Strikeforce: In Like a Lion, out Like a Lamb
By now, you've probably heard that Strikeforce is all but dead.
Gone the way of the buffalo, the once thriving promotion became a shell of its former self after it was pillaged of talent following its purchase in 2011. Names such as Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Nick Diaz were quickly scooped up and brought over to the UFC, leaving the promotion struggling to fill in the void.
Even the Heavyweight Grand Prix, the last true brain child of Scott Coker, failed to live up to expectations after Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski were booted from the tournament in the first round. They were absolutely desperate to create new stars.
They nearly succeeded.
Daniel Cormier, the former U.S. Olympic wrestling team captain, quickly became the cornerstone of the promotion's heavyweight division. With world-class wrestling and dynamite for fists, Cormier took on all challengers and left a wake of unconscious bodies.
But Cormier was unable to capture fan attention like Overeem. It seems that fans need their heavyweights to have the physique to go along with the dominant performances.
Cormier's teammate, Luke Rockhold, also came incredibly close to becoming a star for the organization. With classic good looks and a fan-friendly style of fighting, Rockhold was the champion the promotion needed.
For Rockhold, it wasn't a lack of interesting fights that held him back. No, it was his inability to remain healthy. Whereas Cormier lacked any semblance of competition in the waning days Rockhold had more than enough legitimate challengers. It's his body that continues to hold him back.
Then there's Ronda Rousey.
Almost overnight, Rousey became a media darling, and I'm not even talking about the MMA media. Rousey became the first official crossover star in MMA, garnering attention from major media outlets, including a featured story in Sports Illustrated.
But not even the quick-witted Rousey was enough to save the promotion.
Though it was rumored that Zuffa and Showtime were in discussions to extend the television contract through 2013, the promotion was taken off of life-support with a final card planned for January.
It would be the biggest event in the promotion's history. Featuring three title fights, the very best fighters Strikeforce could offer were set to enter the hexagon one last time.
Heck, the event was titled Strikeforce: Champions.
However, those plans fell apart as injuries began to stack up.
First it was Gilbert Melendez, who was originally scheduled to defend his lightweight title against Pat Healy earlier this year but was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. The fight was rescheduled for the January event, but Melendez's injury won't be healed in time, forcing the champion to withdraw once again.
Melendez's injury was just the tip of that proverbial iceberg.
Rockhold was forced to pull out of his middleweight title fight against Lorenz Larkin because of a nagging injury. Larkin's management called it "unprofessional," but Rockhold responded that a fight with Larkin was "easy money" and was bound to happen.
In just a few days, the can't-miss final event became incredibly underwhelming, neutered of any intrigue. Sure, Nate Marquardt is still set to defend the welterweight title against Tarec Saffiedine, and Daniel Cormier is expected to face Dion Staring (who?), but who cares at this point?
Maybe it's a good thing that the event lost its two biggest fights.
It seems like a fitting end for a promotion that once had so much promise.
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