Browsing all articles tagged with Strikeforce
Jan
6

Strikeforce to Limp Another Year

In a somewhat surprising recent press release Strikeforce announced it had renewed its Showtime deal for 2012. Strikeforce promises up to eight events and to retain its marque fighters. They also promise to “put on some really amazing events”, which seems unlikely when they’ve lost so many fighters that they’re giving Keith Jardine a title-shot (against current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold). It’s really hard to see the positive for any players involved in this deal.

Matthew Tosh flickr

This is bad news for the UFC. Dana White has said the UFC is going to stop cherry-picking the elite talent from Strikeforce. So, instead they’re going to have the few remaining top talents in Strikeforce go to waste, laboring another year in crumbling organization? UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre have nearly run out of opponents. Those weight classes could use an infusion of some new contenders. Light-heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones ran through four top-ten opponents in 2011. Right now, there are only three fighters who can realistically be considered a top contender for his belt. And one of them just left Strikeforce.

This isn’t really good news for Strikeforce. Sometime last year, Bellator overtook Strikeforce as the number two North American promotion. Of Strikeforce’s five men’s weight classes, only two have champions. The other three divisions lost their belt-holders to the UFC. Apparently, after the current heavyweight tournament is over that division will be disbanded. But does anyone care about the SF championship anymore? Let me state this again, Keith Jardine is getting a title fight. Jardine who lost his last four fights in the UFC and should have lost his only fight in Strikeforce (it was a Draw on a terrible decision). Defending your belt against him means nothing.

Which is why keeping world-ranked fighters like Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold, and Daniel Cormier in Strikeforce for another year, amounts to a waste of year for them. Sure, they won’t be thrown to the lions right away like they would be in the UFC, but no one in Strikeforce gets them closer to a UFC title-shot. They’re losing valuable experience and a year in their prime by being forced to stay in Strikeforce. I know I’m beating a dead horse, but Luke Rockhold would benefit more by fighting on a UFC undercard against someone like Demain Maia or Vitor Belfort than by defending his Strikeforce belt.

Strikeforce began as an admirable attempt to stage world-class fights outside of the UFC. At the time it was needed, because the UFC stranglehold on the sport could have killed its momentum. Because of Strikeforce, the UFC had deliver quality, it had to continue to increase its presence on cable, and it had to treat its fighters fairly. But now, Strikeforce is just a part of UFC and an increasingly less relevant one. Like a fighter past their prime, Strikeforce should have ended before it got embarrassing to watch. Or it should have been turned into a minor league. Instead MMA fans get to watch a year of a formerly important organization become a joke.

Oct
28

Washington Sportsjam MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: October 2011 Edition

It has been a busy month in MMA. Three UFC champions defended their belts and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was scheduled to defend his before an injury delayed his match this weekend. In other organizations Bellator is gaining steam while Strikeforce looks like more and more of a lame duck each month. With the elite fighters abandoning Strikeforce for the UFC, the Bellator roster is starting to shape up as the second best in North America.

There is a bit of shakeup in the rankings with Jose Aldo dropping from the Top-5 to the “In Consideration” rankings and Dominick Cruz replacing him at the five spot. Aldo has looked lackluster in his two UFC title defenses while Cruz has continued to look solid.

1. Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion, Record 29-4)

In the Yushin Okami fight Silva avenged his most recent loss and extended his title-defense streak to an astounding nine times. He beat one of his most qualified challengers yet both mentally and physically. His in-ring mind-games showed how he can force an opponent into his gameplan. Unfortunately, it also showed why he is losing fans despite his massive talent. Love him or hate him, he’s the most dominant fighter in the world right now.

Next Fight – TBA

2. Georges St-Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion, Record 22-2)

GSP was not able to dominate Jake Shields the way he dominated his six previous challengers. However he once again held off a red-hot challenger by not playing into their game and exploiting their weaknesses. It may not have been exciting but it was the smart move. He still looks unbeatable in the Welterweight division.

Next Fight – TBA vs.  Carlos Condit

3. Jon Jones (UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Record 14-1)

Jones proved he was for real in his first title defense. He beat Rampage Jackson thoroughly and in all aspects of the fight. He kept Rampage at range with varied striking, forced him to defend from submission attempts, and was never predictable. His critics say he’s never been tested; the truth is no one has been able to find a chink in his armor. Jones is so good in so many ways and is always improving. Right now his only weakness is his ego.

Next Fight – vs. Lyoto Machida @ UFC 140 12/10/11

4. Cain Velasquez (UFC Heavyweight Champion, Record 9-0)

After the reigns of the hulking Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar, Velasquez proved that winning in the UFC required more than strength, power, and wrestling top-control. When Velasquez defeated Lesnar he proved that he was better all-around fighter than Brock and that he could contest with anyone in any aspect of a fight. There are a few UFC Heavyweights in his same class, but he’ll be a hard guy to take a belt from.

Next Fight – vs. Junior Dos Santos @UFC on Fox 11/12/11

5. Dominick Cruz ↑(UFC Bantamweight Champion, Record 19-1)

The “Dominator” continues to control the bantamweight division. In July, Cruz avenged his only career loss by outpointing Uriah Faber. At the beginning of this month he held off Demetrious Johnson, the only fighter with more speed at his weight class. Cruz’s critics complain his style is boring, but no one can accuse him of not working. He fights at a breakneck pace. That combined with his odd stand-up movement, his excellent takedowns, and complete ground game makes him a tough nut to crack. He’s also just a few more fights away from cleaning out the division of contenders.

Next Fight – TBA

Other fighters in consideration: Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Cole Konrad, Hector Lombard, Gilbert Melendez

Oct
12

The UFC Needs a Minor League – Point/Counterpoint:Part 2

Last week, we discussed why the UFC needs a secondary league. This week we are going to look at the negative side of a minor-league creation. This isn’t a reply to the points raised in the last article but rather a separate list of the disadvantages.

The UFC has too much programming to fill to cut the Roster
The UFC just signed a huge deal seven year deal with Fox. Fox will broadcast 10-12 events a year in addition to two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. With that amount of fights to program, the UFC will no longer need to create pay-per-view events. But if they do or don’t, that’s lot of events that are going to need fights and fighters to fight.

The Showtime deal becomes meaningless if Strikeforce becomes Triple A

When Strikeforce had elite MMA artists in their fold and the majority of the UFC events had to be watched on pay-per-view, the league was an appealing option for Showtime. Now, that the UFC is going to have the large presence on network TV and basic cable, why would you watch its lesser promotion on a pay cable channel? It loses a lot of it appeal, especially since Bellator is also on basic cable and is quickly surpassing Strikeforce as the #2 North American organization.

The Contenders shake themselves out naturally
There is an idea that current roster bloat in the UFC means that not everyone gets the shot they deserve. This is not true; it’s simply harder to get to the top of the mountain of challengers. A good demonstration of this is in the trio of welterweights Charlie Brenneman, Rick Story, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson”.

A few months ago Brenneman replaced Nate Marquardt as Rick Story’s opponent at a UFC Live event. The Story-Marquardt matchup would have had title implications as Story was hot up-and-comer with five wins in a row, and Marquardt had contended for the UFC middleweight belt before. Brenneman surprised everyone by soundly out-wrestling Story and winning by decision. At the UFC Live event on October 1st, Brenneman’s opponent was Johnson, another fighter on a roll. Brenneman was vastly outmatched by Rumble and quickly TKO’d.

While some fighters have obvious style advantages over others, a UFC title contender has to be well-rounded in all aspects nowadays.  In two fights we learned that neither Brenneman nor Story is a legitimate title threat right now and that Anthony Johnson likely is.

The Ultimate Fighter and a minor league are redundant
The main reason the UFC doesn’t need a minor league is that they basically already have one with The Ultimate Fighter. While the reality contest has not produced a justifiable championship contender in recent seasons that is not its ultimate goal. The overarching goal is to supply the UFC with fresh blood. It does that fine.

The recent TUF winners and runner-ups will likely fight a few years in the UFC, hovering around the top ten in their weight-class. Then they’ll either be dropped from the UFC, become gatekeepers, or become belt-challengers. Not every move to the majors produces a star in any sport. But simply adding new guys to the conversation is enough to consider it a successful minor league.

So, what’s the actual conclusion? I don’t know. I’ve just made the arguments for both sides of the issue and each point I’ve made can be countered against. I do know that the UFC has successfully helped move itself and MMA into the mainstream media. That alone is exciting and I’m looking forward to see what develops next.

Oct
6

The UFC Needs a Minor League – Point/Counterpoint: Part 1

With the recent purchase by Zuffa, LLC (UFC’s corporate owner) of both the WEC and Strikeforce many are wondering what will become of those brands and their fighters. One option is to create a minor league system out of these two organizations. In two articles I am going to explore why the UFC should create a junior promotion and why it shouldn’t. In today’s article we’ll be exploring why they should. Next week, we’ll look at the counter-point.

Here is what I propose – Zuffa should keep the Strikeforce banner and turn it into a minor league with the same seven weight classes as the UFC. Strikeforce does not have men’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions currently, but there are plenty of fighters at those weights who fought in the WEC. The new Strikeforce should be a stepping stone into the big leagues. Young, unproven fighters will have place to prove themselves without being pushed in the deep end right away. Veterans on the downturn can be given a second chance to fight themselves back into contention and give the younger competitors valuable experience. Maybe winning a title and defending it once is an automatic promotion to the UFC. Or it could be as simple as a five fight winning streak. Here a few reasons why a minor league system is necessary.

There a too many talented fighters to simply make large cuts

While the UFC could use some new blood at the heavier weight classes some of the lighter ones are packed already. UFC.com lists 58 welterweight fighters and 54 lightweight contenders. There is no way that all of those challengers can be given a fair shake based on the UFC’s scheduling. Put some of the less-proven and over-the-hill fighters in Strikeforce and let them work their way up to the UFC.

The reasons for getting kicked out of the UFC are too varied and inconsistent

There are three main reasons a fighter will get the boot from the UFC -

1. The Fighter loses three straight fights.

2. Unsportsmanlike conduct.

3. Failed drug tests.

Those are all valid reasons, but UFC President Dana White seems to be the lone decider of who the rule applies to. For example, Dan Hardy has lost four straight fights but does not seem to be in danger of losing his UFC contract. Meanwhile other fighters are cut after just two straight losses.  Paul Daley was banned for life from the UFC for hitting the aforementioned Hardy after their fight had ended. Yet, British star Michael Bisping spit at his defeated opponent Jorge Rivera and was simply fined. He remains one of the UFC’s biggest starts and is even coaching the current season of The Ultimate Fighter. Top ten middleweights Chael Sonnen and Nate Marquardt failed drug tests in similar manners. Marquardt was cut unceremoniously while the UFC was willing to schedule Sonnen’s fight this Saturday in Texas because he couldn’t meet other state’s athletic requirements.

There are obviously other factors at work in the decision to cut someone. How exciting their fights are, how marketable they are, the level of competition they lost to, and their relationship with Dana White and the UFC are all big ones.  In my opinion, that’s putting too much faith in Dana White. Can you imagine if Roger Goodell had the power to cut players from NFL teams?  Instead of relying on subjective judgment the UFC should demote a fighter after three straight losses, an instance of unsportsmanlike conduct, or a failed drug test. The fighter would instantly be assigned to Strikeforce. It would be a clear demotion, but also give the fighter a path back to the UFC if they perform well and keep their act clean.

The Ultimate Fighter is failing

The Ultimate Fighters is the UFC TV reality program which rewards the winner with a fight contract. It started off strong but has not produced a meaningful contender since the fifth season. It turns out fighting a bunch of other inexperienced combatants does not prepare one for the level of competition in the UFC.  A number of former TUF winners have been released from the UFC.

How about instead of rewarding a TUF winner with competition they’re likely not ready for they are awarded a Strikeforce deal instead? They can fight other up-and-comers and UFC demotions and ease into the higher level of opposition.

There is already a TV deal in place for Strikeforce

I’m certainly not the first one to point this out: UFC Should Consider Extending Contract With Showtime, Keep Strikeforce Brand Alive. But, I agree with the argument, the TV deal is in place and Zuffa should use it to extend the Strikeforce brand. You will notice that article points out a number of similar advantages to those previously mentioned.

The UFC is simply getting too large to be contained in one fight promotion. A Triple-A organization solves a myriad of upcoming issues for Zuffa. Next week we’ll be looking at the problems it may cause.

Sep
27

Washington Sportsjam MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: September 2011 Edition

Yet again, the top of the rankings remain the same. Jon “Bones” Jones looked dominant in his win but he’s far away from a ruling his weight class the way Silva or St-Pierre do. One month after entering the “In Consideration” rankings “Dangerous” Dan Henderson leaves it as he leaves Strikeforce.  Cole Konrad gains entry based on his spotless record.

1. Anderson Silva (UFC Middleweight Champion, Record 28-4)

In the Yushin Okami fight Silva avenged his most recent loss and extended his title-defense streak to an astounding nine times. He beat one of his most qualified challengers yet both mentally and physically. His in-ring mind-games showed how he can force an opponent into his gameplan. Unfortunately, it also showed why he is losing fans despite his massive talent. Love him or hate him, he’s the most dominant fighter in the world right now.
Next Fight – TBA

2. Georges St-Pierre (UFC Welterweight Champion, Record 22-2)

GSP was not able to dominate Jake Shields the way he dominated his six previous challengers. However he once again held off a red-hot challenger by not playing into their game and exploiting their weaknesses. It may not have been exciting but it was the smart move. He still looks unbeatable in the Welterweight division.

Next Fight – vs.  Carlos Condit @ UFC 137 10/29/11

3. Jon Jones (UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Record 14-1)

Jones proved he was for real in his first title defense. He beat Rampage Jackson thoroughly and in all aspects of the fight. He kept Rampage at range with varied striking, forced him to defend from submission attempts, and was never predictable. His critics say he’s never been tested; the truth is no one has been able to find a chink in his armor. Jones is so good in so many ways and is always improving. Right now his only weakness is his ego.

Next Fight – TBA vs. Rashad Evans

4. Cain Velasquez (UFC Heavyweight Champion, Record 9-0)

After the reigns of the hulking Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar, Velaszquez proved that winning in the UFC required more than strength, power, and wrestling top-control. When Velasquez defeated Lesnar he proved that he was better all-around fighter than Brock and that he could contest with anyone in any aspect of a fight. There are a few UFC Heavyweights in his same class, but he’ll be a hard guy to take a belt from.

Next Fight – vs. Junior Dos Santos @UFC on Fox 11/12/11

5. Jose Aldo (UFC Featherweight Champion, Record 19-1)

Aldo may have gutted out a win against his most game challenger yet, but he did not look like his usual self in his first UFC title defense. His ground game and cardio were terrible, especially in a the final round where he allowed the challenger Mark Hominick to stay in top-position for the final few minutes. Hominick ground-and-pounded away while Aldo just laid there. He wasn’t his usual exciting self in the standup either, relying on more technical striking. He may have mashed up Hominick’s face and won his first UFC title defense, but he didn’t look anything like the dominant WEC champion he once was.

Next Fight – vs. Kenny Florian @UFC 136 10/8/11

Other fighters in consideration: Dominick Cruz, Frankie Edgar, Cole Konrad, Hector Lombard, Gilbert Melendez