A Disastrous Night for Strikeforce

Darren WongSenior Analyst IApril 18, 2010

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 17:  (L-R)  Strikeforce World Lightweight Champion Gilbert 'El Nino' Melendez, Undefeated Light Heavyweight contender 'King Mo' Lawal, Legendary MMA Superstar, two time Olympic Wrestler Dan Henderson, Strikeforce World Middleweight Champion Jake Shields,  and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Gegard 'The Dreamcatcher' Mousasi and Dream 155-Pound Champion Shinya 'Tobikan Judan' Aoki  attend the CBS' Strikeforce MMA Fighters Open Media Workout on March 17, 2010 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Strikeforce's first CBS show of 2010 was a disaster.

Could it have been worse?

Yes, but there were very few good things for the Strikeforce organization coming out of this night.

On a normal night of fights, such as the UFC 111 card, the number of negative things worth mentioning is small enough that a single incident becomes the complete focus of all the op-ed articles around the Internet.

Tonight, the card was bad news for Strikeforce nearly from top to bottom.

Everything That Went Wrong For Strikeforce:

1. The Brawl

When some sort of controversy happens in mixed martial arts, most people are quick to say that it's bad for the sport.

Most of the time, I take a less dramatic opinion, but in this case, the brawl was bad for Strikeforce, bad for everybody involved, and yes, it was bad for the sport.

It just doesn't look good for mixed martial arts when the main event of a nationally broadcast event ends in a barroom brawl. 

The sport suffers from bad publicity, and more than anything, Strikeforce suffers because casual viewers tuning in to CBS will be turned off and less likely to give the show another chance.

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It's also possible that CBS may think twice about having another Strikeforce card on the network after this debacle.

Also damaged are Jason Miller and Jake Shields' Cesar Gracie teammates Gilbert Melendez, and the Diaz brothers, who got involved in the scuffle.

Nick Diaz and Gilbert Melendez are both Strikeforce champions, and so this brawl doesn't look good on them, or Strikeforce who must now see fighters like Diaz and Miller as liabilities as much as assets.

2. Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson

In my mind, Jake Shields' stock only rose in this fight. We knew that if he had any chance to win, it was only going to happen on the floor, so we can't fault him for not being overly exciting there, or for looking bad in the standup.

Shields put on one of his finest performances tonight, but he is the only winner in this main event.

Dan Henderson looked good in this fight for the first six minutes, but after that his poor conditioning and inability to fight off his back became exposed.

He simply was no match for Shields once he was put on his back, and after the second round ended, he looked noticeably slowed.

Henderson lost in a way that will make it difficult for Strikeforce to market him in the future, and at 39 years old, he doesn't have a ton of time to work back towards title contention.

Strikeforce was the biggest loser in this fight because not only did they not get the winner they wanted, but they also didn't get the fight they wanted.

Strikeforce has invested heavily in Henderson, and that investment looks to have soured considerably with this loss.

Meanwhile, it looks as if Jake Shields may be as good as a free agent, and Strikeforce will likely need to pay through the nose to keep him in the organization.

Adding on to those contract woes, the fight itself wasn't a good one for Strikeforce.

As a hardcore MMA fan, I myself was quite entertained by the whole event, but casual fans would have preferred a Henderson knockout, and many probably tuned away after Shields took the fight over with his dominant positional grappling.

3. Gilbert Melendez vs. Shinya Aoki

Gilbert Melendez fought a great fight and deserves a lot of credit, but the fight may not have been exciting enough to really turn him into a much larger star because overall the fight wasn't too exciting, and he didn't finish.

Strikeforce got the winner they wanted, but they didn't get a fight that would have held the attention of the casual fan, and they didn't get the kind of performance that will make people feverishly demand to see Melendez in the future.

Instead, they got a good performance from Melendez, but probably mediocre television ratings and little momentum for a Melendez vs. Aoki rematch to market.

4. Gegard Mousasi vs. Muhammed Lawal

This fight was supposed to be the fight of the night, but it probably wasn't what Strikeforce wanted.

The fight was competitive, but since it was largely wrestling dominance by Lawal, it wasn't competitive in a fan-pleasing way.

The casual fans who I watched the fight with thought it was loads of ugliness and they didn't come off being overly impressed with either competitor.

Strikeforce needed this fight to be either an exciting and crowd-pleasing bout, or they needed it to be a star-making performance for either fighter. Neither of these things occurred.

Instead, they got a rather lackluster bout that left fans believing that both fighters were previously overrated.

Gegard Mousasi's abysmal takedown defense was exposed, as was Lawal's conditioning.

Also, Strikeforce probably got the wrong winner, because they signed Mousasi to a new four-fight contract in the days immediately before the fight.

I personally see a lot of upside with Lawal's performance, but the boos he got from the crowd weren't the kind of bankable boos that Brock Lesnar gets.

They were the "we didn't pay money to watch wrestling" kind of boos, and that's not something Strikeforce can market.

5. EA Sports MMA

Strikeforce used EA Sports MMA videogame footage to explain each fighter's keys to victory. These demonstrations were cheesy, and the in-game footage used looked pretty terrible at times.

6. Officiating

There were questionable standups by both Mario Yamasaki and John McCarthy for different reasons.

Yamasaki should have given Aoki and Melendez more time to work on the ground in interesting positions.

McCarthy stood up fights when the top position fighter was controlling the pace, which should be a no-no.

McCarthy also has a tendency to act more like a cheerleader than a referee when the fight is on the ground. He doesn't need to say "come on let's work" when Jake Shields is mounted on Henderson but not doing damage. 

Shields should be allowed to keep his advantage, and Henderson doesn't need to be warned unless he's in serious danger.

The best referee in MMA is not John McCarthy. The best referee is Herb Dean.

7. The Broadcast Team

Frank Shamrock isn't normally a fair and balanced commentator, but today his opinions were offensive and distracting. They ended up detracting from the event.

Gus Johnson wasn't bad overall, but the production announcements should have been given from inside the broadcast booth, not from inside the cage over the loudspeaker.

When the brawl broke out, Johnson said, "Sometimes these things happen in MMA." It was, as Bloody Elbow pointed out, "a poor choice of words."

When the brawl broke out, the broadcast team was in no way responsible for breaking up the fight, but they really dropped the ball when it comes to controlling the TV broadcast. 

Although it might seem like a coverup, the broadcast team should have cut away from the brawl when it began rather than focusing attention on the fiasco.

For all the quirks and problems with the UFC broadcast team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, they're still the best regular broadcast team in the business, and are leagues better than Strikeforce's.

Somewhere in the world, Dana White is smiling.

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