If you watched Strikeforce's recent event on Saturday, you might have noticed a few changes. Most notably, to me anyway, was that the ever obnoxious Gus Johnson was absent from the telecast with Mauro Ranallo taking over play-by-play duties, and the inclusion of former UFC champion and elite trainer Pat Miletich in the analyst role.
Miletich is quickly gaining the backing of the MMA world as the top analyst you can have on the broadcast team. He's a legend in the sport and he's competent behind a mic. What more can you ask for?
But, while I praise Strikeforce for putting Miletich on a big event instead of the smaller shows like they had been doing, the move was not spurred by the consensus opinion of MMA observers. No, sadly he was just filling in for Gus Johnson whose top priority is the NFL. Unfortunately, this is just a temporary thing.
Nonetheless, it made for an improved show and it was not the only positive change that I noticed.
The tired, old Strikeforce logo that seemed to be made for middle-aged men sitting around drinking beer, regretting having kids and not buying that Harley they had always dreamed of was decidedly absent. Though it was replaced with something they probably made in two minutes on Microsoft Paint, it was certainly less corny and was the first step towards getting rid of the cheesy flames and rock music for every fighter entrance.
But certainly more important, there were no freak-show fights on the card. Instead there was a matchup of rising prospects that may actually have a real future in this sport.
Somehow Strikeforce got it in their heads that people want to see formmer WWE star Bobby Lashley fighting in MMA—how you pass on Kimbo Slice but get in the Bobby Lashley business is beyond me—but according to some recent reports, it seems that Strikeforce is coming to their senses.
Dave Meltzer reported this week that Lashley's Strikeforce contract has expired and he is in a period of exclusive negotiation. He also stated that the promotion "hasn't expressed real interest" in Lashley since his dull failure against Chad Griggs.
Frankly, this is great news. It appears to me that Strikeforce is starting to get a handle on what MMA fans don't want to see, and at the top of that list is a match between ex-professional wrestlers Dave Bautista and Bobby Lashley.
What they would prefer is what they got at the start of the show on Saturday, when prospect Tyron Woodley looked tremendous in stopping Andre Galvao in the first round. Two talented prospects meeting to see who has the brightest future in the sport. I will take that any day over two older men that have spent the majority of their careers playing in soap operas with tights in the ring.
The inclusion of JZ Cavalcante was certainly a good move in Saturday's show. He may not have the name a casual fan would recognize, but the real fans appreciate his presence and that is what it is all about.
Strikeforce needs to simply put on high-level fights that the hardcore fans are interested in and they will do fine. Don't underestimate your audience's intelligence. They know when they are watching a competition between a giant douche and a turd sandwich, so don't try to convince them otherwise. It just ruins your credibility.
Stay mutable with the production until you find what works, and put on great fights. It's not that complicated.