Saturday night I crawled into my bed and flipped Showtime on to tune in to the 10:30 live showing of “Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg”, expecting a less than stellar showing. To my pleasant surprise, it was a great night of fights.
Gilbert Melendez continued the Skrap Pack’s win streak in dominating fashion, Gegard Mousasi showed why he is one of the top three pound for pound fighters in the world, and Cyborg defeated Gina Carano in what I considered one of the more exciting first rounds in MMA this year.
Immediately people began predicting the death of Strikeforce due to Carano’s loss, but after watching the show that ended about forty minutes before it was scheduled to, I realized that maybe I, like many MMA fans, are spoiled and possibly brainwashed into believing that any MMA show that the UFC does not put on is doomed for failure. I have been reading a plethora of ranting and raving by almost ever MMA and fight website saying how the signing of Fedor Emilianenko would be the death of Strikforce. However, after taking stock of Strikeforce, M-1, and possibly DREAM, I realized that the UFC has every right to try to downplay the importance of Strikeforce as a threat because deep in their hearts they know that they are a legit threat.
By Sunday morning, the entire Strikeforce event was the hottest topic in the world of MMA. With Carano’s loss, we saw Women’s MMA finally gain the respect it deserves, and more importantly we saw the birth of Strikeforce. Strikeforce was able to push a women’s fight as the main event and not only succeed in the ratings, but in the fans eyes. For five straight minutes we saw two women with conflicting styles go at it, and the ending come down to the difference of one second. The fight had everything a good MMA fight needs, a good back story, recognizable faces, and great action. Strikeforce proved that they could market a non-traditional fight into something that fans may have been willing to pay to see.
While the show itself had its flaws, including the 40 minute pre-mature ending in which no preliminary card fights were shown or even recapped, the continued usage of the pointless “Frank’s Keys to Victory” (I mean come on, break the fight down, but saying a triangle choke is the key to a fight is amateur ), and the fact that Gus Johnson just seems completely lost at what he does. The post fight interviews he gives are horribly slow and he seems as if he doesn’t want to be there. Joe Rogan at least comes across as someone who can capture the spirit of MMA and the fight that just happened and transfer it into an interview, the show did entertain.
Strikeforce has everything it needs to put on an amazing set of shows that would rival anything the UFC can put on, and unlike Affliction and EliteXC, the savy and smart business sense that rivals that of Zuffa and Dana White and the financial assistance of Billionaire Mark Cuban. The simple addition of Fedor increases the profit levels of Strikeforce exponentially due to the fact that at least 75 – 80% of the cost of putting on the show is covered by Showtime, including the marketing. Most importantly, Strikeforce has the desire to develop it’s less than “main eventers” via its Strikeforce Challengers cards. The biggest thing we have to look at is the talent available to Strikeforce and the potential match-ups they can build around.
Nick Diaz vs. Joe Riggs
Diaz and Riggs have bad blood between them and would put on a spectacular show. Diaz has drawing power based on his anti-social ways (think of him as MMA’s Jay) and Riggs is still a well enough known name to draw in the UFC fans. While this may be a match for the hardcore MMA fans, it is exciting enough to draw any MMA fan in.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Alistair Overeem
This fight speaks for itself and while I don’t see this fight happening immediately for Fedor, it will happen. Overeem is considered one of the top five heavyweights in the world and Fedor is arguably the top heavyweight. Although, Overeem hasn’t defended his title in a while, if Fedor wants to wear the Strikeforce heavyweight crown he will have to get through Overeem.
Paul Buentello vs. Brett Rogers A battle of two hard hitting stand-up fighters that could prove whether Rogers is here for good or if he is just a lucky man who can talk a great game. Rogers has the easy marketing as the man who KO’d Arlovski and Buentello. This fight wouldn’t make it to the second round but it would be one exciting round of trying to kill one another.
Frank Shamrock vs. Jake Shields Shields has made it well known that he wants Shamrock now. While he accuses Shamrock of ducking him, it is only a matter of time before Strikeforce approaches Shamrock to make the choice: fight Shields or retire to commenting permanently. While neither fighter is known for their stand-up game, this will be an exciting fight that could see one fighter seriously hurt by a submission.
Gina Carano vs. Kim Couture While many people may not consider this a main event fight, it is. Gina’s loss to Cyborg was expected if you look at the Las Vegas odds, and it wasn’t as if she was defeated in fourteen seconds after the company built themselves around her. While Couture would be riding her last name into this fight, the fact that both are trained by Randy would be a great hype and the winner would face Cyborg.
Shinya Aoki vs. Josh Thomson Aoki is considered a god in Japan and in DREAM and Thomson is a beast in the US at lightweight. With the reality that Strikeforce is going to be able to co-promote with DREAM, this fight will happen at some point. What will ensue is a great submission fighter versus a great stand up fighter. Normally, the submission expert trumps the striker, but in this case we may not have that guarantee.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum Werdum may not be the most challenging fight Fedor has ever experienced, the BJJ expert would most certainly provide Fedor with a decent challenge. Werdum is finally in shape and appears re-dedicated to MMA which if he can take Fedor down, he may be able to submit Fedor with his expertise in BJJ. I wouldn’t put money on Werdum to beat Fedor, but honestly at this point who would bet against Fedor?
Gilbert Melendez vs. Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen Both fighters have an amazing ground game and an excellent stand-up. Combine this with the fact that both have granite chins, we may be looking at one hell of a potential five rounder. If there is any one fight that I personally would love to see happen, it is this one.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Kevin Randleman Many people will cite that Randleman is not a top level fighter, the truth of the matter is he is one of the most challenging fighters anyone would want to stare at from across the cage. Standing at just under six feet tall with a physique rivaled only by Bobby Lashley, Randleman’s strength and wrestling ability would scare anyone. Mind you Randleman is the man who spiked Fedor straight onto his head and has knocked out Cro-Cop. Mousasi on the other hand, is still trying to prove himself to the casual MMA fan who is not familiar with Japanese MMA, and a great showing against “The Monster” would only serve to further himself.
These are just nine fights that could potentially happen in Strikeforce (of the 50 or so they can easily build up), and consider the fact that Strikeforce still has Matt Lindland, Yves Edwards, Cung Le, Benjii Radach, Bob Sapp and Robbie Lawler amongst their roster and access to DREAM fighters and anyone the UFC casts off, it won’t be long before we see Strikeforce putting up a challenge to the UFC.
The thing that we as fans have to realize is that the UFC was not built overnight, it rose from the ashes of death and rebranded itself into the conglomerate that it is now. Strikeforce is well aware of this, and has consistently built its product up slowly to the power that it is now. Although it seems as if they are at the same level of the UFC, they are not…yet. However, at this stage in their development they are leaps and bounds ahead of where the UFC was at the same time. It is time for us to give Strikeforce their due respect and support them in their quest not to overthrow the UFC, as Dana White seems to think, but to put on a show that is of the same quality as the UFC. Dana White just needs to remember the old saying that “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.”