By Josh Gross, SI.com
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Tried and true, the textbook answer when facing a southpaw is the right straight. Kazuo Misaki waited until the middle of round two before unleashing a pinpoint shot against lefty Joe Riggs. It worked as he expected.
Meeting in the main event of Strikeforce's second card at the Playboy Mansion, Misaki and Riggs made for a slow opening seven minutes. Content to get a sense for movement and timing, the pair danced and feinted as an intimate gathering watched in the chill of summer's second to last evening.
Little changed until Riggs connected with a stiff punch to the 32-year-old top-10 ranked middleweight from Chiba, Japan.
"I tried to control my emotion," Misaki, who tumbled to the canvas before quickly regaining his footing, said through an interpreter. "As a fighter -- it's natural as a human being -- of course, I woke up after taking the punch."
Recovered and advancing, Misaki, the 2006 Pride 185-pound grand prix tournament champion, landed a right to the temple that felled Riggs, 32. Referee Josh Rosenthal hovered above the action as Misaki delivered hammerfists and short hooks that collided with nothing more than the American's gloves and forearms.
"I was waiting for him to stop throwing punches and when he stopped I was going to come up and get him," said the 39-fight veteran from Phoenix, Ariz. But Rosenthal, seeing it differently, halted the bout after issuing what he said were three verbal warnings that the end was near. Riggs responded that he couldn't hear the referee over Misaki's grunts.
"He rocked me but when I hit the ground I moved all right," said Riggs, whose record slipped to 28-11. "I wasn't hurt."
Looking for his first win on U.S. soil after falling short on points to Frank Trigg in 2006, Misaki (21-8-2) couldn't say whether Rosenthal's call was correct. Riggs, now headed to the welterweight division, offered a stronger opinion.
"The only time Misaki landed was when Rosenthal pulled my hand away," Riggs said quietly while assembling his equipment. "I thought it was a horrible stoppage. Back when I fought Alex Stiebling in 2004, Rosenthal nearly let me beat Alex to death and wouldn't stop the fight. He's not too consistent."
Misaki plans to return to the U.S. sometime next year so "American fans don't forget" him, but that won't happen until a fight on his home turf in a Sengoku-promoted event.
Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson outclassed Ashe Bowman to score an early technical knockout in a non-title bout.
Thomson, 29, pressured Bowman (9-5) with high and low kicks, but it wasn't until his overmatched foe landed a right hand a minute into the fight that the champion attacked.
Moving forward and punching, Thomson (16-2) connected to Bowman's jaw with the second of two right hands. Bowman, 31, went down along the fence, where referee Herb Dean watched before a short burst from Thomson ended the fight 74 seconds after it began.
Thomson is expected to defend his title Nov. 21 in San Jose, Calif. Potential opponents for the HDNet-telecast event include Dream champion Joachim Hansen, Eddie Alvarez or Mitsuhiro Ishida.
"I'm really looking forward to a Hansen fight," Thomson said. "Maybe we can do a super-fight."
Strikeforce's Scott Coker said a decision on Thomson's first challenger should be made after meeting with Japanese promoters next week.
Gilbert Melendez, whom Thomson defeated in June to capture the belt, is also slated for the November card, perhaps in a rematch against Ishida. Additionally, Tatsuya Kawajiri could make his U.S. debut, said Coker, in an event expected to provide plenty of international flavor.
Offering several heavy-handed exchanges on the feet, middleweights Terry Martin and Cory Devela captured the attention of the distracted crowd during two-plus rounds together.
The final note sounded when Martin (18-5), making his return after Vitor Belfort knocked him out in July, landed a swift left hook that put Devela (10-2) on the canvas. With referee Dean unsure about calling the fight, Martin blasted Devela to the face with a right hand. The punch was enough to end the bout at 2:08 of round three.
In his American debut, Japanese lightweight Mitsuhiro Ishida demonstrated why he's one of the division's premier talents.
Needing a win following a poor performance against Caol Uno in May, Ishida (17-4-1) beautifully transitioned from a standing kimura to a rolling armbar in securing the finish at 1:21 of the opening round. The submission, which Ishida called improvisational, stunned Justin Wilcox (5-3), who tapped before his back could hit the canvas.
"It wasn't a move I trained for," said the 29-year-old Ishida, "but it came from a move I was trying to do. I was very surprised to finish with that."
Also on the card after the cancellation of his Oct. 11 Affliction-promoted middleweight bout against Matt Lindland, Trevor Prangley, fighting at light heavyweight, (18-5) made it two wins in two contests with Anthony Ruiz (21-12), adding a unanimous decision to the armbar he scored in 2006.