Hayato Sakurai Likely to Get First Crack at Nick Diaz’ Strikeforce Welterweight Title, Jay Hieron Out of Luck Again

Who will be the next title challenger for Nick Diaz?

By: Nate Wilcox | 13 years ago
Hayato Sakurai Likely to Get First Crack at Nick Diaz’ Strikeforce Welterweight Title, Jay Hieron Out of Luck Again
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Despite Jay Hieron’s unanimous decision win over Joe Riggs on the undercard of last night’s Strikeforce: Miami show, it appears he’s no closer to a title shot against Nick Diaz, per Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker. From MMA Fighting:

Most people thought Jay Hieron earned a shot at the welterweight title by defeating Joe Riggs, but Coker said it’s more likely that Sakurai will be the challenger in Diaz’s first title defense. Sakurai fights for Dream, and Coker said Strikeforce’s co-promotional arrangement with Dream ensures that “I could get it done.” Hieron’s win over Riggs was the last fight on his Strikeforce contract, and it’s not clear whether Hieron will return to the promotion.

Nick Diaz talked to Sherdog and apparently he isn’t impressed by any of the potential challengers for his title, (see the video in the full entry). He did say he was willing to fight Hieron now that Hieron has beaten Joe Riggs.

Dave Meltzer commented on Diaz’ impressive performance:

Diaz survived an early knockdown but used his reach and hand speed to overwhelm his Lithuanian-born opponent and become Strikeforce’s first welterweight champion.

Diaz connected on 49 of his 70 punches and 46 of 47 kicks in a fight that only went 4:38 before Diaz’s barrage of head and body punches put Zaromskis down and out.

For my part, I’d much rather see Hieron against Diaz than Sakurai. Once upon a time, “Mach” Sakurai was one of the top fighters in the weight division. That time has long since passed. Even at his peak, Sakurai’s style would likely have played into Diaz’ hands. The same can’t be said of Hieron, a powerful wrestler who could capitalize on Diaz’ poor takedown defense.

In fact, I wonder if that’s not the reason Hieron isn’t getting a shot at the very marketable Diaz.

For his part Jay Hieron had this to say to MMA Weekly about Diaz:

“I think I match up great with Diaz. I think he has holes in his game, and I think I’m the man to exploit it,” said the Strikeforce welterweight top contender.

“It’s all timing. Hopefully we’ll sit down with Strikeforce and move forward in that direction, but right now I’m just going to enjoy this victory, get back home, heal up. Hopefully that’s next.”

Hieron’s not a fighter with a lot of leverage if the UFC remains true to their word about not signing fighters who have signed their video game rights over to EA Sports. Hopefully Hieron will be treated right by Strikeforce. He’s a top caliber fighter.

Ariel Helwani’s interview with Hieron is in the full entry as well.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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