(According to a clause in his new contract, Fedor gets to play with half the Batman Legos set now and the other half when he shows up for the semis. PicProps: Showtime)
There’s just something about brackets, man. The human male would probably tune in to a tiddlywinks tournament if it could be neatly arranged in the elegant efficiency of a single elimination bracket. Nothing else allows us to channel our inner fanboy or bring out the modern jackass in our personalities quite like it. Once a year, the mythical lure of the bracket even makes college basketball seem interesting; it’s that powerful. Now, draw up a bracket populated by 265-pound behemoths who are charged with beating the dogshit out of each other until only one is left standing? Well, let’s just say you’ve got our attention.
Suffice it to say that upon poring over the proposed pairings for the 2011 Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix this week, it didn’t take long for the keen bracketologists in the MMA community to notice that the left-hand side of that badboy seemed a bit, um, stacked, while the right side appeared to be Josh Barnett and three other dudes. With Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem all on the same side of the tournament draw, eyebrows were raised in a collective: WTF? Werdum said he thought it was meant to sell pay-per-views. Overeem said he thought it was weird, but wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. Barnett hasn’t said shit yet, but we assume he’ll take it. Now, the speculation can (sort of) end as company CEO Scott Coker explains to MMA Fighting.com exactly why Strikeforce overstocked one side of the bracket with all its top talent. It turns out not even the promotion itself believed it could engineer the desired Overeem vs. Fedor final, so it fudged things a little bit.
"Very rarely in a tournament does it ever work out where the last two guys are the guys everyone wants to see fight," Coker told Ariel Helwani during The MMA Hour. "So I said to my guys, ‘What about this scenario: Let them fight in the semifinals … whoever wins moves forward.’ … Let’s say Fedor does get past ‘Bigfoot’ and then Alistair wins his fight (against Werdum), then we’re guaranteed to see a big fight."
Hmmm, maybe. As long as you’re using the loosest possible definition of the word “guaranteed.” Strikeforce is “guaranteed” Overeem vs. Fedor in the semis as long as Fedor doesn’t shatter his right hand on Bigfoot Silva’s enormous jaw or Overeem doesn’t swan dive into a Werdum submission. OR so long as Overeem doesn’t get wind of some kind of rinky-dink kickboxing tournament in Fiji that he’d rather fight in this June. OR if M-1 Global doesn’t hold Fedor for ransom after the first round of the tournament. Not that those Crazy Russians would use the added bargaining power of an ongoing, high-publicized grand prix to try to get the upper hand in a negotiation …
Even Coker indicated that he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in keeping this thing together. But you know what he’s relying on to keep all these notoriously fickle and disinterested dudes duly interested? Brackets, man. The power of brackets.
"You’re dealing with eight managers, from eight different camps, wanting eight different things," Coker said. "But in the end, everybody wanted to fight in the tournament and they said, ‘Sign me up.’ From Fedor to Alistair to, you know, Andrei (Arlovski). They all wanted to be in the tournament, because in the old days, let’s say, in Pride the tournament was very, very popular. I think this is kind of a throwback to that era."
Who knows, maybe it will all work out. As we’ve established, there is nothing like a bracket to make people stay the course. No matter what happens however, Strikeforce might want to slow its roll a little bit with the Pride comparisons. Let’s get through the first round here, Coker, and then see where we’re at in the history books.