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Trading One Mistake For Another: Attempting to make sense of the Strikeforce championship dilemma

Alistair OvereemSaturday night’s “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers” event will correct one mistake while making another.

On one hand, Jakes Shields and Jason “Mayhem” Miller will square off for the long-undefended and recently vacated middleweight belt. On the other, light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi will face Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in a non-title bout.

I’m sure the decision to take Mousasi’s title off the table is in accordance with some bizarre Strikeforce internal logic; the same logic that allowed Cung Le to hold onto the middleweight crown for 18 months without once defending it; the same logic that continues to allow Alistair Overeem to rule the heavyweight division without stepping inside the cage. It’s been precisely 24 months since the Dutch kickboxer won the inaugural heavyweight strap, a period during which he’s been allowed to fight numerous times for other promotions: six MMA fights, three kickboxing fights and one bar fight, the latter resulting in a hand injury that forced two Strikeforce title bouts to be scrapped.

I don’t want to pile on Overeem too heavily. Injuries happen and his recent MMA outings in DREAM and Ultimate Glory mere merely busy work, a way to stay sharp and cash a couple of paychecks while awaiting the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix Final in December. I can’t blame him for trying to make a buck, particularly in these lean economic times.

Sure, he needs to return to Strikeforce and defend his title, something he recently promised to do in early 2010 with the intention of facing Fedor. But all along it should’ve been the promotion that made this happen by delivering an ultimatum – defend the belt or relinquish it. After all, fighters are employees. They either do their job or you fire them.

Of course, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has been reluctant to do that, as we saw with Cung Le. And it’s come with a serious pricetag. Not only are fans deprived of seeing big fights but the weight divisions involved are left on shaky ground. Where does a fighter stand in the rankings when the person against whom he is judged doesn’t fight?

So what’s a title worth that is created, captured and never defended? About as much as the blue ribbon in a chili cook-off. Team sports have playoffs that give the championship weight and significance. Individual sports like tennis and golf have multiple rounds leading to the title. Non-tournament-style fight cards have none of that. There’s an adage Randy Couture is fond of that applies to specifically to fighting – you’re not the champion until you defend the championship. That’s what gives the belt its heft, its importance. Overeem has yet to do that. Likewise Gegard Mousasi.

Which brings me back to wondering why Mousasi vs. Sokoudjou isn’t a title fight. Coker is just asking for a world of trouble. If Mousasi wins, it means little except to derail Sokoudjou’s title aspirations. If Sokoudjou wins not only will there be a need for a rematch in which the title is on the line, it will create an unnecessary controversy in which Sokoudjou will already be seen by many to be the light heavyweight champion until that rematch takes place. And what if the rematch is delayed by months, or even years, given Strikeforce’s track record? You think the judges’ decision in the Lyoto Machida vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua stirred up a hornets nest, imagine if Strikeforce suddenly finds itself with two perceived light heavyweight champions?

Yes, I know Scott Coker announced last week that he wants all of his champions to defend their titles twice a year – which means Overeem already owes us four title fights – but I’ll believe it when I see it.

After all, Coker could’ve stripped Overeem of his title to allow Fedor to vie for it his first time in the cage but he chose not to. I seem to recall Coker saying he wants to build up the anticipation as Fedor marches toward the championship, perhaps not considering that anticipation is already really high and there’s always the remote possibility that Fedor could stumble before he reaches a title bout. He could lose, he could become injured, he could decide to go off to Hollywood. Who knows, maybe The A-Team sequel will need a villain.

And while I’m on the subject, if the Saturday’s Strikeforce card is an M-1 Global co-promotion why isn’t the main event for Fedor’s WAMMA heavyweight belt?

23 COMMENTS
  • waitetr says:

    Exactly why the heck are they having Mousasi fight a non-title fight. It makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. Strike force will be in a very very bad spot if their champ loses but retains his belt.

  • edub says:

    I dont wanna hate on sf so ill just leave it at im looking forward to sll of the fights, although i think shields miller is gonna turn into a wet blanket display by shields. The different things i would have liked to see done…

    1. Instead of shields vs. mayhem for the mw title i would have had shields vs. Hieron for the ww title.
    2. Make Sokoudjou vs Mousasi for the lhw title. Dont see a good reason for it being non title. Open for debate to whoever thinks its a better idea.
    3. Fedor vs Rogers for SF title and burn wamma belt in ring after fight is over.

  • Makington says:

    I’ve also wondered a lot why it’s a non-title bout. Have they given any concrete reasoning? If so, I haven’t even heard of it. By all accounts I believe Gegard should take it, but it will be a messy situation if Ramieu wins.

    I can also see why Scott is so reluctant to strip his champs. He desperately needs every fighter he can get, and with little big name fighters he needs fighters like Overeem, Cung, Thomson, and Fedor even more.

    If he were to strip, say, Mousasi of his belt because he hadn’t defended it in a year or so, who does that leave left. Babalu, Sokoudjou, and Southworth basically. Not exactly an A-list stable of fighters. I believe he should strip Overeem of his belt, but I they really do need every big name they can get.

  • Makington says:

    LOL, good call edub with burning the WAMMA belt. It basically has no purpose anymore, if it really ever did have a big one.

  • HonorableAggression says:

    edub: Fedor vs Rogers for SF title and burn wamma belt in ring after fight is over.

    Totally agree, lol.
    I personally am excited to see mayhem and shields, as long as its not a wet blanket display like edub said.
    As far as the Mousasi thing, I’m really just scratching my head on that one. The only mistake SF is making now IMHO is not setting a standard for reliable title fights, and they’re missing a big opportunity here, and making fans wonder if more title shenanigans are in store.

  • waitetr says:

    HonorableAggression:
    The only mistake SF is making now IMHO is not setting a standard for reliable title fights, and they’re missing a big opportunity here, and making fans wonder if more title shenanigans are in store.

    Exactly. If they have champs that don’t defend their titles because they are busy fighting elsewhere (Overeem) or fight but don’t have the title on the line (Mousasi) it makes the titles worthless. It also makes SF fights look more like a scripted wrestling match rather than a legitimate MMA fight.

  • Vogairian says:

    Agree with this article 100%. This is one of the reasons I haven’t gotten aboard the Strikeforce train. For every good move they make, I feel like they make a few poor choices.

    When it comes to the HW title Fedor v. Rogers should clearly be for the title. You have the best HW in the world vs. your most known and probably most popular HW. How can this not be for the strap? It blows my mind that Overeem is allowed to keep the belt when he clearly has no interest in fighting over here.

    When it comes to the LHW fight, I’m just not even interested in this fight in the least bit. Soko has no business being in the ring with any org’s champion. That aside I also don’t understand the logic behing the fight not being a title fight. I commented forever ago that this is just a senseless fight for either fighter. For Mousasi, it looks like they’re trying to protect him and he loses credibility in my opinion. For Soko, If he wins he’ll likely have to fight Mousasi again and do we really like his chances to beat him more than once?

  • jding3 says:

    There is really no good that can come out of this situation. If Gegard wins, you can’t count it as a title defense, which makes him a stronger champ. And if Mousasi loses, it puts Strikeforce in a sketchy spot.

    I hope this decision doesn’t come back to haunt Strikeforce

  • Makington says:

    I’m basically going to count it in my mind as a title bout, the way it should be. If Mousasi wins, I’m going to count it as a title defense. If he loses, I’ll take it as Sokoudjou being the rightful SF champ.

    Same thing with Anderson SIlva. I count him having an extra title defense on his record, since it wasn’t his fault Lutter was a fat ass and couldn’t make 185 for his once in a lifetime opportunity.

    I realize my way of looking at these things counts literally only to me, but that’s the way I see it. In my head, Mousasi might (probably not) be the champ anymore come Saturday.

  • Makington says:

    Hmm, not one thumbs down on any reply in this entire article. Looks like we all unanimously agree that it’s a foolish move.

    Course I just jinxed it, and I’ll likely get 65 thumbs down on this, but alas, such is the internet.

  • David Andrest says:

    LOL you made me do it

    good article, great points.

  • BigDave says:

    doesn’t this whole situation of champions not defending there title remind anyone but me of hulk hogan in the hayday of wwf holding the championship for a couple years but never fighting until wrestlemania to defend it.

    This is the one reason as far as it pertains to overeem where UFC’s stance on allowing fighters to fight for other organizations has worked for the better. If a champ is injured then fine but with allowing a guy that has one of your belts go on fighting in other companies for 2 full years with so far no showing that he ever plans on fighting for you again is just bad buisness. I think Coker needs to give Overeem a time limit, tell him he has to defend his title by no later then feb 1st or he is stripped and fired from the company.

  • xtreme_machine says:

    “maybe The A-Team sequel will need a villain”

    funny

    i think that Rampage will eventually coma back and we will see him against Rua, Machida, Rashad or Silva

  • hindsightufuk says:

    stupid thing is, after this fight, who’s left for Gegard at LHW? i cant think of anyone who would be an opponent let alone a worthy title contender

  • MMApride19 says:

    You know… it never crossed my mind about the Mousassi vs Sokoudjou fight not being a title fight. Im from UK and strikeforce have little to no exposure here. So i sometimes miss out on a few things lol. But wow.. not a title fight? Thats madness. I honestly thought it was haha.

    What is strikeforce playing at? If they want to even slightly compete with UFC, forget the profitability, they need to have something that motivates fighters to fight for them, which in turn will bring even more exciting fights. Because at the moment, the majority of MMA fighters are aiming for the eventuality of being in the UFC. Strikeforce need more fighters that want to compete for them, in order to be crowned as the Champion, but atm being the Strikeforce champion doesnt carry alot of significance (well certainly not in my eyes, as they never seem to have epic title bouts where the champions defend the titles, it just seems far to easy to be a champion, like any fighter could do it!!!). On the other hand, being the UFC champ is MASSIVE, and will make that fighter a huge amount of money, and gives them lots of exposure to the media, which then means huge profits from not JUST there fight wage or bonuses, but from sponserships and interviews, and promotional events. This gives new up and comers in the UFC alot of motivation to train and fight in order to try and get to that top spot.

    What motivates most fighters? The eventuality of getting a title shot. At the end, every great fighter wants to be the champion – recognised as the best. If Strikeforce is taking the role of the ‘title holder’ so lightly by not having champions do the job and defend it… its making out as if the title is of no importance. A fighter gets the title… thats it. What do the other fighters have to fight for, other than a small paycheck? They train… fight… train.. fight… with an end result. They are training to be the champion, so they all deserve a chance of attempting to get the title. I honestly think it is that important for champions to defend regularly. It brings abit of structure to the table aswell… makes for more exciting events IMO aswell, if the fight is for a title. Brings far more importance to an event. If a fighter has proved themselves, they deserve to get a shot at fulfilling there dream. They should have to wait until the ‘champion’ is ready to fight. That is one thing i like about the fact that the UFC lock there fighters in. So they cant fight anywhere else. Yes, the fighter has a say, but the UFC pretty much force them to defend the title. Against the next best contender. So they are always giving fighters a chance. (Well not always in some cases, but in MOST cases!!!).

    I know its all logical stuff, but it cant be that easy… according to Scott Coker lol. Because he isnt making anything happen. Cung Le situation was an absolute joke, YEARS after, they finally decided that enough was enough. But even then it wasnt Strikeforce that decided, it was Cung Le wasnt it? Overeem situation is really starting to take the piss now. However, the K1 Grand Prix final is very important to him. And he should be defending early next year. But i think his title should have been vacated AGES ago.

    All in all, there has been much talk about the title shot situation with strikeforce for a while. But this article has done a great job of highlighting it. And has done a great job of highlighting the fact that it seems that Strikeforce still hasnt seemed to have learnt to take control. Either make your fighters defend… or force them to vacate. Strikeforce need to stricten up there contract rules. Because the championship dilemma is really starting to look like a joke.

  • fraz says:

    I can’t believe that the writer used the pathetic cliche “particularly in these lean economic times” to defend Overeem’s douchebaggery.

  • Makington says:

    He didn’t have the balls to call out these simple facts:
    1. There are little to no drug tests done in Japan.
    2. Likewise, there are strict drug testing policies over here.
    3. He has added a massive amount to his frame. What can be considered a very questionable amount.
    4. He is well enough to fight over in Japan, but not well enough to fight in America, which is drug enforced?
    I’m not saying he is a juicer, but those are some pretty powerful facts against him. But, oh wait, it’s just the tough economical times why he is fighting nowhere near American soil. That’s why I always make it a point to compliment Cory when he does a piece that calls out a fighter. He’s one of a few that stands up for the fans.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    They should give Randy couture all the belts in Strikeforce just like the UFC gave him belts in their organization. Maybe they should give a guy after coming off 2 losses at HW drop to LHW fight for ashot at an interim title straight away, then fight for the real title next and win it , then lose it, then have an automatic rematch and win it, then lose it, then have another automatic rematch only to lose again, then win against a nobody and retire, then come out of retirement and get get an automatic title shot at HW a weight in which he has lost his last 2 fights in and also lost 3 out of his last 5 at the weight below. WTF! Belts don’t mean much if anything.

  • edub says:

    How in the world did you go from strikeforce to shitting on randy couture. Like really how did that just happen.

  • MMApride19 says:

    Makington: He didn’t have the balls to call out these simple facts:
    1. There are little to no drug tests done in Japan.
    2. Likewise, there are strict drug testing policies over here.
    3. He has added a massive amount to his frame. What can be considered a very questionable amount.
    4. He is well enough to fight over in Japan, but not well enough to fight in America, which is drug enforced?
    I’m not saying he is a juicer, but those are some pretty powerful facts against him. But, oh wait, it’s just the tough economical times why he is fighting nowhere near American soil. That’s why I always make it a point to compliment Cory when he does a piece that calls out a fighter. He’s one of a few that stands up for the fans.

    You make some very good points there. Just looking at Overeem and comparing him to how he used to look brings question marks. And suspicions arise. I dont really like accusatons against fighters, however.. the point you make about him being more than well enough to fight in Japan and not USA… hmm it does make you suspicious. But then you could make he argument, maybe K1 Grand Prix was far more important to him?

    I just cant believe how big he has looked recently. Like, he looked MASSIVE against Bonjasky when he recently fought him. It seems to be an aweful lot of weight to have put on in a short time. I have never really seen it happen like that in MMA before. I mean he fought at LHW (205lbs), and he was a big LHW. How often do fighters actually want to put weight on in order to move up to HW, especially when losing quite a few fights at LHW? Its rare to say the least, most fighters would want to move down. He lost against some very tough fighters, noteably Shogun and Lil Nog. And then shortly after moves upto HW. Has a HUGE growth in size over 2 – 3 years time, after one loss he then dominates at HW and carrys a noteworthy winning streak. And hasnt fought in the USA since. It makes you slightly suspicious.

    Ahwell.. if he doesnt fight early next year for Strikeforce.. Coker really needs to come down hard on the guy. And give him an ultimatum, fight… or give the belt up, and let Fedor and Werdum fight for it. (After Fedor beats Rogers obviously :D)

  • Makington says:

    I know MMApride, like he was always a ripped guy, but when you see him now he is like 3 feet thicker. I also don’t like calling fighters out on stuff like that but it seems like he’s either been on some serious steroids, or else he’s got the world’s biggest secret.

  • edub says:

    To mmapride and Makington:

    Alistair was a lways a gigantic lhw. When he had to cut down to 200(remember pride not ufc) I remember hearing horror stories of him cutting 20-25 lbs to make the weight. In his fights against Buentello and Kharitonov I honestly believe he wasnt juicing. Sure he was ripped as hell be he only weighd in to these fights at 235-240.

    When he started fighting in dream he began to grow. If you look at him compared to anyone in his last couple fights he is just a giant. He even looked bigger than James Thompson when he fought him. His jaw has grown. His back has been litterd with pock marks on certain occasions and as makington said he is about 3 feet thicker. Maybe he just cut back on cardio all together just powerlifts for his training regiment. I just think he juices and has been doing so for over a year now.

  • TerribleT says:

    Champions fighting in non-title bouts ? I hope like hell this isn’t a sign of the things to come in Strikeforce’s future. PRIDE was always doing this too.The only time a champion should be fighting without his belt on the line is in a catchweight bout or if his opponent fails to make weight for a championship fight.Other than that it’s ridiculous!!!!!!

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