Strikeforce: Houston: Why?
Bad judging, bad refereeing, bad fights, bad commentating, bad hairdos, bad production values, bad ticket sales, bad atmosphere, the ending of two (and defeat of a third) of the very, very, veryvery few semi-stars Strikeforce has by talented but anonymous journeymen- this promotion is double-ding-dong-doomed. Thoughts:
– Griggs vs. Lashley was semi-salvaged only by Griggs coming across as the nicest man in five states. Lashley is just… blah. His skills are still years away (and don’t seem to be improving) and now there’s real questions about his conditioning, AND he’s on the far side of 30. This fight goes a long way towards shuffling him into the “busted prospect” category as a serious fighter, and probably even hurts his value- such as it is- as a non-serious fighter against the Dave Batista’s and Kimbo Slice’s of the world. I doubt the result of this is enough to sway CBS one way or another for giving Strikeforce one last shot at network primetime, but it can’t have helped. Maybe they can do Griggs vs. Arlovski? Maybe a serious promotion shouldn’t be asking questions like that? And yes Lashley did get semi-screwed by the fight being stood up from mount, but let’s be honest: he was blown the fuck up badly by then and was likely going to be toast in the third round regardless. Overall he has the same problem in MMA that he had in pro wrestling: he’s got all the physical tools in the world, but his technical skills lag far behind and he has the square root of zero personality. I feel like I’ve been watching this guy for 5+ years now in one venue or another and I still don’t have a clue who he is as a person; if I don’t know who he is as a person and he’s not that great of a fighter, why should I care? I can’t come up with a reason, so I don’t care, so moving on.
– Noons vs. Gurgel was a joke, booked to be a squash match and yet somehow made everyone involved look worse and less professional than they did before it started. Noons probably should have had a point deducted at the end of the first for a late punch; Gurgel’s corner definitely should not have let him out for the second after he had already been KO’d once (and the broadcasters noted that he didn’t remember having been knocked down in the corner, which is a clear sign of brain trauma); the illegal knee which may or may not have come after the fight was ended should probably merit Noons some kind of suspension for being blatantly illegal, probably after the stoppage and likely to cause injury. And will that happen? Of course not. And the refereeing- it’s hard to know where to start with the catalog of errors here, but let’s pick one basic point: if you’re going to stop a fight, STOP THE FUCKING FIGHT, don’t leap in like it’s over, then back off, then decide it’s over a second time without actually telling anyone. Inexcusable. The fighters should not have to guess whether or not the fight is still happening.
– I would give you my score for Kennedy vs. Jacare, but I don’t have one; I watched 4 rounds and fast-forwarded through the fifth because I could feel things like my hope for the future, faith in humanity and will to live ebbing away with each passionless, motionless, fruitless minute of nothingness. That fight was the concept of “ennui” in performance art form, the kind of low to no action staring contest which gets both guys under. From the standpoint of skill and talent, it’s clear that Jacare is a world-class fighter; from a promotional standpoint, let’s be honest: he’s got little charisma, no name, and can’t do English-language promos. His most natural fight- Mayhem Miller based on their feud- is hard to promote given that all the backstory for it happened years ago in another promotion. Hardcore fans will always be excited to watch De Souza; hardcore fans will never be enough to sustain a serious #2 promotion. Strikeforce better hope their contender’s tournament throws up something special.
– The main event, hey, nice job by Feijao and the 10-20 pounds of muscle he made friends with in the last couple months without outgrowing the weight class. Funny how that works. He seems a nice enough guy and he’s kind of good looking in a not-quite-Vitor-Belfort kind of way so maybe he’ll catch on, but eeeehhhhhhh wouldn’t bet on it. And what’s the next fight for him? Maybe Mousasi, except Mousasi is scheduled for DREAM upcoming and it’s anyone’s guess when or if he’ll next be available. And even if he is you’re back to two charismaless guys who appeal only to hardcores. He could rematch Mike Kyle, but despite the backstory that’s still a matchup of near-unknowns. He could fight Babalu, but that’s an unknown vs. a UFC washout. And in the meantime what do you do with Mo? If Strikeforce had shown the least part of clue one in the months and months they’ve had Mo and done things like give him major interview time and show his entrances- you know, things that might get him over as a star- then this would be bad but not a disaster as a star can survive a loss in MMA, even a KO loss. But they didn’t. So they’re left with what looks like a flash-in-the-pan ex-champ who got knocked the screaming fuck out in his first title defense and whose only televised wins were over the bloated remnants of Mike Whitehead and Gegard Mousasi- which a lot of people, unfairly, are now going to look at as saying more about Mousasi than about Mo. So yeah this was no buys.
– Why was I staring at the referee’s back for half of the evening? Why do they insist on using that crane camera which makes everything look tiny and which makes it harder to follow the action? Why are they giving crowd shots of a crowd where there were patches of empty seats 20 feet from the cage? Why Gus Johnson?
– Mauro Renallo is still a hideous evil clown. Most of Strikeforce’s production staff should just be fired; getting rid of him is probably going to require an exorcism.
In short, this promotion has no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going. They cannot build stars, and now the guys they had who had the best chance of becoming stars are starting to get knocked off and damaged before they’d reached the level they needed to to be insulated from the losses that everyone in this sport eventually picks up. You look up and down the Strikeforce roster now and there’s legitimately probably only one fight they could put on which would have any kind of serious interest to it- Fedor vs. Overeem- and that fight by all accounts isn’t going to happen because Fedor’s people for one reason or another don’t want it. What is the plan for this group? Do they accept just being Showtime’s every-so-often small time MMA promotion which has one, two, maybe three interesting fighters per division and can’t draw independently of their TV contract as many boxing promoters accept, or do they have some sort of desire to build themselves into being a legitimate #2 promotion which can draw revenue from PPV and make more than a pittance from live ticket sales? If it’s #1 then fine, but they can stand to do some major cost-cutting of guys like Fedor; if it’s #2 then they need an entirely new plan of how to go about it. Rinky-dink production showcasing anonymous dudes is not going to draw serious attention. Most of the time I enjoy Strikeforce’s shows (tonight’s being a major exception) but I don’t know what they’re for, exactly; and the more time passes with this the state of affairs the more I bracket them mentally with Shine Fights, Shark Fights, War On The Mainland and King Of The Cage than I do with UFC. Tonight felt minor league- that’s not what you’re looking for.