The first fight on the Showtime main card of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley is a lightweight tilt between Japanese grappler Shinya Aoki and American wrestler/scrambler Lyle Beerbohm. This is Aoki's second fight in Strikeforce, the first being a five-round drubbing at the hands of current champion Gilbert Melendez. He's coming in off a loss to Yuichiro Nagashima at New Year's Eve. Beerbohm is a gritty wrestler who loves the scramble. He's coming into this bout off of his first loss against veteran Pat Healy.
Here's how BloodyElbow.com positioned the question of what this match will tell us about Aoki:
This is a real tough one because the only evidence we have of Aoki in America was the thrashing Gilbert Melendez gave him a year ago. The fact of the matter is this: We really won't have anymore evidence on this one if Aoki wins because he is being given an opponent in Lyle Beerbohm who is tailor made for him. Beerbohm likely won't be a big threat on the feet to Aoki and will play right into his strengths on the ground. If Aoki loses this fight, though, that's some real bad news and you'd have to seriously question what he'd be able to accomplish in the cage and in America going forward. A loss to Beerbohm would be absolutely devastating to Aoki's career. I think when this fight is done, if Aoki wins, the jury is still going to be out on his upward mobility in America but we should at least get a feel for where he stands.
In terms of how they stack up, look for this:
The betting lines placing Aoki at just over -200 and Beerbohm slightly below +200 seem about right. Just as Aoki is known for eating top-players for lunch, Beerbohm started to turn heads for quickly rising to prominence as a phenomenal offensive wrestler, which makes this a very dynamic collision ... but Aoki has further cemented his status as an elite lightweight and a stellar grappler.
Beerbohm is a self-professed "black belt in scrambling" and definitely has the tools to upset Aoki, but the real test will be his fight-IQ and how well he can devise and adhere to a strategy. Aoki's unorthodox techniques might catch him totally off guard, or he might be able to carefully test the waters and get more confident as time ticks on. His chances increase later in the fight when the sweat is flowing, which makes submissions harder to latch and elbows and strikes easier to slip through.
Though a Beerbohm TKO or close decision wouldn't shock me, the odds favor Aoki to out-position him if he can't affix a sub.
On the Sherdog roundtable I stated Beerbohm's scrambling - even when it compromises him positionally - is a style of fighting where he feels comfortable. He likes the speed chess aspect of grappling and has enough skill to generally keep himself out of deep, deep trouble. But while Pay Healy is a good grappler, he doesn't have the vice-line control of Aoki. Stated plainly, Aoki's a different level of competitor. Beerbohm's skilled enough to keep himself for being put away early, but ultimately he'll go the well one too many times. Aoki will find a dominant position, hold it, and either score a huge number of points or finish the fight there.
My prediction: Aoki by submission.