Are you paying attention to Strikeforce? If not, you should be. Strikeforce has become almost pro-wrestling like in the sense if you call somebody out on Monday, the fight will be made by Friday. The fights themselves are fine, it just looks like the Strikeforce brand is nothing more than an afterthought in the UFC offices.
It started with Dan Henderson calling out Fedor. There are some decent fights for Henderson at Light Heavyweight (Mike Kyle probably has earned a shot) But Hendo wants Fedor so that’s the fight that was made. Next was the arrival of Sengoku fighter Maximo Blanco. Blanco is a tough dude who has won 6 straight fights, 5 of those coming by knockout. Upon his arrival, Blanco said he wanted a fight with former Lightweight Champ Josh Thomson. There are plenty of good fighters in the Lightweight division, but Blanco wants Thomson so that’s the fight we’ll see September 10th!
Last week I read a report that Strikeforce Middleweight Champ Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza was upset that he hadn’t fought since January when he defeated Robbie Lawler, and wanted back in the cage ASAP. “Jacare” did not call anybody out though, and that was a problem for new Strikeforce match-maker Sean Shelby. Shelby (who did an excellent job as match-maker of the old WEC) did not have the benefit of as deep roster at Middleweight as there is at Lightweight and Light Heavyweight. The two biggest names (Robbie Lawler and Tim Kennedy) have each lost to Souza in the past 12 months. So who do you give the fight to? Luke Rockhold!
Now I like Luke Rockhold, he is a great guy and solid fighter with a record of 7-1. He also hasn’t fought since Feb-2010. The press release points out that Luke has won 6 straight, and that’s true, but where else does a guy earn a title shot after missing 19 months due to injury?
This would be the point where a decent blog would point out all the better options, but after looking at both the UFC and Strikeforce rosters, it’s easy to see why Rockhold gets the fight.
Starting with the UFC, you have big name fighters such as Vitor Belfort, Chris Leben and Wanderlei Silva. All have fights already scheduled, have lost recent fights, and probably had no interest in fighting for the Strikeforce title anyways. I would imagine all three would see that fight as a step backwards, and it’s hard to argue it wouldn’t be. The two best options in Strikeforce are Kennedy and Lawler, and nobody is screaming to see a rematch of either fight.
I have said it before; running as two separate promotions has to be driving the front office of the UFC nuts. They were able to make the GSP vs. Nick Diaz fight, but reports say it was a major headache working through the red-tape that comes with a co-promotion fight.
The quicker the UFC merges with Strikeforce, the better it is for almost all parties. The fans get to see the best fights, the Strikeforce fighters will start getting paid like their peers in the UFC and Dana White will finally be able to utilize his full talent pool.
There are some really good fights coming up in Strikeforce starting with the Heavyweight Grand Prix, the return of Gina Carano etc. Still, looking at the lack of depth across the board, you have to believe a merge is going to happen sooner rather than later. If Strikeforce is still in business January 1st, 2012 I’ll be amazed. The sand is flying through that hourglass, and I just don’t see anybody at Zuffa interested in flipping it over one more time.