If you insist on framing Saturday night’s dueling MMA action as a head-to-head matchup between Strikeforce and the UFC – and we do, since we’re media types, meaning we can always be counted on to find the easiest storyline and absolutely beat it to death – then you have to consider it a victory for Scott Coker and Co. Strikeforce came into the evening with the better card on paper and on this night the chalk held up. By virtue of back-to-back-to-back-to-back knockouts (if you count Antonio Silva’s TKO over Mike Kyle, which we do), last night Strikeforce was the metaphorical broken clock that turns up right twice a day, the dog’s ass that finally catches some sun. Meanwhile, every live fight on the UFC’s broadcast of the “Ultimate Fighter” season 12 finale went the distance. Both shows were decent, but after months of incessant bitching we should know by now that MMA fans will take a night full of stoppages over a night of scorecard verdicts every time.
During any given week on this website we give Strikeforce an unending raft of shit on the basis of its general incompetence, so it only seems fair to hand out some props on the rare occasion when the company doesn’t screw up in any obvious way. Good job, Strikeforce. We’d love to sit here and tell you last night’s show was indicative of the promotion “figuring it out” somehow, but frankly it seems like it just got lucky with a bunch of dynamic knockouts. Still, the fact this show went off as well as it did after the original fight card got scrambled by late injuries is sort of remarkable. Now it just remains to be seen how many people actually watched it.
The night’s most memorable performances certainly went to Robbie Lawler and Paul Daley, who produced two of the nastiest consecutive KOs we can recall in a long, long time. Neither ending was by any means unexpected, but together in back-to-back fights they seem sort of shocking in retrospect.
Despite a track record of difficulty standing up with left-handed strikers, Matt Lindland came out of his corner at the opening bell looking to trade punches with Lawler. It turned out to be the worst trade since the Manhattan Indians gave their island to the Dutch for $24 in trinkets. As anticipated, Lawler quickly knocked Lindland cold (scary cold) with a right uppercut, right hook combo that left the 40-year-old wrestler first lying, then convulsing, then hunched on a stool staring at his own feet, probably trying to figure out who they belonged to. Good win for Lawler and hopefully the last time we see Lindland in the cage, like, ever. Teaming up on some shady real estate deals with Chael Sonnen seems like a better long-term plan than continuing to risk any more punch-inflicted damage to his brain area.
Daley meanwhile proved he can even make winning look kind of sleazy, coming to the cage in a “Puss Out Fight Gear” T-shirt (seriously, we couldn’t make that up), landing a torrent of left hooks that reduced Scott Smith to a literal face plant and then calling out not one, but two guys during his post-fight interview. First KJ Noons, says Daley, then Nick Diaz, if you please. The Brit is nothing if not ambitious. Still, give Daley credit for best prefight quote, when he quipped something to the effect of “When I hit people, they stay hit” during his hype vignette.
Other notable performances included Dan Henderson getting back on track with a TKO over Babalu Sobral that was otherwise only remarkable due to kind of an uncharacteristically late stoppage by Big John McCarthy. Hendo will probably fight for the 205-pound title next, Coker says. Also, Kyle seemed to only help his own upwardly trending stock with a surprising first round against Silva, before the size advantage caught up with him and “Bigfoot” blasted him into the netherworld in the second.
Only Benji Radach’s decision loss to Ovince St. Preux utilized all the time allotted. Radach frankly looked like a dude taking a fight on a week’s notice a class above his normal weight division and – after referee Mike England took a wait-and-see attitude toward letting Radach absorb punishment without a stoppage – the fight itself looked more like it belonged on the UFC’s Saturday night show.
The “TUF 12” finale will likely only be remembered for four reasons:
1) Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson had a decent back-and-forth battle for the reality show crown that ended with Brookins winning, but somehow looking far more vulnerable than before. Turns out, when the kid can’t get a quick-and-easy takedown and RNC finish, his standup sucks. Really bad. Luckily, Brookins has lightning fast takedowns, good top control and punches hard on the ground, when he gets around to it. Would like to see both these guys stick around in the Octagon for a bit.
2) Stephan Bonnar fought an astonishingly smart fight against Igor Pokrajac. It was like Bonnar woke up Saturday morning and suddenly remembered he’s a decent wrestler with a BJJ blackbelt. Either that or he realized quickly that Pokrajac was going to get the better of the striking exchanges. Either way, a Bonnar who comes in with a good game plan and uses his well-rounded skills to secure some wins? That’s a Stephan Bonnar we can get behind. Dude has earned it after five years of crazy slugfests.
3) Yeah, Nam Phan got screwed about as bad as you’ll ever see a fighter get screwed by a judges’ decision. After inheriting a surprisingly stiff first post-TUF matchup against Leonard Garcia, Phan afforded himself beautifully, appearing to win all three rounds with his more effective striking. Then he lost. It was the kind of showing that makes you wonder what the fuck the ringside judges are watching, exactly. Guess they gave the fight to Garcia on volume of strikes thrown (and missed) alone. It also prompted color commentator Joe Rogan to call out NSAC chairman Keith Kizer on the air for the state’s refusal to address the issue of its shitty judges. This hasn’t been a great week for Kizer.
4) Man, Cody Fuckin’ McKenzie. What. The. Fuck. ’Nuff said.