Memorable Moments from Strikeforce's Final Fight Card
The swan song to the long-time number two promotion in the world is over and done with. The promotion that hosted epic fights like Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley, Gina Carano vs. Cris “Cyborg” Santos and Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko is now kaput.
Still, the memories remain and the event tonight had its moments.
What were the highlights of tonight's lineup of fights? What were the greatest moments in Strikeforce's last card?
Crazy Media Build-Up for Finale
If you're a fan of MMA history, this was likely a week where you learned a great deal.
Across the whole wide internet, each website churned out pieces paying homage to the promotion. Bleacher/Report, naturally, was no different.
Make sure to check out Lead Writer Jon Snowden's amazing Oral History articles here and here, and my own piece on Strikeforce's Most Memorable Moments here. Also make sure to listen to the latest installment of The MMA Hour, which featured Scott Coker and Stephen Espinoza.
Roger Gracie Blinds, Submits Anthony Smith
Looking at the card, most of these fights were non-competitive. While it looks this way on paper, it may not shake out this way in real life.
Gracie vs. Smith was one of the fights that played out precisely how we expected.
Initially, it seemed like Anthony Smith might show that these fights were going to end up closer than we were all anticipating, and outworked Roger Gracie standing. Then, Gracie started landing, and had Smith rubbing his eye and blinking erratically.
That was the beginning of the end, and Gracie proceeded to press Smith to the cage and work him to the ground. He achieved mount shortly thereafter and folded Smith in half with a nasty arm triangle choke.
Smith tapped and said he couldn't see to the doctors after. Gracie is now 4-1 in Strikeforce and is 2-0 at middleweight. Expect him to quickly step into the UFC and assume Demian Maia's old spot as the submission whiz in the division.
Mauro Ranallo Missing in Action?
Nobody really loves the Strikeforce MMA commentary team. I, myself, have written about the poor production-end issues that tend to mire any given Strikeforce event.
That, though, was more so because of Frank Shamrock and Pat Miletich. Mauro Ranallo is a solid commentator. Unfortunately, Ranallo was unable to attend due to family obligations, which brought aboard Inside MMA reporter Ron Kruck.
As expected, Miletich and Shamrock battled for airtime as hard as the current fighters were battling in the cage. Kruck did a solid job playing referee, but Ranallo's absence was still profound.
Both of Ranallo's parents are hospitalized with an unknown illness. Keep the Ranallo family in your thoughts and prayers.
Couture vs. Noons Becomes Early Robbery of the Year Candidate
One of the few matches that wasn't supposed to be a showcase fight was the bout between KJ Noons and Ryan Couture.
Noons has wins over many impressive opponents, including Nick Diaz and Yves Edwards, but has fallen on rough times of late, and is 1-3 in his last four. Couture is undeniably talented, but still a fairly raw prospect.
The two of them combined for an exciting, back-and-forth fight. Noons, however, demonstrated his superior stand-up game, and consistently caught Couture, who couldn't take the fight to the ground. At least, that's how most of us saw the fight.
Two of the three judges saw something else. What, exactly? Who knows.
Couture had his hand raised and Noons immediately stormed out of the cage. The stats, too, disagreed with the decision. It's a tough turn for Noons, who has to be wondering if this unfortunate turn could put him on the free agent market.
Ronaldo Souza Shows He Is Real Deal
Some UFC fans might not know who Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is. They really should, though.
Souza ranks among the top middleweights in MMA, and showed it by demolishing UFC veteran Ed Herman. Herman's not exactly a world-beater, but has wins over lots of noteworthy middleweights. Once again, Souza made him look like a downright amateur.
Souza will be entering the UFC deserving of some big fights. He showed solid hands, some new takedown skills and remains an elite BJJ talent.
He deserves some big fights immediately upon entering the UFC. Some great potential opponents include Jake Shields, Yushin Okami or the winner of Brian Stann vs. Wanderlei Silva. Any one of those fights would be downright tantalizing.
Mike Kyle Doesn't Tap Hard Enough
The bout between Mike Kyle and Gegard Mousasi had kind of a silly ending. Or as silly as a man nearly being choked to death can be.
Mousasi vs. Kyle was probably the closest bout on-paper on the entire card, and even then, Mousasi was a clear favorite. He showed why, as he roughed up Kyle and slapped on a tight choke.
Kyle tapped quickly. Then tapped again. And again. The ref moved in for a closer look. Kyle tapped again and again and again and, eventually, he separated the two fighters.
Kyle didn't lose consciousness, but still a horrible showing by the ref which could have gone very wrong.
Josh Barnett Showboats After Win
Barnett dominated whoever that guy was that fought him, Namdi something or other (I know, I know, it was Nandor Guelmino), by taking him down, working his way to mount and choking him out.
It was completely unsurprising, but set Barnett up to boast, jab and shout about his greatness and ability to beat anybody, anywhere. His UFC hopes are still in doubt, and nobody except for Dana White and Joe Silva know what is going to happen with Barnett.
Still, it's hard not to get excited about the potential bouts that could be waiting for him in the UFC. Stay tuned for news about his future.
Squash Match After Squash Match
You know those old WWF matches? The Undertaker vs. This Guy They Found in the Parking Lot?
This card was chock full of them, and delivered stomp after stomp. Former middleweight champ Tim Kennedy beat...some guy. Top lightweight contender Pat Healy beat...some guy. Hotshot prospect Roger Gracie beat...some guy. The same goes for Ronaldo Souza, Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier.
Usually when a card is as filled with finishes as this one was, it's because it's a good card. This one, though, was lopsided beatdown after lopsided beatdown.
Basically the only match that was a legitimately intriguing matchup was KJ Noons vs. Ryan Couture, and that ended with a controversial split decision victory for Couture.
Not a good night from an actual matchmaking perspective, until...
Nate Marquardt Gets Worked over by Tarec Saffiedine
As stated, this was a night of stomp matches. The main event was supposed to be in this niche.
As the UFC's clear-cut no. 2 middleweight for years on end, Nate Marquardt was immediately a top-ten welterweight as soon as he dropped to 170 lbs. He demolished Tyron Woodley in his Strikeforce debut to secure the belt and shouldn't have had much difficulty dispatching Tarec Saffiedine, who Woodley had beaten two years earlier.
Saffiedine, though, gave us a shocker. Landing leg kick after leg kick, he tenderized Marquardt in a way we haven't seen since Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber.
It's hard not to say that Marquardt didn't look past Saffiedine. After all, Marquardt made headlines by saying he was willing to fight Georges St-Pierre in his UFC return.
Whether or not this is true, who knows? Either way, we have another big player now in an already-stacked UFC welterweight division.