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Cagewriter

Strikeforce’s Three Stars: Diaz, Melendez and Aoki

Cagewriter

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gilnick

Strikeforce's first major event under Zuffa ownership was not without its odd moments, but it was dominated by two champs who train together at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

No. 1 star -- Nick Diaz: Throughout their one-round scrap, both Diaz and Paul Daley were wobbled. The difference was in how each fighter recovered. Diaz's mixture of body shots and strikes to the head added up on Daley, and the damage at the end of the round was too much for Daley to handle.

No. 2 star -- Gilbert Melendez: How do you stop a wrestler? By punishing him every time he tries for a takedown. Melendez tagged Tatsuya Kawajiri early with a right hook, and then followed up with punches, kicks, takedowns and elbows until the fight ended with a TKO. He held onto his Strikeforce lightweight championship, but Melendez has his eye on more: the UFC lightweight belt.

No. 3 star -- Shinya Aoki: His first fight in the U.S. didn't go so well, but Aoki has been on a tear since losing to Melendez a year ago. He continued that streak on Saturday, cranking Lyle Beerbohm's neck until "Fancy Pants" had no choice but to tap.

Honorable mention -- Elbows: One of Zuffa's first changes to Strikeforce after taking over was to remove the ban on elbows. Strikeforce's fighters responded by using their new weapon with delight. Melendez used short elbows on the ground to finish off Kawajiri and Diaz used them effectively throughout his win over Daley.

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