ST. LOUIS – Jake Shields cemented his place as one of the top fighters in the world with a first round submission of Robbie Lawler on Saturday night at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields in front of 8,867 fans at Scottrade Center.
In a meeting between former EliteXC champions, it was Shields who came out the aggressor, ultimately ending the fight with a tight guillotine choke from full guard. Lawler tried to stand up and slam his opponent but Shields held firm and Lawler quickly tapped once the fight went back to the ground.
“That guillotine was really tight,” Lawler said. “When I came back down to the mat, I thought maybe I could pull his elbow off my head, but he had it synched on tight. That’s his move and he wasn’t letting go.”
Shields (23-4-1), has now finished eight straight fights after picking up 10 of his first 15 wins by decision.
“Robbie’s a top-level fighter,” Shields said. “I saw an opportunity and I took it to end the fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if a year or two down the road me and Robbie meet again. He’s a phenomenal fighter. It just turned out to be my night.”
In the heavyweight attraction, Brett Rogers maintained his undefeated record with a stunning 22-second knockout of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.
Arlovski, a heavy favorite entering the night, came in with a leg kick and backed off, allowing Rogers to bulrush him against the cage. From there, a big flurry of punches turned Arlovski’s lights out for the second straight fight. In celebration, Rogers ran head-first into the fencing, a moment of pure joy.
“Hopefully (this win) bumps (my career) up to the next level,” Rogers said.
Next up for Rogers could be Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem on Aug. 15.
“I’m ready for whatever,” Rogers said. “I was planning on picking that up today but it got pushed back. Hopefully he’s keeping it good and clean for me. I’m coming for it.”
In the third featured bout, Nick Diaz ran through Scott Smith en route to a third round submission win in their 180-pound bout.
Diaz came out throw punches in bunches with many of them connecting while Smith seemed content to look for the home run. Smith seemed no worse for the wear, though, until a body shot sent him reeling against the cage midway through the second round.
From there, Diaz took over, landing at will and hurting Smith again to the body as the round came to a close. Smith took his time before finally getting up to his stool after the round.
Diaz controlled the action again in the third before hurting Smith with punches. They ended up on the ground where Diaz locked in a rear-naked choke for the victory at 1:41 of the round.
“I know I work a lot harder than him,” Diaz said.
According to CompuStrike, Diaz threw 397 punches in the 11:41 fight, landing 207, a 52 percent success rate.
“I don’t appreciate people I know signing to fight me,” Diaz said.
In a welterweight bout, Joe Riggs dominated Phil Baroni en route to straight 30-27 scores for a unanimous decision victory.
Riggs, who claimed to have broken both hands in the fight, took Baroni down several times to win the first two rounds. Even seemingly up two rounds heading into the third, Riggs turned up the heat on a tentative Baroni, landing knees and punches and hurting his opponent. Riggs also taunted Baroni at several points during the round, leaving his chin open. Baroni landed a few good shots, but it wasn’t enough.
“He was talking some (expletive) about my chin,” Baroni said. “I wanted to show him, ‘what are you talking about? I’ve never been knocked out.’ I can take a good shot, but I think I took a little too many. I didn’t fight back.
“I wasn’t able to pull the trigger. I don’t know what happened.”
In the opening bout of the main card, Mike Whitehead defeated Kevin Randleman by unanimous decision. Whitehead was able to take the former Ohio State wrestler down at will throughout the fight but never came close to finishing. Randleman got the restless crowd onto its feet in the third round, dropping Whitehead with a thunderous left hook, but Whitehead was able to survive and win the fight 29-28 on all three judges’ scorecards.
Rogers didn’t pull off the only big upset of the night, as Mike Kyle knocked out highly regarded prospect Rafael “Feijao” Calvancante at 2:05 of the second round.
Kyle held his own throughout the fight, landing the better shots of the two. He was able to drop Feijao and then follow up with several hard punches on the floor that put Calvancante out bad. After several tense moments, he was able to leave the cage until his own power.