SF Challengers 12 Aftermath: In Which We’re Told Where We Can Stick Our Limited Understanding of the Unified Rules

(Our thoughts exactly, Waachiim. PicProps: Strikeforce)

Without question, the most memorable part of Friday night’s Strikeforce  Challengers 12 broadcast came not from the fights, but during an unexpected television appearance by Strikeforce rules director Cory Schafer. After the tepidly anticipated bout between Marius Zaromskis and Waachiim Spiritwolf was declared a no contest when Zaromskis opened the first round with a flying finger to Spiritwolf’s eyeball, Schafer didn’t just afford himself well during his 30 seconds on camera with Mauro Ranallo, he owned it. In fact, immediately following five minutes of the Strikeforce announce team bitching about how no one understands the rules of MMA, Schafer gave the impression that he’d been waiting his whole life to come on TV and tell us all – especially Mauro – off about it.  Also, Strikeforce has a rules director. Who knew?

“There still seems to be confusion in this sport,” Ranallo asked Schafer, after the play-by-play man had just been complaining long and loud about how Spiritwolf shouldn’t be given any time to recover from Zaromski’s eye-jab. “I’ve been around a long time … what is the ruling when it comes to an accidental eye poke? I’ve always been under the impression that you’re only allowed five minutes for a groin strike, a low blow. Everything else, if you can’t continue you have to tell the referee and the fight will then be judged.”

“Well, unfortunately you’re under the wrong impression …,” Schafer responded, with enough scorn in his voice that someone off camera (it sounded like Pat Miletich) exclaimed ‘oh!’ in seeming embarrassment for Ranallo. “The referee has the discretion to give the fighter up to five minutes to recover after any kind of accidental foul.”

“Now, is that in the rule book?” asked the still incredulous Ranallo.

“Absolutely it is,” Schafer said.

Schafer then launched into a spirited and well articulated defense of the rules, the Mississippi State Athletic Commission and the no contest ruling. It was the kind of authoritative and knowledgeable performance that made you wonder – not knowing anything at all about the man – why Cory Schafer isn’t running all of Strikeforce.

The eye poke incident itself also pointed out yet another reason why Strikeforce continues to do itself a disservice with these Challengers shows. It’s a shame, but three months from now nobody is going to remember that the rest of the fights on this card were pretty OK. Nobody is going to remember that Justin Wilcox out-struck Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro en route to a unanimous decision and then called out Lyle Beerbohm by saying, “If you want a fight, I’m your huckleberry.” Nobody is going to recall that Caros Fodor caught Derek Getzel in a nice darce choke, that Ovince St. Preux crafted an improbable upset victory over Antwain Britt or that Jan Finney finally got her second chance in the Strikeforce cage and lost again.

The only thing anyone is going to remember is that Zaromskis accidentally gouged Spiritwolf just a few seconds into their bout and then the entire broadcast almost clattered off the rails. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s seriously unfathomable how the slightest sign of controversy or adversity sends the Strikeforce announce team into a complete tailspin. It’s especially mind-boggling considering that every Strikeforce show seems to invite so much disaster that you’d think they’d be used to it by now.

Nope. There they were last night: Allowing long, awkward stretches of TV time to drag by with dead air, while Spiritwolf paced back and forth in the cage screaming, “Fuck! Fuck!” The silence was broken only by Ranallo continuing to chase his weird hypothesis that the fight should be immediately declared a no contest, instead of giving Spiritwolf any time to recover. Granted, that’s what we all thought the rule was, but why insist on it and then get pissed when the ref is just trying to see if the fight can go on as scheduled? 

Somehow, as the least experienced member of the Strikeforce team, Miletich remains the most competent of the bunch. The former UFC champ spends the majority of each broadcast telling Ranallo and Stephen Quadros how wrong they are about everything and the rest of the show sounding like he’s stopping himself from telling them. Each time out, Miletich proves he’s the best color-commentator Strikeforce has and the fact that he keeps getting relegated to Challengers cards is just weird.

Midway through last night’s show I found myself wondering: Now that the WEC is going under, you think Strikeforce could land Todd Harris? A Zuffa-style,  two-man booth of Harris and Miletich would be a huge, huge improvement over what Strikeforce has going on now. Just saying.