Last night’s Strikeforce: Nashville card was an absolute disaster for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Ok, so I probably just waived any rights I have to “journalistic non-bias” with that comment. So be it. It’s less then 24 hours after Strikeforce’s highly publicised network TV debacle, and emotions are still a little close to the surface. And judging from fan response, it seems I’m not exactly in the minority with that opinion.
Before I get into what went wrong for Scott Coker and company tonight, I want to get on record with a prediction: this card represents the end of MMA on CBS, at least for the foreseeable future.
It doesn’t matter if Scott Coker apologizes to the press, punishes his fighters (how, exactly?) or gives his soul and/or left nut to drag Fedor back. The moment veteran sports broadcaster Gus Johnson informed the audience that “these things happen in MMA” while team Caesar Gracie was “putting the boots” to Mayhem Miller - well, I guarantee you a network bigwig somewhere put down his scotch, picked up his phone, and curtly ended the MMA on network TV experiment on CBS.
Which really, really sucks. No matter how happy this might make Dana White, I make that prediction with no happiness or vindictive pleasure whatsoever. The sport took several big steps back tonight. Like the Kimbo Slice/Seth Petruzelli Elite XC disaster from 2008, a single horrendous night of MMA on network TV can reverse the months or even years of hard work that went into getting the sport on to a network in the first place.
Top to bottom, Strikeforce: Nashville was an absolute catastrophe for the once surging San Jose promotion, it’s champions, it’s prospects, and it’s place in the sport. What went wrong? Well, a whole lot, but might as well start with what the whole world is talking about:
Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. Team Caesar Gracie is the Fight of the Night
So if you changed the channel halfway through the Shields/Hendo snoozer and have no idea what I’m talking about here - well, that probably puts you in the majority. If you haven’t seen the video of the fight yet, you can peep it here. Or just wait for it to make the regular rotation on ESPN, which almost certainly it will. Kill me. Kill me now.
Seriously, what the hell happened here? Initial reaction was to blame Mayhem, who entered the cage apparently without any prompting from the company, to build hype for a rematch that no one wanted to see. Whoops. Mauro Renallo closed out the evening with a scathing on-air indictment of Miller, while he consoled Jake in borderline creepy fashion. Mayhem was even banned from the post-fight press conference, seemingly an indicator that Strikeforce had found its scapegoat.
But hold on a second. Slow motion replays show team Gracie (specifically, Gil Melendez) was actually the one who started the shoving. Then pictures like this one (taken moments before the brawl) surface, clearly showing Miller, arms raised, hands open to an almost comical degree, about to be set upon by 5 or so angry monsters. Now there are calls for the Diaz brothers and Melendez to face fines, suspension, or even assault charges for their nationally televised beatdown which included repeated punching, kicking, and stomping of the downed Miller.
Even Shields managed to land 2 or 3 punches before they peeled him off (ironically, 2 or 3 punches MORE then he landed when he actually fought Miller).
Now Scott Coker is spouting off to the press about how he’s going to “punish” all those involved in the in-cage melee. Really, Scott? And how exactly are you going to do that? I mean, it sure sounds like you are “punishing” Jason Miller - by giving him the headlining spot on your June 16 card, against Robbie Lawler. That’s really gotta…sting? And any notion that he’s gonna punish Melendez, the Diaz bros. or any of the Caesar Gracie camp is laughable. They currently hold three of Strikeforce’s belts and represent the promotions only other legitimate draws outside Fedor. I’d be shocked if Coker so much as slaps them on the wrist for this.
So, will this incident be remembered as the “Kimbogate”, the “Barnettgate” or similar, i.e the event that brings down a card, or even promotion? Honestly, no. The card was DOA long before the in-cage brawl. This dust-up was nothing more then the urine flavoured icing on Scott Coker’s big slice of manure cake.
Hell, legal ramifications aside, it was by far the most excitement Strikeforce provided over the course of their three hour broadcast. Which brings me to the next problem:
Three Fights in Three and a Half Hours
That’s exactly what Strikeforce: Nashville delivered Saturday night. Considering your average, mediocre UFC Fight Night brings an average of 5-6 in the same timeframe - well, that’s just incredibly poor.
And really, there’s no one to blame but Murphy and his damn law for this one.
Or maybe, in a strange way, you can blame Fedor Emelianenko. This card suffered to a great degree from his absence owning to recent contract re-negotiations. Instead, Strikeforce put on the three biggest fights they could make, each one a title fight and a fight that had a good chance to deliver excitement, as well as help groom the promotion’s homegrown stars and big name acquisitions.
As it turns out, exactly the opposite happened. Each championship fight went to a decision in fights that were one sided, tedious, and frankly more then a little boring. Not only did it work to kill fan interest, it was also worst case scenario as far as the network is concerned. See, that’s half an hour of air time PER FIGHT, not counting entrances, fighter introductions, advertisements or anything else. Add it all up, and you have a broadcast that went a whopping 40 minutes over time.
Meaning people changing over to CBS to watch the nightly news came in just in time to watch the Shields/Mayhem bench clearing brawl. Excuse me while I bang my head off my desk a few times.
I referenced Murphy’s law earlier because, like the night itself, each went about as poorly for Strikeforce as it could possibly have gone.
Gegard Mousasi was Strikeforce’s biggest up and coming star, handsome with a “Jon Jones” aura and oh yeah - just re-signed to a 4 fight, multi-year contract with the promotion. Instead of a big win, he gasses hard and drops a 5 round lay’n’pray decision (and the LHW title) to an equally gassed Mohammed Lawal. To say that neither guy looked impressive in this fight is a huge understatement. The Strikeforce LHW division just went on life support - assuming the body bag hasn’t been zipped up already.
Then it’s on to Melendez vs. Aoki, which looked…well, it looked pretty much like Mousasi/Lawal, only less impressive if that’s possible. Shinya Aoki, Japanese submission monster, #2 lightweight in the world - well, he was nowhere to be seen. Instead, we had to watch a Japanese dude that looked utterly confused, one-dimensional, and out of his element. I would have believed this guy was a BJJ champion making his MMA debut - not a consensus top 5 LW fighting for the #1 spot in his weight class. I mean my God, did he even have a plan for getting that fight to the ground? Cause it sure didn’t seem like it to me.
And then Shields/Hendo, which, for the first 3 minutes, looked like it might reverse the ills of the last two hours. Dan Henderson landed his nuke of a right, Shields flopped like a fish to the canvas, and somewhere a smile might have started to creep over Scott Coker’s face. Then Shields did what he does best: suck every last ounce of excitement out of a fight with grinding, position first wrestling. For the next 20 minutes, Jake scored single leg takedowns and held Hendo down while Dan looked older with each passing minute.
Simply put, I think Scott Coker needs to consult a Sherpa - he must have done something very bad in a past life to bring about this magnitude of karmic disaster. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that:
Dana White was Right
Let’s just do a quick breakdown of where Strikeforce stands right now, shall we?
-Promotions biggest star (Fedor) still not confirmed to a second fight, and seemingly able to bend Coker over a barrel each time he fights.
-Promotions biggest acquisition (Henderson) proven to be old, over the hill, and probably not worth the money Strikeforce threw at him.
-Promotions most dominant champion (Shields) headed for the UFC, taking the MW title with him.
-Promotions biggest prospect (Mousasi) defeated and totally robbed of buzz.
-Promotions newest prospect (King Mo) failed to impress, or build any buzz of his own.
-Promotions LW champion failing to convince that he’s #1 at LW, a virtual certainty going into the fight.
-Alliance with DREAM only proving how far Japanese MMA has fallen behind that in North America.
-Guy from Bully Beatdown proves he’s just as provocative and incendiary as he seemed to be.
No matter what else you draw from that - it seems MMA’s evil emperor was right once again. Better make room on that tombstone, Dana.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!