Referee Mike Beltran's facial hair was just one of many things that made me laugh at tonight's Strikeforce event.
Strikeforce has always played second fiddle to the UFC in the United States. It is an unfortunate fact that is based on many things ranging from from its fighters to its venues.
Whether it is the Strikeforce: Nashville post-fight brawl between Cesar Gracie's team and Jason “Mayhem” Miller or Gilbert Melendez fighting random hobos they find sleeping in the streets of San Jose (I know, it is not actually THAT bad, but you get the point), UFC diehards are quick to dismiss Strikeforce for a variety of reasons.
Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman gives that group yet another reason to be dismissive of the promotion.
The event looked downright amateurish on television, with a non-stop stream of unintentionally hilarious problems.
It is easy to dwell on Strikeforce's bad commentary. The old saying, of course, is “too many cooks spoil the soup.” With a mandatory three-man crew holding microphones, Mauro Ranallo, Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich often end up fighting for the chance to deliver soundbites as obviously as the men in the cage are fighting for a win.
Commentating, though, is really hard. Even UFC duos Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, and Kenny Florian and Jon Anik fail to please everyone.
Focusing in on that would be a true disservice to the wackiness fans saw in this event.
Not all the problems were under Strikeforce's control. Mike Beltran's half-beard, half-Fu Manchu hybrid is not something to knock them for. Neither is the “hurry it along” attitude he had with groin shots. Neither is his EliteXC-style willingness to threaten fighters with standing things up while they worked for submissions.
Similarly, it is hard to criticize the promotion itself for the questionable job done by everyone's favorite referee, Herb Dean, who prematurely ended a bout between Adlan Amagov and Keith Berry after a front kick to Berry's knee had the commentators screaming.
Did you notice these things about the event?
Bad refereeing, after all, happens in the UFC, too. So what can you point a finger at and say “bad job” to Strikeforce about?
Well, awkward camera angles for one. The first main card bout of the night, between Ovince St. Preux and TJ Cook went to the ground only a couple times. Unfortunately for the production team, the always-important camera that hovers over the cage to let fans see the ground work had a well-placed cable dead-center over the fighters in the second round.
Producers were quick to change angles, but even so, later in the fight, that cord got far more screen time than it should have.
That on its own would not a big deal. Unfortunately, the miscues did not end there.
The next fight, between Lumumba Sayers and Anthony Smith, had a problem that the fighters actually noticed. Smith entered to his walkout music, stripped, and the staff gave him the usual pre-fight treatment. No problem yet.
Sayers, though, was shoved into the arena prematurely. He walked to the cage as slowly as he possibly could, but still arrived right in the middle of Smith's pat-down and face-greasing. He awkwardly stood behind and waited his turn as Ranallo and Shamrock yukked it up.
Neither of these things marred the fights, though. Strikeforce was totally on-point with that, right?
Well, actually, whoever is in charge of the mat over at Strikeforce coated it with pudding before things kicked off. Fighters slid around with alarming frequency.
This, too, was joked about by the trio of analysts. Perhaps more than it should have been, given how it was entirely possible that it could lead to fight-altering slip.
Make no mistake. Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman was an all-around solid event that delivered more than a few exciting finishes.
That said, Strikeforce is probably the second-biggest MMA promotion in the world. Showtime is no newbie when it comes to being the maestro of fighting events.
How the hell did so many little things things go wrong?
Back in 2010, I watched Eric “Butterbean” Esch's Moosin: God of Martial Arts event headlined by at-the-time fatty Tim Sylvia and Polish strongman Mariusz Pudzianowski. If you played them side-by-side, you likely would not guess that tonight's Strikeforce event was the one done on the dime of a major commercial broadcasting network.
While it was a solid batch of fights, the wide variety of problems ended up adding more ammo to the belt of Strikeforce's naysayers. Once again, some of this was out of their control.
Either way, there is no getting around the fact that I found myself laughing more times here than I have with any UFC event I can remember. UFC events, by the way, are the ones that almost always have a stand-up comedian front-and-center.