(One night, two wins, two different outfits. How are the men supposed to compete with that? PicProps: Strikeforce)
In theory, I was in favor of Strikeforce’s 135-pound women’s tournament on Friday night. At this point in MMA’s development, tournaments feel like a nostalgic throwback to our wild, misspent youth. They’re like that one friend we all have who just turned 30 and now insists on drinking two beers and talking about how crazy he was back in college. More specifically, I was hopeful that this particular tourney would brings some much-needed forward momentum and excitement to SF’s female welterweight division, where right now even the champ doesn’t especially want to be there. In practice however, not so much.
In reality, the truncated fights, overall lack of sizzle and a field that felt from the start like Miesha Tate and three also-rans all conspired to make the tournament a bit of a nonevent. Tate won the whole thing in a little less than two hours, Strikeforce strapped a belt on her (Really? A belt? For that?) and then we all went off and did other things. It all happened so fast that play-by-play shouter Mauro Ranallo looked like he didn’t even bother to shave before he went on the air. That alone should tell you something.
Tate, who may have made MMA history by pulling off a wardrobe change between tournament bouts, stumbled through a stagnant two-round decision over the inexperienced Maiju Kujala in the opening round and then claimed the judges’ verdict over Hitomi Akano after a decent, back-and-forth three-round fight in the final. For her part, Akano had earlier bested former steroid loser Carina Damm in the opening round.
It was all OK, I guess. Could’ve been worse. Strikeforce managed to steer clear of the unpredictability that has plagued MMA tournaments in the past. There could, for example, have been an injury that forced either Liz Carmouche or Colleen Schneider into the draw after Carmouche won a reserve bout so tedious it made the average Jon Fitch performance seem thrilling by comparison. That would’ve been a disaster.
In the end, Strikeforce got what it wanted, as it is now able to position the reasonably talented, reasonably attractive Tate for a meeting with the winner of Sarah Kaufman’s future title defense against Marloes Coenen. But the shortened nature of the bouts just felt too awkward. Two three-minute rounds isn’t enough time for a real MMA fight. It made things feel rushed and the action by turns seem excruciatingly boring and/or like it never had the chance to get going.
You can’t really lay that at the feet of the athletes. They were all game and all turned in passable performances. At the same time, the whole affair illustrated one other major problem with women’s MMA in general. To quote “The Wire’s” Michael Lee, everybody’s just too motherfucking friendly.
Maybe I’m still high from Chael Sonnen’s crazymouthed hype job for UFC 117, but it’s starting to feel like a drag whenever a female MMA fighter is asked about her next opponent and the first words out of her mouth are: “She’s amazing!” It could just be me, but I think the time fast approaches when we’ll be in need of a female fighter who tries to market herself in way that doesn’t involve propagating some kind of “we’re all in this together” crap. At this point, I might argue that what the ladies need most is a little trash talk.
Also, still no sign of Jan Finney, which is a shame …