And it was here, in this blighted place, that Strikeforce learned to live again… (Props: FoxSports.com)
The fact that a Strikeforce aftermath is being broken down into two separate posts is probably confusing most of our longtime readers, considering we’ve had so little to say about the organization leading up to last night’s Strikeforce card. Ever since Zuffa’s acquisition of the organization, our post-event recaps have focused on Strikeforce’s lack of a direction, now-meaningless titles and ever-diminishing roster. The organization clearly wasn’t going anywhere (i.e. going under), yet it also, well, wasn’t going anywhere (i.e. it wasn’t planning future growth). Yet last night, for the first time in a while, Strikeforce looked like an organization that could consistently provide MMA fans with intriguing, relevant matchups.
After all of the hype that Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate managed to create for last night’s bout, the ending could not have possibly gone better for Strikeforce. Exciting fight? Check. Dramatic finish? Check. And most importantly, Sarah Kaufman’s victory over Alexis Davis on the undercard established a clear challenger for the new champion who actually stands a chance at beating the champion. The biggest problem with Strikeforce’s title fights as of late has been the fact that the champions are simply too much better than anyone that Strikeforce can match them up with (Rockhold vs. Jardine, anyone?). While Rousey continued to look phenomenal in her short MMA career last night, former champion Sarah Kaufman provides another intriguing matchup for her. Back to back championship fights in a Strikeforce weight class that will pit the champion against a formidable opponent who is coming off of a victory: Now that’s encouraging.
For that matter, the victories from both Kazuo Misaki and Jacare Souza are significant for reasons other than a potential UFC call-up. After surprising Paul Daley with a diverse striking attack and surviving a nasty elbow from “Semtex”, Misaki pulled off the upset and won by split decision (don’t ask me what fight that third judge was watching). Even though Misaki doesn’t quite look ready for the UFC, Strikeforce actually has another competent challenger ready for him in Nate Marquardt, who holds two victories over Misaki in Pancrase. Pitting the two against each other makes sense, and should earn the winner a call-up to the majors. Likewise, Jacare displayed a much improved striking attack in his victory over Bristol Marunde. Given that his willingness to stand and trade punches with opponents essentially cost him his first fight against Luke Rockhold, it would be interesting to see how he matches up with the middleweight champion this time around. The bottom line here is that rather than shrugging our shoulders and asking “Okay, now what?”, there are logical matchups awaiting both fighters. It’s refreshing, to say the least.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any reasons to keep being concerned for Strikeforce, as the event certainly produced some low points. After all of the talk about meaningful championship fights existing for Strikeforce, it’s sort of anti-climatic to bring up that Gilbert Melendez is going to fight Josh Thomson again, especially after his yawn-inducing fight against KJ Noons. Dana White’s recent announcement that he has essentially washed his hands of Strikeforce definitely doesn’t help matters either. And let’s not even start on how a major organization could allow a pedophile with white supremacist tattoos on television.
But after listening to Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier hype up their clash on May 19th- no matter how insignificant the heavyweight tournament may be at this point- I genuinely feel excited about an upcoming Strikeforce card. I am genuinely curious about future Strikeforce title fights, even if the men’s belts have become meaningless. It’s been a while since I’ve been optimistic about Strikeforce- that’s got to be worth something.