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Remembering Strikeforce And What’s Next?

Via The Orange County Register

Before I get to the crux of what I want to write about, here’s how the story went last night:

TMZ reported a weird story based focusing on Ronda Rousey. I didn’t take it seriously initially because it was TMZ breaking MMA news over other reporters. Seriously? But then the big dog, Ariel Helwani confirmed the story with his own post.

It was interesting to me that the big story was Ronda Rousey joining the UFC rather than the fact that Strikeforce was officially shutting down. I get it. And it just shows you how big of a star it’s expected that Ronda becomes. But I felt that Strikeforce was much bigger than a blow-off paragraph in TMZ.

Fedor taps

Strikeforce seemed like a pretty big deal until the UFC bought it. It was very similar to when Vince McMahon raided the territories. If you’d ever been to a Strikeforce show in San Jose, especially in the first two years starting in 2006, it was THE thing to do. I’ve been to UFC shows in Las Vegas and Strikeforce shows in San Jose and the crowds in San Jose were just as loud or even louder (Frank Shamrock vs. Phil Baroni was the longest loud MMA crowd reaction I’ve ever heard) than the UFC shows. The Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson crowd was waiting to explode but couldn’t because the fight was so boring. The BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk crowd was very loud at the finish of that fight. But I’d put the crowds for Gina Carano vs. Cyborg and Nick Diaz vs. Frank Shamrock as just as loud as those. And for a single fight? Fabricio Werdum tapping out Fedor was louder than all of them.

When the crowd didn’t come out in droves for Dan Henderson vs. Shogun or the C show with Mark Munoz vs. Chris Weidman, Dana White made a comment about San Jose not being as big of a fight town as he’d heard, or something like that. I’m sure he was just taking a dig at both Frank Shamrock and Strikeforce, but the comment showed how little he cared about Strikeforce’s home. San Jose fans are smart. They’re smarter than any other fans in a market that the UFC comes to once a year. They’ve seen top level MMA often. And it should be a top five city for him. He should be able to bring main events to San Jose twice a year and draw. But he didn’t understand what it took when it came to what made San Jose tick. It’s easy to put Brazilians on a card in Rio, or load up the Canadians on a Montreal card.

It was just sad to see Strikeforce go out on such a whimper.

What’s next?

Coker with Diaz and Noons

I’m really interested to see what happens to Scott Coker. He’s an extremely nice guy. I’ve chatted with him before about non-Strikeforce things as he and my uncle ran in the same circles back in their tae kwon do days. He even gave me his phone number to give to my uncle when I saw him next. But I can’t imagine that Dana White has a spot for him.

If I were one of the groups who are trying to make a splash like World Series Of Fighting, I’d hire Coker. He knows how to take a company from regional to national even if they didn’t slay the UFC dragon. With Ray Sefo in control, maybe there’s a kick boxer connection somewhere since Coker used to promote kick boxing.

Out of all the fighters that the UFC will likely sign from Strikeforce, I think after Rousey, I’m most interested in watching how well Gilbert Melendez matches up with the UFC lightweights. I would’ve loved to see him and Frankie Edgar do battle, but now that Edgar is fighting at 145, I want to see him against Benson Henderson and the Cowboy. Or how about a crazy RPM fight with Diego Sanchez?

While Daniel Cormier may do very well in the UFC as a heavyweight, I do wonder how much punishment he takes from the larger fighters. Would love to see him come in immediately and face someone like Stipe Miocic before tussling with a Stefan Struve (which would look insane height-wise). But can he stand in there with Junior Dos Santos? I don’t think so, but I’ve been wrong about Cormier’s toughness and power before.

What do you do with Rousey and this 135 pound women’s division? I think Carano and Rousey would be awesome, but Gina is doing movies and she doesn’t need the UFC. The goal should be to get Rousey in there with Cyborg, and realistically, if it’s competitive, you’re doing it at least twice. But what’s left after that? What if Rousey loses? Does Dana White lose interest in the division? Rousey and Cyborg need to be used as ambassadors to bring more women to the sport.

They should definitely do an all-women’s version of The Ultimate Fighter. They should add two women’s fights to the B and C level cards just for exposure. And there should be a women’s fight on every PPV that is lacking a big second fight.

I do wonder about Rousey and whether she has the goods to carry this thing. She’s an athlete first and foremost. She’s competed at the highest level in judo and from what I’ve seen, looks like a gym rat. But if she’s successful, Hollywood will also come calling. If Dana White thinks she’s transcendent, he should sign her to longer than a normal three-fight deal. And yes, she should get good money. She needs to be treated as something special so that she doesn’t leave at first opportunity.

I’m excited to see some of the longtime Strikeforce fighters like Josh Thomson and Robbie Lawler (if the UFC takes them both back) face UFC guys. But more than likely, only the most marketable Strikeforce guys will be given chances to lose. I think for many, it will be like the Ultimate Fighter guys when it comes to sticking around. You lose, you’re done. Can KJ Noons really beat some of the upper-middle card guys at lightweight? Probably not.

Strikeforce is scheduled to have one last lame duck show in January and I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually doesn’t happen. The only reason for Strikeforce to run the show is to get one last rating for Showtime. If one or two of the supposedly important fights is called off because of injury, I could see them canceling this one too. And there’s really no fight on the card that’s appealing except to the hardcores.

At least, Strikeforce fans will always have this:

and this …

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all of these …

and this one …

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