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The Birth Of Strikeforce: How Saturday’s event ushered in a new era of MMA

strikeforcecrestSaturday 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.”

28 COMMENTS
  • G-DUB says:

    Good article John. I agree with you for the mostpart. Strikeforce is an exciting product and, barring any Josh Barnett debacles, should continue to improve over time and possibly give the UFC a real run for their money someday soon.
    Have to take issue with you about the Gus Johnson comments though. I am thoroughly impressed by his ability to switch from an effective NFL guy to an exciting MMA guy. I completely don’t see where he comes off as disinterested in his calls. His call after the Mousasi KO was priceless and memorable. Not going to compare him to Rogan b/c he is truly the best at what he does, but Johnson is superb in his own right and will only become more knowledgeable and entertaining as he is further exposed to the sport.

  • RoadsideGraphix says:

    Nice Read…
    I would just like to add that without Joe Rogan the UFC would lose a lot of luster to their PPV.
    Remember the UFC the Rogan was not at and KenFlo tried to fill in… He was good but didnt get me hype the way Rogan does.

  • manny says:

    Good article and I hope to see most of those fights in a card pretty soon.

  • edub says:

    “Gegard Mousasi showed why he is one of the top three pound for pound fighters in the world”

    huh?

  • Gurthee says:

    Business sense? What sense is that? They signed their souls away to M-1 and Fedor. They have a stable filled with “mostly”, not all, 2nd and 3rd tier fighters and they air their shows on Showtime, a channel that not many people subscribe to. But ya, Strikeforce is right up there with the UFC. C’mon! I sense a UFC/Dana White hater here. I’m all for more MMA and organizations that can compete with the UFC but atm, Strikeforce is nowhere near the caliber of promotion or organization that UFC is. Here’s to wishful thinking though.

  • Gurthee says:

    Not to mention, they’ve had to cancel many of the original bouts on their last card and replce with them lower level talent and many times they have had to change their fights to catch weight fights because their slacking talent isn’t disciplined enough to make weight. They have a looooong way to go IMO…if they make it at all. (Fedor & M-1 might just make them disappear like other org’s. they’ve been associated with.)

  • Mousasi is not a top three pound for pound fighter and a fight with Randleman shouldn’t excite anyone.

    Johnson is pretty lousy, though, I will agree.

  • metalmulisha says:

    I agree 100% that it was ridiculous not to show one prelim fight when 3 of the 4 main card fights ended in the 1st round, but you’re way off base as far as Gus Johnson goes the guy is still relatively new to the sport of course there are going to be growing pains as far as his knowledge of the sport itself and the fighters strengths and weaknesses go, but he’s a professional broadcaster and you can tell in his delivery and the way he calls a broadcast.

    As opposed to Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg who are just plain awful. Rogan is way to biased in his commentary with fighters he has a relationship with or he’s a fan of and it comes across in his commentary. It’s really bad.

    And you want to talk about being lost when it comes to knowing what’s going on Mike Goldberg’s been doing this since 1999 I believe maybe longer and he’s still clueless, and spends way to much time shilling for the UFC and stating the obvious.
    Rogan and Goldberg make me turn the volume down to a point I can barely hear it because they’re so bad.

  • Jstew3785 says:

    metal, you’re not a fan of “It is all over!!!”

  • hindsightufuk says:

    Mousasi/Randleman would be a walk over for Gegard

    Also on a side note, Chinas Art Of War is really picking up the pace the days, been some great fights in the last two cards and the production is quality. Would be nice to see it get some coverage.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    Sergio wtf you really piss me off dude, like 90-95% piss me off. P4P means sweet f#ck all anyway so lay off and Randleman is a good, if not great fighter that excites a lot of people. I have a feeling if Dana had told you they were exciting or if they were both in the UFC you would be a little more supportive. LoL.
    I’m really excited about the knew Strikeforce/Dream/M1 mix and I hope it keeps the UFC honest. The cards will be just as if not more exciting than the UFC’s (I’m hoping).
    How bout Sakuraba vs Shamrock.

  • edub says:

    Man Im usually not on this early but Logic your hate is something great to wake up to.

    I got a couple things for ya.
    1. Im hyped for Dream/Strikforce(Manhoef vs. Lawler please please please make this happen.)
    2. Ive been hyped for Shamrock vs. Sakuraba for years ever since the Tito fight. I thought Frank would pwn him then and I think it would be the same now. Although it would be nice to see Saku get a W.
    3. Are you really gonna agree with Randleman being a legit threat/good opponent for Mousasi. The guy is years past his prime and just lost to Mike Whitehead. Now that I think about it Whitehead would be a better match up against Mousasi. But he just lost to Babalu last year and Mousasi Pwned Babalu so I dunno. I think if theyre gonna have exciting matchups for Mousasi there gonna have to have guys move up or him move down.(Maybe a catchweight fight for him against Lawler!!)

  • “Sergio wtf you really piss me off dude, like 90-95% piss me off. P4P means sweet f#ck all anyway so lay off and Randleman is a good, if not great fighter that excites a lot of people. I have a feeling if Dana had told you they were exciting or if they were both in the UFC you would be a little more supportive. LoL.”

    Sorry my opinions “piss you off,” bro. And Curry brought up pound for pound rankings so if you want to piss and moan at someone, you can click his name and shoot him an email.

    And Randleman is not a great fighter. He was UFC champion back when all wrestlers had to do was hold someone down and pound out a decision. It’s a different game now. He never evolved and minus his KO win over CroCop, he’s done fuck all since like 2001.

    His cardio is a joke and putting him in a LHW title fight against Mousasi would be a joke.

  • Jstew3785 says:

    Wow, I gotta go with Sergio again by unanimous decision.

  • You know what, LOGIC, I will concede my 90-95% quote was incorrect.

    I’ve got dick to do at work so I went through and actually crunched the numbers.

    If you take the divisions, bantam to heavy, Zuffa has 51 out of 70 fighters ranked in the top ten according to Bloody Elbow’s Meta-rankings. That comes out to about 73%. So about 3 out of 4 top ten fighters are contracted by Zuffa.

    Going further… besides feather, light, and heavyweight, Zuffa has a lock on every division with 8 or 9 fighters in the top ten. That’s about 88% of bantamweight fighters and fighters between 170 and 205 pounds.

    So yeah, 90-95% was high but the numbers don’t lie. Zuffa has most of the top talent.

  • edub says:

    “You know what, LOGIC, I will concede my 90-95% quote was incorrect.

    I’ve got dick to do at work so I went through and actually crunched the numbers.

    If you take the divisions, bantam to heavy, Zuffa has 51 out of 70 fighters ranked in the top ten according to Bloody Elbow’s Meta-rankings. That comes out to about 73%. So about 3 out of 4 top ten fighters are contracted by Zuffa.”

    And thats being generous to non Zuffa orgs with the 155lb and hw divisions I would guess.

    I would agree that with your 90% first observation.

    I still think most sites hold the lw division overseas to high.

    Going further… besides feather, light, and heavyweight, Zuffa has a lock on every division with 8 or 9 fighters in the top ten. That’s about 88% of bantamweight fighters and fighters between 170 and 205 pounds.

    So yeah, 90-95% was high but the numbers don’t lie. Zuffa has most of the top talent.

  • edub says:

    Edit*

    “You know what, LOGIC, I will concede my 90-95% quote was incorrect.

    I’ve got dick to do at work so I went through and actually crunched the numbers.

    If you take the divisions, bantam to heavy, Zuffa has 51 out of 70 fighters ranked in the top ten according to Bloody Elbow’s Meta-rankings. That comes out to about 73%. So about 3 out of 4 top ten fighters are contracted by Zuffa.”

    Going further… besides feather, light, and heavyweight, Zuffa has a lock on every division with 8 or 9 fighters in the top ten. That’s about 88% of bantamweight fighters and fighters between 170 and 205 pounds.

    So yeah, 90-95% was high but the numbers don’t lie. Zuffa has most of the top talent.”

    And thats being generous to non Zuffa orgs with the 155lb and hw divisions I would guess.

    I would agree that with your 90% first observation.

    I still think most sites hold the lw division overseas to high.

  • metalmulisha says:

    Rumor is Shields vs Mayhem Miller for the interim championship.

  • moosebaby02 says:

    Good article. A few things I have an issue with. Yes maybe Strikeforce is leaps and bounds ahead of where the UFC was at the same time but I do believe if not for the UFC that wouldn’t be possible at all. UFC broke the ground for all MMA organizations to be successful and they went though way more hard times in the beganing with less talent. The only match up I don’t like is Gegard Mousasi vs. Kevin Randleman. Randleman is a face the some people know but not enough for anyone to really take serious at least for the hardcore fans.
    And is just me or wasn’t that fight with Carano and Cyborg one sided? and I have to agree with not showing the pre-lims after a really entertaining card was shitty. I hope they can make some noise with what they got.
    I don’t remember when I said it but if Strikeforce and only Strikeforce call all the shots then can be successful.

  • edub says:

    “Rumor is Shields vs Mayhem Miller for the interim championship.”

    ??? Theyre giving Mayhem a shot before Jacare? ANy word of whos fighting Cyborg first?

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    It was just a joke Sergio (not a very funny one). I will concede it was after the bell and a little low.
    I was only talking UFC not Zuffa! by the way and out of those 5 divisions that the UFC has I would say it is about 70% top 10s and I would guess about 40% top 20s. That is largely due to WW and LHW where the UFC has about 8 WW and 9 out of 10 LHW in the top Tier. Still disagree about MW though I think 50/50 is closer and I’m not convinced about Kongo, Carwin or Valasquez (or Couture but that’s another story) in HW but I guess we’ll see. Just to clarify Carwin, Kongo and Valasquez have only really fought and won against 1 top 20 fighter, if i remember correctly let alone top 10 and it wasn’t exactly convincing in any of those encounters, so I think more time is needed before we talk top tier for those guys.

    Anyway at least another org is gathering a formidable group of fighters to compete with the UFC now that Pride is dead (RIP).
    I apologize for being a dick, never post angry I guess.

    P.S. Edub 90% is 45 out of the top 50 …Mousasi, Fedor, Filho, Diaz, Shields, Aoki, Hansen, JZ, Misaki, Jacare etc (it is already down to 80%) and surely you can’t dispute those names can you? if so I can name a few more.

  • mu_shin says:

    Rather than characterizing the UFC and Strikeforce as rival promotions intent on putting one another out of business, it may be more realistic to recognize that the market seems to be proving that there is room for both.

    As long as Strikeforce is not producing and promoting PPV events, there really is no direct financial competition for the UFC’s primary revenue stream, and as noted by my many posters here at 5 ozs., while Strikeforce has signed Fedor, they are primarily signing fighters who have either been released by the UFC or who have not fought at the elite level in their careers. They certainly have some top caliber fighters, but for the most part, Strikeforce seems to be emerging as a proving ground, or a minor league feeder program, providing more MMA entertainment for the fans, and opportunities for second tier and emerging fighters to gain experience and make some money, as well as a much higher level outlet for women’s MMA.

    Have to agree that the broadcast team for the Carano/Cyborg event was not quite up to par, but hopefully they will have an opportunity to learn and grow. Mousasi was a revelation, and the main event was compelling, entertaining, and hopefully a precursor to more high quality women’s matches. I’m not looking to Strikeforce to be the UFC. For me, if they put on entertaining quality matches, I’ll watch and enjoy them for what they are, and continue to do the same with UFC/WEC.

  • edub says:

    “P.S. Edub 90% is 45 out of the top 50 …Mousasi, Fedor, Filho, Diaz, Shields, Aoki, Hansen, JZ, Misaki, Jacare etc (it is already down to 80%) and surely you can’t dispute those names can you? if so I can name a few more.”

    Um yea i would pull Jacare, Filho, Hansen, JZ, and Misaki off that list. Haha sorry dude not even trying to pick an argument with you. I would actually put Kawajiri, Melendez, and Hirota ahead of them. Also i dont think your adding
    n bantam and feather to ur equation.

  • edub says:

    Here it is logic hw thru lw IMO:

    HW: 10. Arlovski, 9. Brett Rogers, 8.Cain Velasquez, 7. Shane Carwin, 6. Nogueira, 5. Couture, 4. Josh Barnett, 3. Frank Mir, 2. Brock Lesnar, 1. Fedor

    LHW: 10. Gegard Mousasi, 9. Rich Franklin, 8. Luiz Cane, 7. Thiago Silva, 6. Keith Jardine, 5. Shogun, 4. Forrest, 3. Rampage, 2. Rashad, 1. Lyoto

    MW: 10. Shields, 9. Lawler, 8. Akiyama, 7. Michael Bisping, 6. Jorge Santiago, 5. Demian Maia, 4. Nate Marquardt, 3. Yushin Okami. 2. Dan Henderson, 1. Anderson

    WW: 10. Dan Hardy, 9. Karo Pariysian, 8. Paulo Thiago, 7. Carlos Condit, 6. Martin Kampman, 5. Josh Koscheck, 4. Mike Swick, 3. Thiago Alves, 2. Jon Fitch, 1. GSP

    LW: 10. Tyson Griffin, 9. Sherk, 8. Kawajiri, 7. Frankie Edgar, 6. Gray Maynard, 5. Alvarez, 4. Diego Sanchez, 3. Ken flo, 2. Aoki, 1. BJ

  • edub says:

    so u were right with respect to lw thru hw. 78%

  • Jstew3785 says:

    edub, you have Michael Bisping instead of Belfort in your top 10 MW? Hmmmm…..

  • UFC has a stranglehold on WW and LHW and is pretty much smothering MW.

    LW and HW will always be a toss-up. I wholeheartedly believe that Aoki would lose by MURDERDEATHKILL against the upper tier of UFC LW talent (Penn, Sanchez, Sherk, Maynard, etc.).

    That kid has sick, sick, SICK jitsu but he has no stand-up and most guys in the UFC cut down to 155 and will be massive compared to Magic Pants.

  • edub says:

    “edub, you have Michael Bisping instead of Belfort in your top 10 MW? Hmmmm…..”

    Good point.

    Shields and Lawler are supposed to be switched too. I cant believe Belfort slipped my mind.

    Edited*
    MW: 10. Shields, 9. Akiyama, 8. Bisping, 7. Belfort, 6. Jorge Santiago, 5. Demian Maia, 4. Nate Marquardt, 3. Yushin Okami. 2. Dan Henderson, 1. Anderson

    That knocked out Lawler boo.

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