(King Mo was skeptical about looking into the strange man’s pinhole projector, but eventually his curiosity about seeing a total eclipse of the sun got the better of him. PicProps: Strikeforce)
Aside from the hapless Jorge Gurgel – who has lived in the States so long his nationality could most accurately be listed as “Ohioan,” anyway – Saturday night’s Strikeforce: Houston card couldn’t have gone much better for the promotion’s Brazilian contingent. From Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante stopping Muhammed Lawal to claim the light heavyweight title in the main event to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza winning the 185-pound strap after a fight with Tim Kennedy that wasn’t really as close as a lot of people are trying to allege, Brazil pretty much owned everybody’s asses last night. Again.
In unrelated news, Bobby Lashley lost to some guy whose sideburns made him look like he should be playing trombone in a third-wave ska band. All of our deepest fears and darkest suspicions about the former pro-wrestler’s heart and MMA skills were confirmed. Goddamn it felt good.
Somewhere, whatever notes Scott Coker had scribbled on the back of a Motel 6 brochure about the future of his company probably got crumpled up and tossed in a trash can.
Seriously, there’s no way Strikeforce rolled into this event thinking Lashley, King Mo and Kennedy would all lose. That’s just bad luck for a promotion that was already struggling with how it was going to fill its upcoming cards with halfway sellable fights. Now we’re looking at Feijao making the first defense of his newly won belt in a rematch against Mike Kyle? So, uh … is it possible to book a light heavyweight title fight on a Challengers card?
Lashley was reportedly admitted, then released from a Houston-area hospital late last night due to “severe dehydration” in the wake of his loss to Chad Griggs. Previous to this, whenever I’ve heard about people going to the hospital for “dehydration” it’s involved teen pop stars trying to cover up their drug abuse, but Lashley was reportedly in pretty bad shape last night, after video emerged of him leaving the arena on a stretcher and according to some fairly terrifying tweets from his girlfriend. Seems like he’s OK now, though.
During the actual fight, the former WWE “superstar” looked like he wanted no part of Griggs’ striking attack. Lashley dove in for takedowns early and often and the first time he couldn’t get one, the fight was pretty much over. A lot of this just reinforced what many observers already thought about Lashley’s MMA career: That his reluctance to step up in competition was a cover for some pretty serious holes in his game. After the event, Coker said at the postfight presser that Lashley needed to do some “soul-searching” to decide if he even wanted to be an MMA fighter. Ouch.
Feijao likewise pretty comprehensively revealed the deficiencies in King Mo’s all-around game during their title contest. You had to look long and hard to find someone in the MMA media who picked Cavalcante headed into this fight, but it was clear early on that things weren’t going to go Lawal’s way if he couldn’t get his larger opponent to the mat and keep him there. Lawal had some bright spots with slams and a few punches, but overall looked pretty wild in the striking game. His style of hanging his hands at his waist and goofing around in the cage looks cool when he’s feasting on dudes like Mike Whitehead, but that stuff’s not going to fly as he moves up the ladder of competition.
Jacare surprised everyone, including Kennedy, by mostly keeping it on the feet through their five-round affair. His striking didn’t exactly look world class, but it was enough to fairly convincingly out-point the former Green Beret. Despite some nasty stuff that was happening to his face, Kennedy looked game throughout. It was a little bit more difficult to fully support him however when he got on the mic to voice his incredulity about the loss, despite the fact I thought he obviously lost all but one round.
Allegedly, Strikeforce will try to make good on its promise to hold some kind of No. 1-contender tournament to find a first challenger for Souza. But Luke Rockhold is apparently set to fight Matt Lindland at an upcoming show, so it looks like those guys are out of the running. More and more – and if last night’s “text poll” is any indication – it appears we will be looking at a one-night, four-man tourney, if it happens at all.
In terms of production, all of the shortcomings that traditionally hamstring Strikeforce broadcasts remained annoyingly present in Houston. The play-by-play team is still awkwardly married to these meaningless CompuStrike numbers, which do nothing more than undermine Mauro Ranallo’s actually substantial MMA knowledge base. Gus Johnson (and Ranallo) still jump at the slightest provocation to start screaming into their mics and Frank Shamrock has an uncanny knack for saying the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time. In other words, shit is a total train wreck.
I also thought it was bit unseemly that Strikeforce went out of its way to try to bury Jake Shields during this show. The company made it clear that its angle in preemptively releasing the former middleweight champ a couple months was so later it could say that it did on TV. The broadcast team also clearly had orders to casually allege that Shields had turned down multiple opportunities to fight Jacare.
“Scorned ex-girlfriend” is not a good look for Strikeforce, especially now that the promotion will have to scramble to regroup following losses to a lot of its more promotable talent.