Archive for the Strikeforce Category

STRIKEFORCE: OVEREEM VS. WERDUM Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by jaytan716

What a difference a few months makes, huh?

Four months ago, the second-biggest MMA promotion in America, Strikeforce, was still struggling to make their mark on America’s radar. After several attempts to import successful Japanese promoting tactics (the occasional freak show match, talent trades with DREAM, etc.), they set 2011 off with a bang – the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament.

The eight participants (Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem, Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, and Sergei Kharitonov) and subsequent opening round were celebrated by fans and MMA media alike. The WHGP looked to be the closest thing to a legit heavyweight tournament since the PRIDE Fighting Championships 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, which featured Barnett, Overeem, Werdum (in their first match, ironically enough), Fedor Emelianenko, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among others.

Jump ahead to this month and, to say the least, things have changed. Unfortunately, issues of finding a state where Josh Barnett could get licensed (due to being denied a California license in 2009 after testing positive for steroids) delayed the second bracket of opening round matches, not to mention ‘The Sale,’ which could easily have ended up as the death knell to this tournament going forward.

The current Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament brackets

Thankfully, this tournament is still ‘business as usual,’ as UFC President Dana White promised when Zuffa bought Strikeforce in March. That phrase became something of an ironic punchline when Strikeforce staff was let go shortly after the purchase, as well as announcing Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz for UFC 135. Notwithstanding whatever contractual obligations Zuffa is forced to fulfill to Showtime, its wholly possible that Strikeforce’s heavyweights could have been absorbed into the UFC and the tournament scrapped altogether.

Unfortunately, the tournament does have a lame-duck feel to it in light of recent developments, but if nothing else, hopefully we’ll get to see some exciting heavyweight action.

Here’s a breakdown on this weekend’s card, including the second bracket of opening round matches of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix:

170 lbs. – Nah-Shon Burrell x Joe Ray:  Burrell and Ray’s records are identical (5-1), though Burrell clearly is the striker, with all of his wins coming by TKO / KO. Ray reportedly trains with American Top Team, and splits his wins 3-2 striking finishes to submissions. Ray’s competition has been stiffer, including a third-round KO over 27-13 Chad Reiner.

Prediction: Ray via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Todd Moore x Mike Bronzoulis: Expect fireworks in this match, as both fighters come in very evenly matched in record. Moore fought in WEC and DREAM, though he didn’t fare well. His last match was a second-round TKO win in November 2010. Moore will be giving up size here, as someone who appears to alter between lightweights and heavyweights, whereas Bronzoulis stands 6’0”. Both men have eight TKO / KO victories to their record, so conventional wisdom would dictate this plays out as a striking match.

Prediction:  Bronzoulis via TKO (round three)

155 lbs. – Brian Melancon x Isaac Vallie-Flag: Bit of an experience difference here, with Melancon sporting a 5-1 record while Vallie-Flag stands at 11-3-1, with fights going as far back as 2003. Even more impressive is that Vallie-Flag, now training at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, has fought 2-3 times since 2006. If experience is on Vallie-Flag’s side, youth could be on Melancon’s, however, as his recent wins were over fighters with up sided records similar to Vallie-Flag’s.

Prediction: Vallie-Flag via submission (round two or three) or decision

155 lbs. – Conor ‘The Hurricane’ Heun x Magno Almeida:  The storyline here is Heun, a grappling talent with high expectations who’s suffered injuries and inactivity in the past two years, against Almeida, a young prospect on a five-match submission win streak, four of which in the first round, dating back to 2008. Heun hit the restart button on his training earlier this year at Jackson’s MMA, and reportedly has been training hard with that team’s usual suspects. His two losses, against KJ Noons in 2010 and Jorge Gurgel in 2009, were incredibly close decisions which I thought he win. This is a gut-check match for the former collegiate wrestler and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu brown belt. As for Almeida, this marks his ‘big show’ debut, though he has finishes against decent competition in Brazil and California. I’d expect Almeida to stick to his bread-and-butter and try to take this match to the ground. Heun should keep this match standing, as he has against stiffer competition. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction:  Heun via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Gesias ‘J.Z.’ Cavalcante x Justin ‘The Silverback’ Wilcox: Wilcox is an AKA (San Jose) fighter riding a six-fight win streak. Those wins are mostly decisions on Strikeforce Challengers shows or the untelevised portion of major Strikeforce events.  After an eight-match win streak from 2005-2007, Cavalcante is in fact 1-3-1 since 2008. That said, his losses were decisions to Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Josh Thompson, respectively. Handing Wilcox his first defeat would put Cavalcante back on people’s radar, though Wilcox, as a former body builder and D-1 wrestler, has the strength and pedigree to hold his own grappling with JZ. I expect that to play a major factor in what happens in the cage here. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction: Wilcox via split decision

265 lbs. – Valentijn Overeem x Chad Griggs: This is one of two ‘alternates matches’ to the tournament. Make no doubt, Griggs is dangerous. He summarily dismissed Gian Villante, a rising heavyweight that Xtreme Couture had prepped and built. He also ran Bobby Lashley to the point of exhaustion by round two when they squared off last August in Houston. Overeem’s experience in comparison is on another level, with over 50 MMA fights alone. This elder Overeem (by four years) may have too much jiu-jitsu for Griggs, and though Griggs can take a punch, the guys he’s faced in the past aren’t of Overeem’s striking pedigree. If Griggs can execute a strategy of fighting from the clinch, where Overeem can’t throw long power shots, but also avoid Overeem taking the bout to the ground, that may be a viable strategy. Otherwise, I expect Overeem to be one of the two alternates to this (hopefully) continued tournament.

Prediction: Overeem via TKO or submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Daniel Cormier x Jeff ‘The Snowman’ Monson: This is the tournament’s other alternates match. Monson replaces Shane Del Rosario, who withdraw from the match after being hit by a drunk driver. Cormier is a former NCAA Division 1 runner-up and All-American, with a plethora of gold medals in international wrestling tournaments from 2001-2007. Monson is a noted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and one of the top heavyweight grapplers in the world, having ranked and won numerous tournaments during those same years. To that end, Monson as a close grappling equal, is a more dangerous challenge for Cormier, who rides a 7-0 undefeated streak. Monson is a seasoned 42-11, and has already fought three times this year. In fact, he has a match in France scheduled three weeks before this event. If this goes to the ground, it could be a very interesting scrap, as Cormier might have the grappling to stay on par with Monson. Standing, Cormier could have the advantage.

Prediction: Monson via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – KJ Noons x Jorge Masvidal: The 10-3 (in MMA) K.J. Noons faces Masvidal’s veteran record of 21-6 in Masvidal, a Miami-based former street-fighter. Noons comes off a five-round war with Nick Diaz from last year, while Masvidal rides of a decision win over Billy Evangelista from March. Standing, Noons should be able to pick Masvidal apart, who hasn’t lost by strikes since 2008 (including going the distance with Paul Daley). Masvidal is associated with American Top Team in Florida, so I’d expect him to be polishing his jiu Jitsu for this fight.

Prediction: Noons via unanimous decision or TKO (round two or three)

 265 lbs. – Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers: One of the two opening round tournament matches in bracket #2. Rogers returns to Strikeforce after a quick parlay to beat Ruben Villareal (who’s known for a hard chin) via unanimous decision. After 10 consecutive TKO / KO victories, Rogers got a taste of his own TKO medicine from Fedor Emelianenko and Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem. Like Andrei Arlovski, this tournament is an opportunity to see if Rogers got his mojo back. Conventional wisdom sees Barnett taking Rogers down and threatening submissions. That may require taking some speed knots from the heavy-handed Rogers, but Barnett should still have his chin. Villareal doesn’t have Barnett’s ground game, so if Rogers’ previous match is any indication of his KO power, hopefully ‘The Grim’ is working on his grappling.

Here’s a nice little “empty arena” match, but also an example of how EVERY pro wrestler, MMA  fighter, and quite frankly, the entire democratic party, should package what they’re selling:

Prediction: Barnett via unanimous decision

265 lbs. – Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum:  This tournament opening-round match has all the makings: a reigning champion enters the tournament, revenge against his opponent over a loss in a previous tournament (PRIDE Total Elimination Absolute in 2006), that opponent dethroning the People’s Champ (Fedor), anxious to prove it wasn’t a fluke win. Overeem is on a roll right now, finishing his last six opponents (nine if you don’t include the no-contest with Mirko Cro Cop. In MMA, he hasn’t recently faced competition the likes of Werdum, though any question about his hand  and legs should view the K-1 World Grand Prix from December, where Overeem finished Gokhan Saki and Pete Aerts in one night (after winning a unanimous decision quarter final match). As “The Man Who Beat Fedor,” Werdum rides high on that accolade, though his career be hot and cold as well. He won his last three, but was TKO’ed prior to that by Junior dos Santos. Before that, he finished Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga. And prior to that, he dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski. In their 2006 PRIDE match, Werdum submitted (a smaller, albeit only slightly) Overeem in round two. Will history repeat itself?

Prediction: Overeem via KO (round one)

The Finish

There’s two interesting parts to this weekend’s show. One of course is the question of who advances in the tournament and how do the subsequent matches pair up. The other, which is part of the bigger picture, is what the matches say about these eight fighters’ place and relevance in the UFC.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen four of the UFC’s top heavyweights (Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos, Shane Carwin) compete in matches important enough to have title shot ramifications. And although one match was given Fight of the Night honors while the other one was booed by fans, both were one-sided decisions that left the UFC title picture flatter than expected.  Conversely, only one of the four matches of the first bracket in the WGPH, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, went past the first round. In that match, Fedor’s stamina and resolve to surviving punishment was quite similar to Carwin’s.

All of these heavyweights are competitive enough to compete in the UFC, and given the speed at which Strikeforce fighters are being absorbed into the octagon, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the winner of this tournament challenging the winner of Cain Velasquez x Junior Dos Santos in early 2012. That injection of new competition will certainly be a shot in the arm for that weight class. In the meantime, expect more fireworks from Saturday’s behemoths, serving as a reminder of why people were excited for this tournament to begin with.

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STRIKEFORCE: DIAZ VS. DALEY Recap & Results

Posted in Results & Recap, Strikeforce on April 10, 2011 by jaytan716

I’m not sure what’s the sadder aspect to the Strikeforce sale – that one company now dominates 90% of the worldwide MMA market, or that it’s most qualified competitor, after years of toiling for casual fans’ respect on its own terms, is now hitting its stride and receiving the attention it’s deserved all this time.

On Saturday, April 9th, the group I’m still considering Coker & Company debuted in San Diego with a lineup of celebrated and respected international competition going against three homegrown Strikeforce stars, including title defenses by Nick Diaz and Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez, and a qualified last-minute replacement in ‘The Dean of Mean,’ Keith Jardine.

What I feared would play in disappointment produced three spectacular first-round finishes and a sloppy but compelling and controversial draw that sets the stage for a storyline rematch. Diaz, defending his Strikeforce welterweight (170 lbs.) title against Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley, triggered more anticipation and debate than any other recent Strikeforce main event. Many believed that Daley, an undeniably dangerous striker, had the speed, power, and striking accuracy to vanquish Diaz, who has become a company star over the last two years by walking to the anti-hero beat of his own drummer. The end result was one of the most exciting rounds I’ve seen all year, with the outspoken and unapologetic British kickboxer dropping the champ several times and threatening him more than any other of Diaz’s    title challenges.

The card was also highlighted by a lightweight title defense by Gilbert Melendez and the U.S. return of DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. Both fighters renewed their awareness level among fans with dominant first-round finishes. Aoki seemed to have his old emotional charm back, in tears after his victory due apparently to the recent birth of his son, who he wasn’t able to see due to training for this fight. Melendez dispatched of Aoki’s DREAM colleague (and former opponent) Tetsuya Kawajiri handily, throwing punches and elbows for the TKO win. ‘El Nino’ is one of Strikeforce’s few homegrown stars, and as the merger between the UFC and Strikeforce continues over the coming months / years, he’ll be someone the larger casual audience will embrace the most.

Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi fighting Keith Jardine was another illustration of the controversy behind takedowns and the current scoring system. Jardine wrestled Mousasi to the ground several times in the first and second rounds, which is the only argument for giving the Jardine those rounds. However, the Dean of Mean didn’t advance position or threaten with finishing in any of those situations. What’s more, Mousasi didn’t even look worried at any point, appearing somewhat bored before shrimping out and getting back to his feet seconds later.

This points to judges’ overvalue of takedowns in a match where the most damage was done in the stand-up game. In many peoples’ eyes, including a majority of judges, takedowns are a fundamental benchmark in MMA, almost the grappler’s equivalent of a striker’s knockdown. Both are easy and empirical to identify and account for. However, what really matters in a fight is the follow up, and how effective those benchmarks are in allowing a fighter to advance or finish.

One school of thought is that takedowns and knockdowns, even if ultimately ineffectual in a fight, can be the tie-breaker for a round that is otherwise close to even (in terms of damage and landing, I thought Mousasi was clearly ahead). The other school of thought is that takedowns should require more control of the opponent or position advancing before it really affects the score (this is less of a controversy with knockdowns, perhaps as the visual act of a knockdown looks more commanding and damaging than any given takedown).

I tend to lean towards the latter belief, that not all takedowns should be equal. Of course, even then, the degree to which a fighter needs to control or advance position is always going to be subjective between judges as well.

I gave each round to Mousasi 10-9, and a 30-27 win in the end. Jardine scored multiple takedowns in the first and second, which likely held weight in the judges’ eyes, but I didn’t think he did enough with them relative to Mousasi’s stand-up dominance during the rest of those rounds.

Mousasi was also docked a point in round one due to an upkick to the head while Jardine was on his knees in Mousasi’s guard. Whether it was intentional or accidental is up for debate – Mousasi likely didn’t mean to throw the kick, but it looked like he had a clear view of Jardine being on his knees. Jardine seemed to recover without too much difficulty, and it being a first offense, issuing a warning wouldn’t be unreasonable. But referee Mike Beltran deducted the point, which resulted in a 9-9 first round, by my score. Even given that, I saw Mousasi winning 29-27.

The other three televised matches ended in first-round finishes, resulting in a show budgeted for 2 ½ to three hours ending almost an hour early. Keep in mind Showtime controls the production and running time of Strikeforce shows, which presumably will be the case for as long as Strikeforce broadcasts on the channel. I question whether this is something that is going to be rectified anytime soon under the Zuffa regime.

In a dichotomy of target audiences, extra time was filled with episodes of Inside NASCAR and Nurse Jackie.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley:

155 lbs. – Shinya Aoki x Lyle ‘Fancy Pants’ Beerbohm:
Prediction: Beerbohm via TKO (round three)
Result: Aoki via submissioin (round one)

205 lbs. – Gegard Mousasi x Keith Jardine:
Prediction: Jardine via TKO (round two or three)
Result: Technical / Majority Draw (29-27 Mousasi, 28-28, 28-28)

155 lbs. Strikeforce Lightweight Title – Gilbert Melendez x Tatsuya Kawajiri:
Prediction: Melendez via submission (round two) or unanimous decision
Result: Melendez via TKO (round one)

170 lbs. Strikeforce Welterweight Title – Nick Diaz x Paul Daley:
Prediction: Diaz by submission (round two or three)
Result: Diaz by TKO (round one)

The Finish
If my tone and perspective on Strikeforce’s recent string of excellent shows sounds backhanded and glass-half-empty, the quality of this show should be reiterated.

Tonight, the only drawback to Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley was that we didn’t get more. The matches were imaginative and felt like they had a larger relevancy – of Strikeforce taking on the world. And certainly all of them were exciting to watch and difficult to predict.

For years, I’ve seen MMA promotions come and go, all trying so hard, too hard, to figure out their own identity while simultaneously trying to replicate for themselves the lightning-in-a-bottle luck that Dana White and the Fertittas had in building the UFC.  Tonight’s event is the ‘MMA alternate choice’ that promoters have wanted to discover. Of course, its not something that you create instantly overnight, so it’s a relief that MMA and ‘the other big group’ finally got to this point. Hopefully we’ll get it for a little while longer.

Putting the larger picture aside for a moment, Strikeforce fans can look forward to finally resuming the heavyweight WGP tournament. Perhaps people will point to the four-man heavyweight tournament from three years ago that the UFC produced, which resulted in Brock Lesnar winning the UFC heavyweight championship, but again, the Strikeforce product has an international element that gives it a more universal tone. If the first leg of that tournament and tonight’s show is any indicator of things to come in the rest of 2011, casual fans just learning about Strikeforce now are going to catch the promotion at the peak of their game. And not a second too soon.

In the meantime, we’ll all have to settle for this Canadian show I keep hearing about at the end of the month. Who knows? It might actually be good too.

STRIKEFORCE: DIAZ VS. DALEY Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce on April 9, 2011 by jaytan716

Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley

No matter what Dana White or any Zuffa-Strikeforce-Showtime executives say, its difficult-to-impossible to avoid looking at future Strikeforce events as lame-duck ceremonies. This is the first major Strikeforce event after the announcement that the UFC’s parent company has bought the Scott Coker-created fight promotion, the last viable competition to the UFC.

Setting that aside, Diaz vs. Daley has its own interesting identity. Whether intentional or by coincidence, the top matches here have a certain Strikeforce vs. The World theme to them, with almost all the televised matches showcasing a Strikeforce star against a foreign competitor who’s made his name in an organization other than this.

Due to the limited time between this piece and showtime (the proverbial one, not the channel), here’s a quick rundown of the televised matches on Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley.

155 lbs. – Shinya Aoki x Lyle ‘Fancy Pants’ Beerbohm: Aoki is the eccentric jiu-jitsu wiz from Japan whose big claim to fame, besides a very powerful family backstory and some impressive submission wins, are the loud, bright-colored tights he wears in his matches. And he’s the DREAM lightweight champion. Beerbohm is also known for his tights (hence the nickname). Beerbohm is a more well-rounded fighter, boasting as many striking finishes as submission wins. However, Aoki’s ground game is no joke, as he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. Aoki’s team must be aware that Beerbohm’s conventional strategy is to keep the fight standing, so they’re either going to have a counterstrategy for that or Aoki will stand and bang, which, in a classic example of it’s-so-crazy-it-just-might-work, is something a fighter like Aoki might try. Moreover, between the rules, the country, and the fighting stage (cage, not ring), Beerbohm has home field advantage.

The good of Shinya Aoki (his catchy theme song ‘Baka Survivor’ and energetic walkout is at 2:01):

. . . and the bad (in 2009, Aoki faced last-minute replacement Mizuto Hirota, breaking his arm in a hammerlock and uncharacteristically gloating over it. After the fight, Aoki blamed his overexcitement for his actions):

Prediction: Beerbohm via TKO (round three)

205 lbs. – Gegard Mousasi x Keith Jardine: Mousasi was initially slated to fight Mike Kyle, who withdrew due to injury. In steps the heavy-handed and seasoned vet Keith Jardine, who earned some admirable respect in his post-Ultimate Fighter UFC career until four straight losses forced him out. Jardine always comes to fight, and has faced tougher competition in the last several years than Kyle, or Mousasi, for that matter, has, which, in some ways, makes Jardine a more dangerous opponent. Mousasi has only gone the distance four times out of 34 matches, which would indicate that this match could be a scappy barnburner. Mousasi has finished a fair share of veterans, TKOing strikers like Gary Goodridge, Sokoudjou, and Renao Sobral, and submitting Tatsuya Mizuno and wrestler Jake O’Brien.  In that regard, age will play a factor, in that Jardine’s 35-year old reflexes will  have to be as sharp as those of the 25-year old Mousasi.

Prediction: Jardine via TKO (round two or three)

155 lbs. Strikeforce Lightweight Title – Gilbert Melendez x Tatsuya Kawajiri: Melendez outclassed Shinya Aoki for five rounds last year and Aoki submitted Kawajiri within two minutes shortly thereafter.  This sport is rarely as simple as that, and Kawajiri hardly tried to escape Aoki’s leglock, but this match is far too much on Melendez’ proverbial home turf. Kawajiri hasn’t fought in a cage or under Strikeforce rules, it’s his first fight outside of Japan, and between Melendez’ wrestling, familiarity with the environment, and the ephemeral support and pride of fighting in California, Melendez is far too great of a challenge for the Crusher’s first fight on U.S. soil. I expect a better showing by Kawajiri than he displayed in his Aoki match, but in the end, I don’t see Melendez losing.

Prediction: Melendez via submission (round two) or unanimous decision

170 lbs. Strikeforce Welterweight Title – Nick Diaz x Paul Daley: At first glance, this is a very interesting fight, as Daley’s combined punching speed and power should put him towards the top of the list of hardest-hitting strikers in MMA. However, Daley’s ground defense is penetrable, as Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and Nick Thompson proved. Diaz is a Cesar Gracie black belt, and beat hard-hitters like Smith, Frank Shamrock, Evangelista ‘Mr. Cyborg’ Santos, and Scott Smith in the standing game. I see Diaz wearing Daley’s cardio out for a few rounds, then engaging him on the ground to finish. That said, Daley has never been afraid of an opponent’s wingspan or staying in his pocket. If there’s somebody that could dethrone Diaz, it would be Daley. But it’ll have to happen early.

Prediction: Diaz by submission (round two or three)

The Finish

There’s been a great buzz about this show in the past several weeks, and it especially nice to see such a strong anticipation for a Strikeforce show, particularly after headlines about the sale. I haven’t heard anybody talking about it, but I think this show could be something of an audition for how long much support Zuffa will put behind Strikeforce for the next year or two. If matches play out flat (not that the lineup has those symptoms, but neither did it in Nashville last year), that could inspire the UFC to speed ahead to those interpromotional / absorption dream matches on the horizon.

All this said, I’m looking forward to all of these matches, and I expect that fighters will rise to the occasion to give fans some very memorable moments.


THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!: Jay Tan on Zuffa Buying Strikeforce

Posted in Breaking News, Strikeforce, UFC on March 14, 2011 by jaytan716

I don’t care if Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson knocks Brock Lesnar out with a flying knee – after today, there will never be another “shot heard round the MMA world”. We clear on that?

Saturday morning, March 12th, UFC president Dana White announced to MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that Zuffa, UFC’s parent company, is buying Strikeforce, generally considered the #2 MMA promotion in North America, if not the world.

Here’s the interview: http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/fanhouse/dana-white-on-zuffa-purchase/823136457001

Most are calling this a game-changer. It is. I’ll call it the point of no return, which it also likely is. With this purchase, there isn’t a brand strong enough to compete with the UFC. Not to say that someone won’t try, but without some long-term, ultra-ridiculous financial commitment and all the pieces miraculously falling into place, like a larger TV network deal, contract offers big enough to sign available talent (who are either going to be unknowns to the public, and thus interpreted as less-than-UFC-caliber talent, or fighters discarded from the UFC), and the public giving them a chance (which, as ratings for non-UFC fight promotions have proven, they’re not motivated to do), it’s not going to happen anytime soon. And if it does, its surely going to fail.

Since 2006, the UFC has bought out any of the competition that didn’t put themselves out of business. On December 11th of that year, Zuffa announced separate purchase deals for the World Fighting Alliance (WFA), and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). The latter was in fact to steal a television deal with the Versus network away from the International Fight League (IFL), who were in advanced negotiations, if not close to finalizing a deal with Versus.

The International Fight League (IFL) was a league that pitted MMA teams against each other in a round-robin tournament season.

By that point, the IFL was broadcasting on the fledgling MyNetworkTV channel, making it the first MMA promotion to be on a major terrestrial network. At the time, this was a significant advantage, though ratings were low and the leg-up didn’t help the IFL catch on. The IFL did strike a short-lived deal with HDNet in early 2008 before finally closing their doors later that year, citing financial troubles. The UFC never outright bought the IFL, but they purchased the video library rights and signed several IFL fighters, including Matt Horwich, Reese Andy, Ben Rothwell, and Chris Horodecki.

The WFA purchase was driven primarily to acquire talent contracts for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Lyoto Machida. It closed on the same day as the WEC deal in December 2006.

Zuffa, the UFC's parent company, bought PRIDE Fighting Championships in the spring of 2007.

Only months later, on March 27th, 2007, Zuffa announced the purchase of longtime promotional rival PRIDE Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment and Noboyuki Sakakibara. The toast of MMA since the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, PRIDE FC had fallen on hard times in its home country of Japan, as Sakakibara and his company were linked in several 2006 media stories as having connections to yakuza organized crime outfits. The stories resulted in PRIDE FC losing its broadcast deal in June 2006 with Fuji TV, which was its main revenue stream. PRIDE continued its schedule of shows through April 2007, with the unfortunately-named PRIDE 34: Kamikaze, proving to be its final show.

Although Zuffa head Lorenzo Fertitta declared at the press conference about running PRIDE as a separate entity, those plans never came to fruition.

Jump ahead a year later, when Affliction Clothing, a Southern California apparel line which had started sponsoring MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett and Randy Couture, entered into the MMA promoting business with Affliction Entertainment. Picking up various PRIDE fighters who weren’t signed by the UFC, such as Barnett, Pedro Rizzo, Gilbert Yvel, and Fedor Emelianenko (then considered the top heavyweight and best pound-for-pound fighter in the world), as well as former-champions-turned-free-agents Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, Affliction ran a pay-per-view event in July 2008. The show was marketed as a night of the biggest collection of top heavyweight talent in the world, and really symbolized Emelianenko’s coming out party to the U.S. (even though he’d fought Mark Coleman in October 2006 before in Las Vegas at PRIDE 32: The Real Deal).

Affliction's Tom Atencio foreshadows in irony what would later happen to his own efforts in promoting MMA.

As a former sponsor with the UFC and several of its fighters, Affliction’s move into MMA, along with Affliction spokesman Tom Atencio’s public taunts that they, as opposed to Zuffa, had the top fighter in Emelianenko, was enough for the UFC to declare war. Affliction was now considered Public Enemy #1, and was banned from sponsoring any UFC or WEC fighters.

Affliction ran two shows, Banned in July 2008, headlined by Emelianenko vs. Sylvia, and Day of Reckoning in January 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Arlovski. A third show, Trilogy, was scheduled for August 1, 2009, with Emelianenko vs. Barnett, but the show was cancelled due to several circumstances, most notably because of Barnett being denied a license to fight in the state of California due to failing a drug test for steroids.

While many point to Barnett’s test failure as the reason for Affliction closing its doors, several reputable media sources reported at the time that the company was in the midst of negotiations with the UFC to close the Affliction MMA promotion in exchange for the ability to sponsor UFC fighters and events again. Affliction Entertainment had attracted fighters with inflated fight purses, far more than they recouped in pay-per-view or box office, including a reported $800,000 to Tim Sylvia and $1.5 million to Emelianenko and his handlers, M-1 Global.

The deal included at least first-look option at several fighter contracts, but after failed negotiations between Emelianenko’s team and Dana White, the ‘Last Emperor’ ended up signing with Strikeforce.

With EliteXC, the UFC didn’t need to wave a finger or huff or puff to blow that house of straw down.

Starting with their inaugural event, Destiny, in February 2007, EliteXC ran 20 events on Showtime (two of which were co-promotes with Strikeforce), along with three events on major network CBS. The group attempted to build and brand their own stars, such as K.J. Noons, Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz. None really got over as much as female fighter Gina Carano, with her girl-next-door looks and fierce fighting style, and Kimbo Slice, the former street-brawler-turned-“internet sensation,” both of whom piqued the public’s curiosity and CBS ratings when they appeared. The company had bled money throughout its entire existence (ask former employees about the dragon head), and when last-minute replacement Seth Petruzelli TKO’ed Slice in 14 seconds on the October 4th, it was the beginning of the end for the promotion.

The MMA Shot Heard 'Round the World. . . at the time.

Two days after the fight, Petruzelli was on a radio show and made comments that insinuated that EliteXC promoters offered him extra financial incentive to keep the fight a stand-up striking match, playing to Slice’s advantages. Petruzelli later clarified his comments to minimize any controversy of foul play, but by that point, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation decided to investigate the matter.

EliteXC was close to a deal with CBS to sell the promotion to the network, but the investigation was enough to scare the network into withdrawing. Left with no immediate alternatives, ProElite, EliteXC’s parent company, released almost all its employees and began offering its assets, including fighter contracts and its Showtime TV deal. Strikeforce picked up the TV deal and several fighter contracts, including Diaz, Carano, Shields, and Noons. Diaz and Shields went on to win the Strikeforce welterweight and middleweight titles, respectively. Carano fought Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos for the Strikeforce women’s middleweight title, suffering her first MMA defeat.

Ironically, Slice ended up with the UFC and proved to be a major ratings magnet for the tenth season of their Ultimate Fighter reality show on Spike TV. Slice lost in the preliminary round of the show’s tournament and went 1-1 in the UFC before being released.

Good night, and Good Luck

Although White specifies that they will honor all active Strikeforce contracts, there’s little question in most people’s minds that it’s a matter of time before the talent is absorbed into the UFC rosters and Strikeforce as a brand and fight promotion is dissolved. And that’s not an unreasonable expectation, as there is no logical reason for the UFC to maintain another brand. Strikeforce as a brand was never distinct enough that the UFC would  have any reason to keep it separate, and as White has stated time and again the company’s goals to be the sole brand of MMA in the world, there’s no reason to think they’d change course here.

And while some may point to Bellator Fighting Fighting Championships, with their MTV2 TV deal and names like ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough, Hector Lombard, Zoila Frausto, Eddie Alvarez, and Ben Askren on their roster, their only shot would be if their financiers are deep pocket, long-term investors, MTV2 ratings soar through the roof such that they could parlay that onto HBO or NBC, and their entire roster develops an Ortiz / Couture / St-Pierre-caliber charisma. Going out on a limb, I predict none of that will prove to be the case, and even so, in the public’s eyes, the ship for first place has sailed, and Zuffa is at the helm.

Your winner, by submission, the UFC.

“UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann” and “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson” Results & Recap

Posted in Strikeforce, TV Reports, UFC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by jaytan716

Photo Credits: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images (UFC); Esther Lin (Strikeforce)

This weekend, MMA fans were treated to live events from the UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator (debuting on its new MTV2 broadcast home).

Diego Sanchez (left) and Martin Kampmann fought to a controverisal unanimous decision.

The UFC’s third Versus event only accentuated the judging and scoring issues that came out of the BJ Penn vs. Jon Fitch match at UFC 127 several days earlier. In the Versus 3 main event, the rebooted Diego ‘The Dream’ Sanchez beat Martin ‘The Hitman’ Kampmann by unanimous decision, off scores of 29-28 across the board. This was Sanchez’ return to the welterweight division.

The fight was a thrilling three-round slugfest which served as a case study in how a close striking match is judged, particularly as it regards otherwise-tiebreaker criteria, such as takedown attempts and overall damage.

The repackaged and rededicated Sanchez, who moved back to Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, NM and went so far to wash the negative demons out of his life that he flipped his nickname from ‘The Nightmare’ to ‘The Dream,’ is still a very intense and angry-looking young man. During the match itself, Sanchez kept shooting in for takedowns, but was unsuccessful in 12 attempts going into the third round. Kampmann attempted none thoughout the whole match.

The striking was closely-debated. Kampmann bloodied Sanchez in the first round, and made that nasty cut worse in the second. In the second, Sanchez stunned Kampmann, who wobbled on his feet, but never hit the floor. Sanchez opened Kampmann up in the third, but not to the same extent as the visual damage Sanchez took thoughout the whole match.

For me, the argument came down to a Kampmann’s striking accuracy and damage vs. Sanchez’ overwhelming onslaught of punches in bunches, which were fast and powerful, but didn’t do as much visual damage.

All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Sanchez. Most likely they gave Kampmann the first and Sanchez the second and third, though after the fight, fans, media, and experts alike continued to debate who won which round.

Sanchez vs. Kampmann highlights

In other action that night, Mark Munoz continued to build his stock in the middleweight division with a 54-second knockout of C.B. Dollaway, the teammate of Aaron Simpson, whom Munoz beat at UFC 123 last November. At 10-2, Munoz is not quite in the title picture yet, and if Anderson Silva is still the Chairman of the Board if / when Munoz does become a top contender, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Munoz and Silva are close training partners at Black House MMA. Manager Ed Soares has told me in the past that they wouldn’t prevent teammates from challenging teammates for titles. Munoz will likely need to test his meddle against strikers, or revisit his loss to Yushin Okami, but for now, the ‘Philippine Wrecking Machine’ (I think the original version of Munoz’ nickname) continues to show-and-prove.

UFC on Versus: Mark Munoz post-fight interview

Also at middleweight, UFC fans also were introduced to Chris Weidman, an undefeated young prospect out of Matt Serra and Ray Longo’s camp. Weidman, an NCAA All-American from New York’s Hofstra University, made his UFC debut with only four pro matches under his belt, bloodying up veteran Alessio Sakara in dominant fashion. Weidman had problems sticking takedowns early, charging in several times and missing at least three legitimate takedown shots, but he found his distance in round two and three, taking Sakara to the mat and painting a crimson mask on the man they call ‘Legionarius.’

UFC on Versus: Chris Weidman post-fight interview

Moreover, fans were treated to two swing bouts, Todd Brown vs. Igor Pokrajac and Shane Roller vs. Thiago Tavares, used to fill the Versus time slot. In that latter match, I think I expected to see a three-round kickboxing match that would showcase unexpected striking skills from Roller, ala Frankie Edgar x Sean Sherk from UFC 98. Perhaps Roller isn’t totally polished with his fists, reaching from afar and charging straight in, but he caught Tavares in the second with an overhand right that earned the KO finish.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for UFC on Versus 3: Sanchez vs. Kampmann:

265 lbs. – Todd Brown x Igor Pokrajac
Prediction:
Pokrajac via TKO (round one)
Result: Pokrajac via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Dongi Yang x Rob Kimmons
Prediction: Kimmons by submission (round two)
Result: Yang via TKO (round two)

135 lbs. – Takeya Mizugaki x Reuben Duran
Prediction:
Mizugaki via unanimous decision
Result: Mizugaki via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Shane Roller x Thiago Tavares
Prediction:
Roller via split decision
Result: Roller via KO (round two)

185 lbs. – Cyrille Diabate x Steve Cantwell
Prediction:
Diabate via submission (round two)
Result: Diabate via unanimous decision.

155 lbs. – Danny Castillo x Joe Stevenson
Prediction:
Castillo via TKO (round one) or Stevenson via decision
Result: Castillo via unanimous decision.

145 lbs. – Brian Bowles x Damacio Page
Prediction:
Page via unanimous decision
Result: Bowles via submission.

185 lbs. – Alessio Sakara x Chris Weidman
Prediction:
Sakara via TKO (round one)
Result: Weidman via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – CB Dolloway x Mark Munoz
Prediction:
Munoz via TKO or unanimous decision
Result: Munoz via TKO

170 lbs. – Diego Sanchez x Martin Kampmann
Prediction:
Sanchez via TKO (round three)
Result: Sanchez via unanimous decision

Dan 'Hendo' Henderson captured the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title from Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante with a second round KO.

Two nights later, Strikeforce continued its streak of outdoing itself with a night of exciting finishes and developing personalities. The past two events were the opening rounds of the promotion’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament followed by a Strikeforce Challengers events that featured Ryan Couture, the return of Carlo Prater, and an exciting main event of Lee Healy x Lyle Beerbohm.  The ratings for Feijao vs. Henderson will indicate how much traction the previous events offered for tonight, as well as how much this event might provide for Strikeforce’s next event (April 9th, headlined by Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley for the welterweight title), but for those who are looking for action and willing to give the Showtime product a chance, they’d do themselves right by catching the replays, starting on March 8th.

Previously, I said that this was a one-man show, with Henderson as the only star in casual fans’ eyes. Going into the event, that’s not an unreasonable assessment, but in retrospect, Strikeforce middleweight Tim Kennedy, women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen, and her challenger Liz ‘G-Rilla’ Carmouche gave dramatic in-cage performances and came across on the mic as fighters worth fans remembering and supporting.

In particular, Carmouche dominated Coenen for at least half the match, making the champ’s come-from-behind finish in round four one of Strikeforce’s best ‘Oh Shit’ moments of 2011, if not the promotion’s whole title history. Like Griffin-Bonnar I was for the UFC (not that I’m comparing the two matches directly), Strikeforce needs these moments to stick in casual fans’ minds and they need them to involve fighters other than the ones the public already knows.

Liz Carmouche post-fight press conference comments:

Marloes Coenen post-fight press conference comments:

Likewise, Kennedy had his hands full with Melvin Manhoef, an unforgettable swift-striking Dutch kickboxer whose walkout is as frenetic and exciting as his matches. Kennedy, a U.S. Army Green Beret with multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is respectable, affable, and admirable, though he’s not stuck in most peoples’ minds as much more than ‘the army guy.’ Having defeated a memorable and accomplished fighter like Manhoef, Kennedy may have turned the corner in fans’ awareness, giving Strikeforce a homegrown star around which they can build.

In his post-fight interview, Kennedy said: “Let’s hear it for the troops, you guys. We’re talking about people overseas that are watching these fights right now. You give me a little bit more time in here; I’ll be back in uniform doing the most important job in the whole world. That’s protecting your freedoms.”

What MMA fans aren’t going to get behind that?

Tim Kennedy post-fight press conference comments:

Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson was promoted in conjunction with The Arnold Sports Festival, an annual fitness and sports expo held in Columbus, OH. The UFC held similar events in 2007-2009, abandoning it in 2010. With Coker & Company taking the unofficial slot, they of course had booth presence at the event. And who should show up to make an appearance other than Arnold himself, MMA’s number one fan.

Uh-huh. Looks like the ex-Governator’s abilities haven’t changed a bit.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson:

170 lbs. – J.P. Felty x John Kuhner
Prediction:
Felty via TKO (round one)
Result: Kuhner via submission (round two)

185 lbs. – Marc Cofer x Mitch Whitesel
Prediction:
Whitesel via TKO (round one)
Result: Whitesel via submission (round one)

185 lbs. – Ian Rammel x Brian Rogers
Prediction:
Rogers via TKO (round one)
Result: Rogers via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Jason Riley vs. Jason “Jay” Freeman
Prediction:
Riley via TKO (round one)
Result: Freeman via submission (round one)

155 lbs. – Jorge Gurgel vs. Tyler Combs
Prediction:
Gurgel via submission (round three) or decision
Result: Gurgel via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Roger Bowling vs. Josh Thornburg
Prediction:
Bowling via unanimous decision
Result: Bowling via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Billy Evangelista vs. Jorge Masvidal
Prediction:
Evangelista via unanimous decision
Result: Masvidal via unanimous decision

185 lbs. – Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef
Prediction:
Kennedy via submission (round one or two)
Result: Kennedy via submission (round one)

135 lbs. Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Title – Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche
Prediction:
Coenen via submission (round two)
Result: Coenan via submission (round four)

205 lbs. Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title – Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson
Prediction:
Cavalcante via TKO (round two)
Result: Henderson via TKO (round three)

The Finish

For me, both shows delivered in quality of matches. By all accounts, UFC on Versus 3 offered a competitive main event that had fans and experts debating the finish, and the show itself continued to build new faces for the future. Between the free prelim matches on Facebook and fitting in two swing bouts (untelevised matches that end up airing to fill up the broadcast time), fans benefit because they get early exposure to young fighters who are climbing the ranks, and fighters benefit because they can receive extra sponsorship money due to their matches make it to TV. Moreover, fighters are going to perform even better on the undercard because of the incentive to “earn” their fight onto a telecast.

Showtime would do themselves, Strikeforce, and those same fans and fighters a world of good by airing swing bouts after the main event for those very same reasons. Moreover, those swing bouts would theoretically lead to better establishing those same fighters for their Showtime Challengers series.

All that said, Strikeforce over-delivered. I was afraid that, with anything less than several great battles, Feijao vs. Henderson would get lost in the shuffle between the Grand Prix opening rounds and the next Nick Diaz fight. However, I think the event took great strides in building future stars like Kennedy and Coenan, and even Carmouche. Likewise, as the champion most likely (since 2008) to successfully defend the light heavyweight title, Henderson can give both Strikeforce and the 205 lb. weight class the credibility it needs to be taken seriously.

Dan Henderson post-fight press conference comments:

STRIKEFORCE: FEIJAO VS. HENDERSON Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce on March 3, 2011 by jaytan716

Dan Henderson challenges Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.

On the heels of its World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament opening rounds and a well-received Strikeforce Challengers show in Cedar Falls, TX, Scott Coker & Company present the first Strikeforce title matches of 2011, as reigning light heavyweight king Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante defends against Dan Henderson and women’s welterweight champ Marloes Coenen puts her championship on the line against last-minute replacement Liz Carmouche.

Despite having two titles on the line, to casual fans, this is largely a one-man show, with Henderson far-and-away the brightest star on the bill, perhaps even eclipsing the title for which he’s challenging. Company arena events like this need and deserve the publicity and support, as the televised matches on paper look to deliver some fireworks and highlight reel finishes. Unfortunately, mixed between four UFC events in a single month, the overperforming Fedor vs. Silva show from last month, and now another Nick Diaz title defense in April, Feijao vs. Henderson, not to mention Coenen vs. Carmouche, is lost in the shuffle during its own fight week.

This commercial is the only video that Showtime or Strikeforce released for the event:

Unfortunately, the news below doesn’t get much better. The undercard is made up of local fighters in untelevised matches, a challenge for a women’s title that fans hardly know exists (though Marloes Coenen is pretty and skilled enough that, with some Carano-caliber marketing, I think she could get over with fans), and title contention matches between star-potential hopefuls that are intriguing only to the most hardcore MMA fans.

That said, as one of those hardcore MMA fans, I’m particularly curious about Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef, if only to see the clash of styles. Kennedy’s time for stardom, if there is to be one, is now, and if he can get ahold of Manhoef to grapple with him, Kennedy could avoid Manhoef’s knockout power. Several people in the last two years – Gegard Mousasi, Paulo Filho, Robbie Lawler, and Tatsuya Mizuno, have proven that the dangerous Dutch kickboxer can be finished. This match could provide the highlight reel finish of the night, though right now, few casual fans would know that.

170 lbs. – J.P. Felty x John Kuhner: Felty makes his pro debut after amassing a 9-3 amateur record in Kentucky, mostly by submission. He went 1-2 last year, but turned things around in January with a first-round submission win over an experienced local fighter. Kuhner had false starts in 2008 and 2009, losing both times by submission, and hit the restart button by taking a break in 2010. Expect Felty to show up mentally prepared and hungry to impress with a finish.

Prediction: Felty via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Marc Cofer x Mitch Whitesel: On paper, this match looks to be a booking of local fighters. Whitesel has a Sherdog record of 15-20 which dates back to 2003. He’s lost his last five matches, two of which already took place this year. Cofer’s record is split even at 3-3, and he hasn’t fought in almost a year. His last three matches were losses, two by submission and one by TKO.

Prediction: Whitesel via TKO (round one)

185 lbs. – Billy ‘Mojo’ Horne x Brian Rogers: Rogers is on a five-fight first-round KO / TKO win streak. Cincinnati’s Mojo Horne is a jiu jitsu specialist who comes in on a two-fight first-round submission streak. Rogers stayed busy in the last half of 2010, which could make the difference

Prediction: Rogers via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Jason Riley vs. Jason “Jay” Freeman: Riley is a heavy-handed former heavyweight whose previous Strikeforce outing was a submission loss (due to strikes) to Daniel Cormier last year in Houston, TX. Of his 9-5 record, eight victories are via TKO / KO. Fellow Ohioan Jay Freeman, aka “Charlie Manson III,” makes his MMA return after over a year off. Between the size difference and ring rust, Riley comes in with several advantages on paper. Look for this to be quick.

Prediction: Riley via TKO (round one)

155 lbs. – Jorge Gurgel vs. Tyler Combs: Over his past few matches, Gurgel has looked to prove his standing skills, rather than use his Brazilian jiu Jitsu black belt. Combs is a journeyman with a respectable 13-7 record, amassed on shows throughout the Midwest. Most of his losses have come by way of submission. Most of Combs’ wins have come by way of TKO. It’s not incomprehensible for Gurgel to want to stand-and-bang again, but it didn’t fare him well against K.J. Noons. With two straight losses and Combs first time to the big stage, Gurgel would do well to use his skills for a decisive finish.

Prediction: Gurgel via submission (round three) or decision.

170 lbs. – Roger Bowling vs. Josh Thornburg: Bowling moves on from his back-to-back matches with Bobby Voelker to face Gracie Fighter Josh Thornburg. Both men are fast-rising stars, with only one loss on each of their respective records. This will be Thornburg’s first trip to “The Dance,” but coming from the Cesar Gracie camp, big show jitters are not part of their typical regimen. Bowling has 9-0 boxing background to compliment his 8-1 MMA record. Thornburg to hang tough wherever it goes, but Bowling may have just enough veteran stripes to out-finesse him to the limit, if not stop him with punches.

Prediction: Bowling via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Billy Evangelista vs. Jorge Masvidal: Evangelista has climbed slowly but steadily up the Strikeforce ladder, finally graduating from the Challengers’ Series to the main cards. The undefeated wrestler & jiu-jitsu specialist from Northern California faces a veteran of over 25 matches. Masvidal has dominated in shows like Bodog Fight, Sengoku, and Bellator. He was 1-2 last year, with each match going to decision. Both men are more prone to going the distance than finishing, and this could play out similarly.

Prediction: Evangelista via unanimous decision.

185 lbs. – Tim Kennedy vs. Melvin Manhoef: Manhoef is susceptible to any respected grappler, and with half of his victories by submission, Kennedy has earned that qualification. However, Kennedy hasn’t faced a striker as severe as Manhoef and his leg kicks, which evens the playing field in many ways. Manhoef is coming off back-to-back losses from the first half of last year, including a Robbie Lawler-branded counterpunch KO. Like with the main event, it’s a striker vs. grappler chess match. Does Manhoef tag Kennedy first or does Kennedy cinch on a submission?

Never let it be said fighters don’t have a sense of humor:

Prediction: Kennedy via submission (round one or two)

135 lbs. Strikeforce Women’s Welterweight Title – Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche: Carmouche replaces Miesha Tate, who, after winning a four-woman one-night tournament in August, earned a title shot for the women’s welterweight championship. A former marine who did several tours of duty in the Middle East, Carmouche is certainly tough enough. She’s undefeated in five matches, with four finishes, mostly TKOs. Coenen beat Sarah Kaufman for the women’s welterweight title in October last year. She’ll have the size, reach, and experience advantage, but Carmouche has beaten women with those criteria before. I would expect Carmouche to get in the pocket and overwhelm Coenen with strikes, or strive to take her down and ground-and-pound, but if Coenen can control the pace of the match, she’ll likely control the outcome as well.

Showtime / Strikeforce Fighter Profile on Marloes Coenen from last year (tell me you wouldn’t hold the door for this woman):

Prediction: Coenen via submission (round two)

205 lbs. Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title – Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson: As a Black House member and training partner to Anderson Silva, it should come as no surprise that ‘Feijao’ is a striking machine. One of his two losses was due to an illegal kick, and his only submission win was due to punches. Beyond that, he has nine TKO / KO finishes to his credit. On the flipside, Henderson has flat-out KO’s over Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono, Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and ‘Babalu’ Sobral. He’s also faced strikers like Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Anderson Silva, and Vitor Belfort. The keys will be who takes command of the match with their obvious skills – Feijao keeping the match standing or Henderson with his clinch and ground game.

Prediction: Cavalcante via TKO (round two)

The Finish

Two thousand eleven is a crucial year for Strikeforce and Showtime. Having been partners for two to five years now (depending on who you ask), the time for introduction and redefinition is over. Now is the time to show-and-prove what great MMA matches and memories these companies can provide. And one part of that is in treating championship matches as end-all-be-all special moments in history that people will want to remember.

Right now, this show does not have that feel.

One of the big keys to this partnership’s success is 1) promoting memorable, charismatic fighters who 2) put on exciting, compelling matches 3) for titles about which people believe and care. Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez are doing that, and the Heavyweight Grand Prix is already starting to provide some mainstream water cooler buzz. Hopefully, the champions after Saturday night will go on to cover parts one and two, such that part three, with the help of Showtime, comes to fruition. Going into the event this weekend, however, it is not the case, and it’s a little too late to fix that for this show.

Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva Recap & Results

Posted in Strikeforce, TV Reports on February 13, 2011 by jaytan716

Jay Tan’s

In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman said “nobody knows anything,” and while he was talking about Hollywood, after the big upset in tonight’s main event, the same rule of thumb can be applied to MMA.

Especially on a night when all the televised matches except the main event ended in the first round, when the longest match would involve the ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko, and when that match would prove to be Emelianenko’s second loss in a row.

“Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva” marked the beginning of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament. This year-long classic of top heavyweights outside of the UFC is formatted similarly to the famous grand prix tournaments of Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships in the early 2000’s, and because of that, is being lauded by the MMA community.

Complemented with an all-heavyweight televised undercard, the first two matches in the opening quarterfinal rounds main evented the show:  Sergei Kharitonov finished (perhaps permanently in the sport) Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski via first-round KO and Emelianenko, in his first match since being submitted by Fabricio Werdum mid-last year, succumbed to former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva via TKO due to a doctor’s stoppage.

Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Results (after night one)

Hindsight is 20/20, but in retrospect, perhaps we should have predicted the quick finishes, as well as the challenge that Bigfoot Silva would present. After all, of the televised match winners tonight, only Silva and Chad Griggs had gone to the second round since 2008. Griggs’ only match to go past five minutes was his TKO win last year against Bobby Lashley, but beyond that he, Kharitonov, Del Rosario, and Overeem share over 30 consecutive first-round finishes (wins and losses) between them.

And though Emelianenko lost tonight, his only other second-round match was his TKO win against Brett Rogers in 2009. As such, clearly the odds of any of these men having a long night were slim to none.

Likewise, on New Year’s Eve in 2007, Emelianenko fought ‘Techno Goliath’ Hong Man Choi, a 7’2”, 350 lb. Korean boxer and ssireum (Korean folkstyle) wrestler who, like Silva, lives with acromegaly. Emelianenko made short work of Choi that night, baiting a ground fight and working from bottom position for an armbar. Of course, Choi was nowhere near the skill level of Silva, who is a black belt in judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and karate. Moreover, Emelianenko fought a much different fight against Silva, choosing to stand and bang, When Emelianenko was stuck on bottom, he had no answers for Silva’s challenges, proving that at a certain point, skill AND size will beat skill alone.

And we probably should have known that all along. After all, to paraphrase, any given man can beat any other man on any given day. Especially in MMA.

The other big surprise of the night was the announcement of former Strikeforce women’s middleweight champion Gina Carano returning to action in 2011. Carano’s camp, Xtreme Couture, announced (via Twitter) over a week ago that the top female MMA star of 2007 and 2009 had returned to the gym for some light training. Although the reluctant superstar had little more to offer tonight than a pretty smile and a few gushes of embarrassment, that should be enough anticipation for the internet and MMA fans to buzz about until she gets back into fight shape and a match can be signed.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for “Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva”:

155 lbs. – John Cholish x Marc Stevens
Prediction:
Cholish via submission (round three)
Result: Cholish via submission (round two)

170 lbs. – John Salgado x Igor Gracie
Prediction:
Gracie via submission (round one)
Result: Gracie via submission (round two)

265 lbs. – Chad Griggs x Gian Villante:
Prediction: Villante via TKO (round one)
Result: Griggs via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Valantijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo:
Prediction: Overeem via TKO (round one)
Result: Overeem via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Shane Del Rosario x Lavar Johnson:
Prediction: Del Rosario via TKO or submission (round two)
Result: Del Rosario via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Andrei Arlovski x Sergei Kharitonov
Prediction: Kharitonov via unanimous decision
Result: Kharitonov via KO (round one)

265 lbs. – Fedor Emelianenko x Antonio Silva:
Result: Silva via TKO / doctor’s stoppage (round two)

The Finish

I would think that one of Strikeforce’s bigger goals tonight was to provide at least one exciting, irresistible answer to the casual MMA fan’s question “why should I watch or care about this tournament?”

Within the cage, Coker & Co. gave several answers: hard-hitting heavyweight action with blink-of-an-eye finishes in a setting where, clearly, anything can happen. Josh Barnett made me believe he was serious about getting into a dogfight, and Alistair Overeem actually gave me a reason to care a bit more about his fight (against whom I’m still afraid casual fans are going to refer to as ‘the other guy’). This was Strikeforce’s first venture into the New Jersey market, and to their credit, the audience came across on TV as one of their hotter non-San Jose crowds in a long time.

On the other hand, promoting can be a delicate balance, and for all the good they gave us tonight, Strikeforce’s next big event, set for March 5th in Columbus, OH, came up on the short end. This is especially sad when tonight’s show was booked for 150 to 180 minutes and only ran 127 minutes (including end credits). There was still plenty of time to cut after the Emelianenko fight to one of the earlier untelevised matches, or even promo pieces on Henderson, Feijao, Marloes Coenen, or Miesha Tate (who are all scheduled for March 5th). To Zuffa’s credit, the UFC is not afraid to air lesser-known undercard matches to complete a three-hour PPV window, and I’ve even see them air an undercard Spike TV match as filler.

If I didn’t already have Dan Henderson x Rafael ‘Feijao’ on my calendar, I’m not sure that I would care to be aware of it at all. And as frustrating as I found Carano’s airheaded interview (peace to Heidi Androl’s best intentions), her return to the cage and the April tournament matches are going to be on my radar a lot more than Showtime’s next big MMA event (which, by the way, is scheduled for two title fights, for those keeping score).

With no official Showtime videos for March 5th yet, at least Karen Bryant has something to offer: