Daniel Cormier and 15 of Strikeforce's Finest First-Round Finishes
Much has changed in the world of Mixed Martial Arts since I last wrote an article for Bleacher Report. Fedor went from floating at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings into a legacy-crippling downward spiral.
Steven Seagal went from simple movie star to the man who apparently taught all of Team Black House 7,804 different fight ending kicks. Jorge Rivera went from that guy who was on The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback to that guy who made a South Park spoof song about Michael Bisping being a...jerk. On top of that, there's been the TV deals, title changes, signings and releases that have shaken up the entire sport.
However, as proven by this weekend's Strikeforce event, there is still one thing I can rely on in this crazy MMA environment. What am I speaking of? Strikeforce's fun, first-round finishes.
A multitude of first-round finishes have been racked up over Strikeforce's five year history. Saturday night we had the opportunity to see three of the event's main card fights end within the first five minutes of action.
However, for Strikeforce this is nothing new.
There have been plenty of Daniel Cormier vs. Big Foot scenarios that have gotten the crowd riled. If anything, we should probably expect these finishes more often.
Not that the UFC doesn't have its fair share of finishes within the first five, but Strikeforce seems to produce them consistently on most cards and in high profile fights. You could argue that this is due to large talent gaps between competitors, bad matchmaking, over hyping and so on; however, that's not my focus today. My focus is on some of those high profile matchups that have never seen it past round one. If Strikeforce goes the way of PRIDE (as many assume it will), fans will be able to look back on these fights and remember why Strikeforce was considered a contender to compete with the UFC's dominance.
So without further adieu: Here are Strikeforce's best first-round finishes.
Daniel Cormier Makes Antonio Silva Put a Big Foot in His Mouth
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix was supposed to be the best tournament in mixed martial arts history, or at least that's what Bas Rutten said. After Fedor Emelianenko's early elimination, interest began to decrease.
Coupled with that, various injuries and contractual conflicts saw the progression of the tournament slow to a crawl.
Then came the drag of a fight that was Overeem vs. Werdum. Despite that fight not living up to expectations, many still had hopes for the tournament since they could at the very least watch Mr. Overeem continue to climb the heavyweight ranks.
However, once Overeem was released from Strikeforce and subsequently inked a deal with the UFC, things seemed hopeless.
Overeem was replaced in the semi-finals by relative newcomer Daniel Cormier. Cormier was certainly a promising prospect coming into the fight, but nevertheless was considered an underdog to Atonio "Big Foot" Silva.
A lot of people said that Cormier would lose to the bigger and more seasoned fighter in Silva. Those who doubted Cormier were forced to put their foot in their mouth while Silva was trying to wake up after Cormier put his fist in his mouth.
Arlovski Looks for a Comeback and Finds Rogers' Fist
Andrei Arlovski was coming off a KO loss to Fedor Emelianenko, who was widely considered the best heavyweight in the world at the time. His next fight was against the relative no-name, Brett Rogers.
This fight was supposed to be Arlovski's warm up fight before launching himself back into the top of the heavyweight division.
Sure, Rogers had power, but that was about it.
Arlovski was a better, crisper striker with a strong ground game. He should have won by knockout or submission. He should have gotten a rematch against Fedor. He should have...seen those punches coming.
Alas, sometimes things do not work out as they should.
It Is Not Myth: Jake Shields Finished a Fight
Before I begin, let me state something: I am a Jake Shields fan.
A lot of people have been saying he isn't a finisher as of late. I'd argue that he doesn't need to be, as he finished every fight between his bout with Carlos Condit in 2006 and Mayhem Miller in 2009.
That's eight finishes in three years, so I'll give him a break.
Shields was on an 11-fight win streak heading into this fight, while Robbie Lawler was 5-1 in his past six fights (one no contest due to eye poke), and this fight was at middleweight despite Shields' most recent fights being at welterweight.
The size, power and take down defense of Lawler was expected to give Jake some trouble and it did...for about two minutes.
Cain Velasquez Gives a Glimpse into the Future
Cain Velasquez only had two fights before becoming a member of the UFC roster.
In those two fights, he was already so scary that people refused to fight him. If you watch his first fight in Strikeforce, you can see why.
Cain hands his fellow newcomer a decisive and painful loss in under two minutes.
Just as we've begun to expect from Cain, he dictated the fight with his superior wrestling and striking. He stayed perpetually active and handled himself like a UFC veteran in his professional debut.
The crazy thing is, he handled this fighter just as easily as he handled Lesnar, Nogueira, Rothwell and everyone else he has faced in the UFC.
Strikeforce Introduces Elbow Strikes, Melendez Introduces Them to Crusher's Face
The story goes something like this: Gilbert Melendez split two decisions against Josh Thomson, losing the first and edging out the second. Skip ahead about three years and "Crusher" Tatsuya Kawajiri dominates the aforementioned Thomson to earn a rematch against Melendez, who had beaten him in a hard fought decision victory some years prior.
Though most assumed that Melendez would win, it was thought that it would turn out to be a competitive matchup for El Nino.
It turns out that Melendez never got that message and decided to give the world a strong case for why he might be the best lightweight fighter in the world.
Overeem Proves That He Is Most Certainly "Uber"
Alistair Overeem took a lot of flack in the lead-up to this fight.
He hadn't been defending his title, he didn't seem to want to fight Fedor, everybody thought he was on steroids and he was defending his title against a man who had just been knocked out by Fedor.
It was Overeem's chance to outshine Emelianenko, and he did just that.
He never found himself in a single dangerous position throughout the Rogers fight. The man who bloodied, mounted and frustrated Fedor could do none of those to the man known as Ubereem.
There isn't much else to say about this fight.
It was a 100 percent, old-fashioned whoopin' delivered by Overeem to the helpless Rogers.
Jorge Santiago Makes Sean Salmon Sleep with the Fishes
Before the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, there was the Strikeforce Middleweight Grand Prix.
The tournament was on a much smaller scale, had only four competitors and was completed in one night.
The first fight of the tournament turned out to be just as short as the tournament itself.
The opening round saw Jorge Santiago take on Sean Salmon.
Sean Salmon is mostly known for getting KO'd by a head kick from Rashad Evans in the UFC. In Strikeforce, he is most remembered for getting KO'd by a flying knee from Jorge Santiago.
You could bash him for that, but hey, at least people will remember the guy.
Aoki Victorious Via Rear Naked...um...Crank?
Lyle Beerbohm came into his own in mixed martial arts while under the Strikeforce banner. He had an inspirational life story, talent, fancy pants, the whole deal.
When he lost to Pat Healy, Strikeforce decided to do their best to work him back into the upper level of lightweight competition. His chosen opponent? Shinya Aoki, who at the time was riding a five-fight win streak.
This fight was a win-win situation for Strikeforce.
If Aoki won, they could use his popularity overseas and long-time status as a top-five lightweight to draw more attention to their organization.
If Beerbohm won, they could show how much a fighter who spent most of his time in Strikeforce rose to the occasion and beat a top lightweight competitor.
Too bad for Beerbohm, this fight was not a win-win situation for him, but simply a loss.
In retrospect, it might not be the best idea to clinch with a black belt in judo who has a BJJ black belt to boot.
Include the 14 submissions he held at the time in that equation, and it's pretty easy to see why this one ended so early.
Fedor vs. Werdum: The One Who Doesn't Fall Doesn't Stand Up
When I stepped into the HP Pavilion on June 26, 2010, I was sure of two things. First, I was turning 20 in exactly one month. Second, if Fedor was dumb enough to throw himself into Wedrum's guard like he had against Big Nog in the PRIDE days he was in trouble.
Though I was fairly sure that Fedor could win, I had a nagging feeling that he was going to do something stupid that night. I had actually met King Mo the day before and we discussed how we felt Werdum would submit Fedor early.
I really believed Fedor would most likely be the victor that night, but I wouldn't place a bet on it because I just felt uneasy.
My wallet was sure to thank me because sure enough, Fedor hurled himself into Werdum's guard only to find himself ensnared in a perfect triangle armbar.
After the fight, Fedor assured the crowd that he would recover from this fall and learn from his mistakes.
Fedor vs. Hendo: Fedor Falls and Doesn't Stand Up
Remember Fedor's reassuring words that the one who falls cannot stand up?
Remember thinking he would reevaluate how he approached fights and be back in the win column soon enough?
Remember when he lost to Big Foot and you thought maybe a lighter weight fight would help rejuvenate him?
Remember when Dan Henderson punched him in the face repeatedly and he complained about an early stoppage?
Whether the fight was stopped early (which I don't believe it was) or not, most fight fans and pundits alike didn't expect the fight to end so abruptly in round one.
Then again, Strikeforce is a mysterious place where the impossible can at times seem possible.
The Shamrock vs. Gracie Fight You Probably Haven't Seen
Cesar Gracie has become quite the popular name as of late. He is the coach of Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez and Nick Diaz, all of whom have been doing quite well for themselves.
If you've ever watched a Strikeforce broadcast, you may have been able to detect a hint of bitterness towards these fighters by Frank Shamrock.
Here is where that feud began.
Strikeforce needed a place to begin, and for their first card they decided to bank off the notoriety of the Gracie and Shamrock families.
This fight didn't last nearly as long as the bad feelings it caused between Shamrock's and Gracie's teams.
In fact, the fight only really lasted a third of a minute.
In this case, I don't think time healed all wounds; I'm pretty sure it opened all of them.
Paul Daley Turns Scott Smith from Hands of Steel into Chin of Glass
Many people used to consider Paul Daley to be one of the best, if not the best, strikers in the world at 170 pounds.
Many people consider Scott Smith to be the Arturo Gatti of MMA.If you don't know who Arturo Gatti is, he was basically a boxer known for taking a beating and still pulling off spectacular victories.
Both of these statements could easily be justified.
The only problem in this equation for Scott Smith was that if he was the Arturo Gatti of this scenerio, then Paul Daley was the Oscar De La Hoya. Just like Oscar did to Arturo in their meeting, Daley totally outstruck Smith.
The difference being this: It took De La Hoya five rounds to TKO Gatti and it took Daley just one to KO Smith.
Melvin Manhoef Wins the Fight but Loses the War, Badly
In this classic striker vs. striker bout, things weren't looking so good for Lawler. He was getting battered by leg kicks and punches with almost no offense to fire back.
Manhoef landed 23 out of 41 strikes, all of them pretty hard to boot. Lawler, on the other hand, threw only seven punches and landed three.
Statistically, Manhoef won this fight hands down.
Realistically, Lawler's sixth punch knocked Manhoef out of his senses and the seventh punch knocked him out cold.
I could use the Chael Sonnen defense and say, "Well, Manhoef was winning the entire fight up until he got finished. SO HE WON!"
However, I think I'll take the high road and just call it an awesome win for Lawler.
Nick Diaz Talks Trash, Gets Smashed, Gets Up and Wins Again
Nick Diaz is a very good striker. Paul Daley is a better striker.
Nick Diaz is great on the ground. Paul Daley has five losses by way of submission.
It would have made complete and total sense for Diaz to then use his striking to set up takedowns and tap Daley out with one of the many submissions in his arsenal.
Instead, Nick Diaz went all out and brawled with Daley.
Nick Diaz got dropped in the very first exchange of the fight and was face-planted later in the round.
He had all the reasons in the world to pull guard and start throwing his legs up for submissions or looking for switches, but that's exactly the opposite of what he did.
He got up, stayed in the pocket and banged with Paul Daley until he became the first man to finish Paul via strikes.
Nick Diaz may make some stupid moves outside of the cage that don't pay off (giving up a title shot...really dude?), but when he makes moves some of us would judge as "stupid" inside the cage, they sure do seem to pay off more often than not.
Robbie Lawler Gives Matt Lindland the Worst Christmas Present Ever
Matt Lindland has a history of not faring so well in fights against powerful south paws who like to stand and bang.
David Terrell cleaned his clock in the UFC, Vitor Belfort did it in Affliction and just about everybody except Lindland knew that Robbie Lawler was about to do the same thing in Strikeforce.
The peculiar thing about this fight was that Lindland readily stood in the pocket and exchanged with Lawler.
He made a few weak clinch attempts, but other than that he basically thought it would be a good idea to test the waters against yet another dangerous south paw.
Before the night was over, he was stiffened up and out cold.
The most embarrassing part possibly being how Robbie Lawler grabbed his legs and pulled them straight after sending him to the canvas snoring.
Thank You for Reading and as Always...Morgan Freeman!
I hope you all had a fine time reading this article, as I had a fine time writing it.
Please share with me any comments about what your favorite first-round finishes have been in Strikeforce.
Did King Mo vs. Roger Gracie make your list? How about Tim Kennedy vs. Trevor Prangly? Perhaps Tank Abbott vs. Paul Buenetello?
There are many great finishes out there waiting to be explored. Now that you know what my favorites are, I hope to hear what yours are.
Thank you for your reads and your time!