The new era of Strikeforce on Showtime began on Saturday night, Dec. 17 following the news earlier in the week that the Zuffa-owned promotion signed a new two-year contract with the premium TV network.
Current lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez had been rumored to be heading to UFC where he would immediately be placed on the fast-track to a UFC title shot of his own against Frankie Edgar, but “El Nino” appears to be on the Strikeforce roster for the long haul. He headlined Saturday night’s show against Jorge Masvidal who was coming off of two big wins over Billy Evangelista and K.J. Noons.
Melendez dominated Masvidal on his way to a unanimous decision victory, but he wasn’t the only big winner from the event. There were also numerous people who were affected from the happenings that weren’t even directly involved with it themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at the real winners and losers from Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal.
Borderline top-10 light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi needed an impressive victory to get back in the good-graces of the MMA media after an extremely disappointing performance against Keith Jardine earlier in 2011.
It wasn’t the prettiest performance of his career, but Mousasi has made notable improvements to his overall game, specifically in his wrestling.
St. Preux isn’t the best wrestler, but Mousasi was able to stuff numerous takedowns and escape from some tough positions to walk away with a 29-28 unanimous decision victory.
Even though he left the cage with a “loss” on his record, Ovince St. Preux has to be considered a winner tonight based on the impressive performance he put up against one of the top light heavyweights in the world, even nearly submitting him (well, kind of) at the end of the fight with a D’Arce choke.
He won’t get a win bonus, but St. Preux took a huge step up in opponent and still looked pretty good against one of the best in the world. He has a very bright future in the sport.
Well, to quote former Indianapolis Colts head coach Dennis Green, this fight was what we thought it was.
Hiroko Yamanaka is a good fighter, but she is just not in the same class as Cristiane Santos. But in her defense, is anyone?
At 12-1, her career isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately for her, it was her turn to get pummeled by the Strikeforce featherweight champion. At least she got saved from further damage with an arguably early referee’s stoppage...Not that the outcome would’ve been any different.
That’s how long it took for Cristiane Santos to completely destroy her most recent opponent, Hiroko Yamanaka.
She came into the fight as a ridiculous -1400 favorite on betting lines, but proved that there may not be a number high enough for how dominant she really is. Santos annihilated Yamanaka, rocking her numerous times in that short amount of time before the referee stepped in and mercifully stopped the beating.
There really is nothing left for Santos at 145 other than perhaps a fight with Ronda Rousey.
I’m sorry, Ronda, but you do not want Cyborg.
Rousey has been very outspoken in the media recently, calling out Strikeforce 135-pound champion Miesha Tate, but she may have went too far when she said that she would like to fight Santos as well.
The truth is that while Rousey is a great fighter in her own right, absolutely no one should want to fight Santos unless they truly have a death wish.
“I think she speaks too much,” Cyborg said of the former Olympic Judo bronze medalist in the post-fight interview after completely murdering Yamanaka.
“I had to do what I had to do,” said Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez to Mauro Ranallo after an uncharacteristically boring performance in the main event. “He’s one of the toughest [stylistic] match-ups for me, but I beat him at his own game.”
Considered by most to be one of the top two lightweights in the world, many expected Melendez to dominate the formidable, but not highly ranked Masvidal. However, like Melendez said, given Masvidal’s technique in the standup game, he was truly one of the tougher matchups for “El Nino.”
A unanimous decision of 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 proved that Melendez was the better fighter, but the performance did not go a long way in proving that he should supplant UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar as the consensus No. 1 lightweight in MMA. Still, the Strikeforce champ had it right when he broke down what needs to happen for him in the future.
“[Zuffa] need to bring some guys over here to challenge me,” he told Ranallo. “I’d like to challenge the champ, whoever it is in the UFC, come in my Hexagon.”
That is extremely unlikely to happen, but hey, crazier things have happened in MMA.
A disappointing performance from Jorge Masvidal ended the Strikeforce event on somewhat of a low note, as the main event between he and Gilbert Melendez didn’t seem to have the type of intensity that one would expect from a title fight.
Melendez hit the nail on the head when he explained after the fight that he is the champion and the challenger needs to come take the title from him—not the other way around. Masvidal did not do that.
Not only did he not do it, he didn’t seem to want it.
Typically a fighter competing in the biggest fight of his MMA career would come out much more intense than Jorge Masvidal did tonight. Instead, he looked almost content with going to a decision, especially late in the fight when it should have been fairly clear that he had fallen behind 30-27 in the first three rounds.
Surprisingly, a disgruntled Masvidal yanked his hand away from Herb Dean after the winner was announced even though it couldn’t have been more obvious that he wasn’t winning the decision.
Things were looking pretty dreary for the Showtime-Strikeforce marriage, but the two sides finally got things done earlier this week, solidifying the promotion’s presence on the network through 2014.
Given Showtime’s exclusive television programs and their boxing contracts, they don’t need Strikeforce. However, it certainly helps that they have this new contract with Zuffa, who has now made it clear that they still believe in the Strikeforce brand and may be able to use their financial resources to improve the product from what it was prior to the new ownership.
It appeared as if Strikeforce was going to be gone in 2012 and with it, the essential downfall of women’s mixed martial arts in the mainstream, given that UFC President Dana White has made it known that there will not be women fighting in the Octagon.
But given the re-signing of Strikeforce with Showtime, women’s MMA has been given new life. We may even see it given a new level of promotion now that there isn’t so much of a concern on whether it will stick around for the long haul.
Champion Miesha Tate leads a fairly stacked Strikeforce 135-pound weight class that has been the talk of MMA in recent weeks. New contender Ronda Rousey appears to be moving down, joining fellow challengers such as Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis, but things may have gotten significantly more interesting after Saturday night.
After completely wrecking her way through the 145-pound weight class, Cristiane Santos has been rumored to be possibly making her move down to 135 pounds.
If the rumor is true, the 145-pound division may be on its way out entirely.