the time NickDiaz (22-7, 1 NC) and K.J. Noons (9-1) have spent talking about and/or at one another since their first meeting three years ago, they've still only spent five real minutes in the cage together.

That is, as long as you don't count the post-fight melee in 2008, when Diaz made 'Don't be scared, homie' a phrase that would live on forever in MMA lore, right before both fighters' family members got into a JerrySpringer-style scuffle, complete with burly security guards acting as human shields.

Since then, they've both lived with the specter of the other drifting in and out of their lives. They've both claimed to merely dislike and not completely hate the other, and yet both have a hard time not launching into a string of expletives once the other guy's name is mentioned. It's like a break-up where both people make only a cursory, transparent attempt at wishing the best for one another.

The trouble is we still have more hype than fight footage for this rivalry, so it's hard to know what to expect when they face off again for the welterweight title in the main event of Saturday night's Strikeforce show. In the first fight, Noons' boxing skills and Diaz's inability to get the fight to the mat made all the difference. Of course, back then Diaz was so cut-prone, he was likely to start bleeding during the introductions, so we can't pretend that didn't play a part.

These days, Diaz holds his mud a little better. He's also improved his boxing skills, though probably not to the point where standing and trading with Noons is likely to be a smart strategy. Noons knows this, which is why he says he's expecting Diaz to try and get it to the mat right away.

That would be probably be wise, considering Diaz is the only jiu-jitsu black belt in this match-up, but don't underestimate the power of ego. Diaz has never been the kind of gentlemanly fighter to doff his cap to an opponent who has bested him and congratulate him on his victory. No, he's more like the guy who loses a bar fight and then goes to wait for you in the parking lot.

Since Noons outboxed him last time, some part of Diaz probably wants to prove that it was a fluke. The question is, is that part of him strong and persistent enough to make him to get his face rearranged all over again, or will he choose the path of least resistance and get it to the floor? Tough to say, but as long as this stays standing, Noons presents a bad style match-up for Diaz. Something tells me the more evident this becomes to everyone else, the more Diaz will want to prove otherwise.

Elsewhere on the card, Sarah Kaufman's (12-0) public plea for Strikeforce to stop relegating her title defenses to the poorly promoted and even more poorly produced Challengers cards has paid off, and she'll face Dutch veteran MarloesCoenen (17-4) in a 135-pound championship bout. Is it a little odd that Coenen, who lost her last bout via TKO in a 145-pound title fight with "Cyborg" Santos, is now getting an immediate title shot in another division? It is. But, as long as Strikeforce is willing to showcase female fighters not named Santos or Carano, no one should complain.

Coenen's best chance here is probably a submission off her back, but that's a long shot against the undefeated Kaufman. She's not careless enough to let herself get caught from the top, and she's not so impatient she'll rush for a finish and give Coenen too many openings. Coenen proved in her last fight she can take a beating, which is impressive. The bad news for her is that Kaufman doesn't mind handing one out, which usually proves to be the more useful skill in MMA.

In the lightweight division, Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante (15-3-1, 1 NC) makes his Strikeforce debut after several years of fighting in Japan, where he quickly became a fan favorite. For those American fans who are unfamiliar with him, he's built a little bit like a fire hydrant with ears, and he's about as difficult to hurt. That stands in sharp contrast to his opponent, JoshThomson (17-3, 1 NC), who is one of the Strikeforce's most talented, though injury-prone, 155-pounders.

This is a difficult fight for Thomson, since only the hardcore fans really appreciate how dangerous Cavalcante is. If "The Punk" wants to find himself in yet another title fight with current champ GilbertMelendez, he needs to put forth a more consistent effort than he did against PatHealy in June. It would also help if he could try not to break any bones in the first round this time, but that's much easier said than done for him.

Finally, undefeated up-and-comer TyroneWoodley (6-0) faces AndreGalvao (5-1) in a welterweight bout to determine which mostly untested fighter is worthy of a serious promotional push going forward. Strikeforce might be hoping it's the former University of Missouri wrestler Woodley, who has come up through the Challengers shows to get a shot on primetime TV. On paper, he seems to have all the tools, but he just barely survived his last bout against the unheralded NathanCoy, which had to raise some doubts.

Galvao has the kind of jiu-jitsu fighter style that might make him prone to losing close decisions against a strong wrestler who is more eager to maintain top position, but he's always going to be a submissions threat, and his win over JorgePatino in his last fight proves he knows how to hang around and not get discouraged.

If Woodley's going to be the fighter of the future that Strikeforce is hoping for, he needs a strong performance here to show his last fight was just a bad night at the office. Putting away an opponent who has never been finished before would go a long way toward doing just that.

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