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Mike Reilly: Building The Foundation; Strikeforce 2009

Mike ReillyEditors Note: Mike Reilly is the owner and head instructor of Ambition MMA, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ambition MMA is home to many of the Twin Cities’ top fighters, including Brett Rogers and Kelly Kobold. Reilly has agreed to join as an occasional contributor in order to provide our readers with an inside perspective of a respected MMA trainer.

Two years ago Strikeforce was the best regional show in the world. I believe it can now be argued that the “regional” qualifier be dropped.

In front of a knowledgeable and frenzied San Jose crowd, Strikeforce put on another fantsastic show to close out the year with “Strikeforce: Evolution“, and really, the entire l last half of 2009 Strikeforce has put on one amazing show after another. They have shattered the women’s MMA barrier, created their own superstars, loaded their rosters with talent and gained the push of broadcasting titans Showtime and CBS. Furthermore, they have formed partnerships in Europe and Japan. But most of all they have delivered exciting cards on a consistent basis. Show after show Strikeforce has been bringing fans amazing match-ups, great presentation and excellent commentary. The Company pushes the fighters front and center and lets them shine.

Lets look back on the year, shall we…

  • April 11 Strikeforce in San Jose; first fight on Showtime. All five bouts on the main card get out of the first round and all end in knockouts. On this night, Benji Radach and Scott Smith put on the what was possibly the fight of the year and arguably one of the top fights of all time. We see the emergence of Nick Diaz as a dominant force as he chops down “The Legend”, Frank Shamrock.
  • Seven weeks later in St. Louis, Strikeforce sells out in a new town. The stacked card delivers big time as a re-born Joe Riggs wins a war with Phil Baroni, Brett Rogers shocks the world with his lightning fast destruction of Andrei Arlovski, and Jake Shields leaves no doubt that he is one of the very best.
  • On August 15 Strikeforce braves what no one else would have dared; they made a women’s fight the main event on a major card. They placed the show on the shoulder of two women and Cris Cyborg along with Gina Carano carried it off. That same card introduced America to Gegard Mousasi, a young man who is currently on a fourteen fight win streak and may well be the best light heavyweight in the world.
  • Then Strikeforce pulls off the coup of the year and signs Fedor. On November 11 they hit the windy city with a show seen by some seven million people on network television. Fans are treated to an amazing show, complete with close hard hitting fights complete with compelling stories.
  • Finally they cap the year with an early Christmas present for all MMA fans. On December 19 Strikeforce puts two of their new home grown stars center stage as King Mo and Jacare wow fight fans, each knocking off well established veterans. Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson‘s long awaited title fight proves worth the wait as they battle five full rounds of non-stop action. And then Cung Le puts on a show for his fans that was poetry in motion until Scott Smith stole the whole damn show. Who can really say enough about Smith. Le joins ranks with Pete Sell and Benji Radach as guys who have beat the living hell out of Smith only to wake up to arena lights. When Scott Smith dies they had better bury that boy deep because six feet won’t be enough.

Strikeforce has proven up to the challenge of being a major league; a world leader in the fastest growing sport. They have done so with confidence and humility. I predict 2010 will be the year of Strikeforce, and it should be great for everyone. Even the other big dog in the room will benefit as steel sharpens steel. But for fans who love MMA, your year is set. The early part of the year is sure to see Strikeforce newcomers like Bobby Lashely, Herschel Walker, and of course Dan Henderson in the Strikeforce Cage. Plus Strikeforce’s challenger series continues to pump out new stars. Make sure you get Showtime, a video game console that plays EA Sports, and prepare yourself for the best year the sport has ever seen.

  • felrod says:

    Thank you for the Strikeforce infomercial, you are correct, we can cease from referring to them as a “regional” promotion.

  • onebaldegg says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Mike. Last year, people were talking about EliteXC and Affliction. They failed to build their own stars and crumbled. If you take a look at what SF has done this year, as far as show quality, talent signings, and free stacked cards, it is hard to see anything but success. A year ago, not many of the casual MMA fans had a clue as to who was a SF champion, the internet and forums are buzzing about them! Examples are: Henderson going after Shields, Allister not defending his belt, when Fedor will claim the belt, Diaz vs a Dream Champion! This promotion is the real deal and I suspect will only continue to grow now that established fighters (Fedor and Henderson) as well as the new young talents (Lashley, King Mo, Mousasi) are choosing Strikeforce over UFC.

  • Scott H. says:

    A very articulate article, highlighting some of Strikeforces bright spots in 2009.

    I can’t help being sceptical though. Scott Croker is known and respected, but he’s experienced in running an event based, gate driven promotion. How will he fare in 2010 with high expectation’s from CBS & Showtime, as well as the Fan’s. More fighters, under larger contracts, in more events, across the US. I wish Strikeforce well, but I think the challenges they will be facing in 2010 will put them to the test. Here’s hoping they can continue with the momentium they have.

  • edub says:

    Very interested to see fights in the new year from SF. They can really go crazy with a lot of fighters if they want.

    Hendo vs. Diaz- I know this probably won’t happen, but I really wish it would. Shields is much better suited for 170 and has a horrible style to match up with Hendo. Diaz on the other hand has the range to keep Hendo at bay, and since Hendo’s takedowns are clinch based he would have to eat some jabs on the way in.

    Arlovski vs. Rogers 2- I know Arlovski still isnt technically in SF but I really dont expect him to end up anywhere else. We’d also get to see if the first win was luck or if Brett just has Andre’s number.

    Shields vs. Hieron for ww belt- With all due respect to Zaromskis this is a matchup of the two best ww’s not fighting in the UFC. I have been really looking forward to this fight for a while and this is a year where it could actually happen.

    Kelly Kobold vs. Kerry Vera- Would be a great matchup at 135. Both like to stand with Kerry being more refined IMO. Kelly might have the edge on the ground. It would allow them to compete with girls more their size and not have to deal with big girls like Gina, Erin, and Cyborg.

    Tim Kennedy vs. Scott Smith- Rematches are always great. Both have evolved with Tim being a little better now IMHO. Both like to stand. Would be a slobberknocker(Thank you Jim Ross).

    Shields vs. Jacare- If Shields stays at 185 I would absolutely love to see this.People would point to Jacare’s size advantage and his sub prowess as to say Jake would have no shot, but this is mma not a grappling match. Jake has also bested great jj players before that are bigger than him(Magalhaes).

    Fedor vs. Alistair- As long as Ubereem can make it past the test than he is a real threat to any HW in the world. Including the GOAT.

    King Mo vs. Mousasi- Yea yea I know he’s only had 5 fights, but I believe within a year King Mo will be ready. The guy takes to striking so naturally that in three hundred days he’ll probably be a monster. Mousasi is ever improving also. This would be an amazing scrap.

    King Mo vs. Sokoudjou- This is the next logical step for MO. Put him in with a striker that is better than him right now and has the TD defense to keep him at bay.

    Mousasi vs. Hendo- This is the fight I wish they would put Hendo in first. It would probably be the only legitimate opponent for Mousasi and it would have me on the edge of my seat.

  • doowm says:

    felrod: Thank you for the Strikeforce infomercial, you are correct, we can cease from referring to them as a “regional” promotion.

    I AGREE ^^^ yea, we get it! strikeforce is a contender, they’re on cbs AND SHOWTIME, THEY’RE NO LONGER A REGIONAL PROMOTION…..yadda, yadda, yadda! WAT A SUPRISE a trainer who trains strikeforce fighters is riding the stikeforce band wagon. lmao.

  • Nick Havok says:

    Awesome write-up, Mike! I felt like Diego Sanchez reading it because I kept mentally yelling ‘YES!’ to myself in agreeance as I read through it.

    I have been saying it as well, to anyone who will listen, that Strikeforce puts on EXCITING cards time in and time out. I can’t remeber a single event since ‘Strikeforce at the Dome’ that didn’t produce a fight that at one point didn’t have me up out of my seat cheering.

    Strikeforce just has explosive, fun fighters signed…guys who go for it, and in turn, Strikeforce puts on very entertaining fights and events.

    I love it. I look more forward to Strikeforce shows than I do any other promotion now. Because as far as MMA action, they never let me down. :)

  • Rece Rock says:

    Maybe this guy can be on the mic for SF… i can’t take Stephen Quadros and his antics.


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