Strikefarce: The End of the Road
Words by ALar
It isn’t easy to sit down and attempt to chronicle the demise of a once prosperous MMA promotion. In a day and age where the UFC is the king of all things holy and any other promotion is merely a peasant attempting to scrape together enough food to survive, its sad to see a one time contender reach it’s end.
Strikeforce was a place that allowed the stardom of Gil Melendez, the Diaz Brethren, and Ronda Rousey to grow. It was a place that attempted to put together one of the greatest Heavyweight tournaments of all time, even if it didn’t work out so well in reality… Strikeforce even did the one thing that Dana White and Zuffa couldn’t, they signed freaking Fedor! All in all, Strikeforce will likely be regarded as the strongest challenger to the UFC’s throne as the King of MMA. Strikeforce never reached the heights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but it provided us with plenty of high points during it’s run. When Zuffa purchased the promotion in early 2011, we all predicted an eventual absorption of the brand into the UFC umbrella. As the final bell approaches for the promotion, it may be hard to shake the hiccups of the last year and a half from their legacy, but hopefully Saturday can give us one last look at the might Strikeforce once wielded in the MMA world.
Strikeforce is throwing what remains of their lifeless roster at us on Saturday night in a smattering of odd match ups. Some of their big names like Luke Rockhold and Gil Melendez have pulled themselves of this final card due to “injury”. It can be debated if their injuries were legiti, or mere attempts to assure that their next fight was in the UFC’s Octagon and not the crumbling cage of Strikeforfe. Either way, you can’t blame the guys when over the last year it was tough to determine if a Strikeforce event was even going to happen or was just a mirage to keep people talking about the balking promotion. The card is airing on Showtime, and for most of you cable subscribers out there, Showtime is having a free preview weekend in order to get as many eyes on this product as possible. So even if you aren’t a avid watcher of Dexter of Homeland, you will be able to catch the Strikeforce Finale.
Prelims aired on Showtime EXTREME at 8 PM
Ryan Couture v. KJ Noons
Two familiar names kick off the EXTREME! Broadcast. Noons is most famous for being the infamous “homie” that Nick Diaz told to not be scared. He is 1-3 in his last four and really hasn’t shown much improvement lately. I liked what I saw from Couture in his last bout against Joe Duarte, even though he gassed a bit towards the end. Under the tutelage of his father, I think Ryan grinds this out and earns a decision win. Couture by decision
Tim Kennedy v. Trevor Smith
Tough to go from headlining the last Strikeforce card to the second bout on the prelims, eh Tim? A fight is a fight, and a check is a check, I guess… Kennedy went five rounds with Rockhold back in July, but never really mounted an offense against the Champ. He takes on submission ace Trevor Smith tomorrow night and I think this should be easy work for Army vet. I see a lopsided decision for Kennedy here.
Roger Gracie v. Anthony Smith
When we see the name Gracie, we all know what that means, nasty, technical BJJ. Roger outclasses nearly everyone on the mat, but when it comes to that whole punching and kicking thing that makes this sport ‘mixed’ martial arts, he isn’t necessarily the greatest. Even so, I expect him to submit Anthony Smith on Saturday. To his credit, Smith has never seen a decision in his 25 fight career. This may not be a good thing for “Lionheart” as he faces one of the best BJJ players in the world. If guys like Brian Monahan and Mike Pitz submitted Smith on the local circuit, I see Roger having no problem doing the same. Gracie by submission.
Pat Healy v. Kurt Holobaugh
Healy really caught the raw end of the deal with Strikeforce reaching it’s bitter end. After his fifth win in a row for the promotion he was promised a title shot against the Champ Gil Melendez. With the promotion’s future uncertain, Melendez intelligently abstained from competition in order to save his strength for his likely UFC debut. Healy has some solid wins under his belt, but to be frank, a Healy/Melendez bout wasn’t anything that MMA fans were clamoring for. Strikeforce pulled the undefeated Holobaugh from the southeastern local circuit, but he simply doesn’t have the experience to take a win from a grinder like Healy. Healy gets a decision here and hopefully his next fight will be in the the UFC.
Main Card on Showtime at 10 PM
Jacare Souza v. Ed Herman
It is nice to see a little cooperation between the Zuffa promotions here as UFC vet Herman heads over to Strikeforce to take on former Champ Jacare. We know Jacare can choke the life out of anyone he goes up against, but in his last scrap against Derek Brunson, he showed some serious power in his hands. Herman is a black belt out of Team Quest, but I still think Jacare will snatch a sub on him in the later rounds in an attempt to showcase his talents to the UFC brass that will be tuning in. (Make sure you stay tuned for Souza’s celebration, one of the best in the biz!) Jacare by submission.
Gegard Mousasi v. Mike Kyle
It’s not like Strikeforce does Fight of the Night awards, but if that were the case, this would be my frontrunner for the honor. We haven’t seen Mousasi since he beat OSP in December of 2011, and that is simply too long for such an exciting and talented fighter. He is taking on the AKA trained Mike Kyle who knows how to excite the crowd himself, with 15 of his 19 wins coming by sub or KO. Gegard told Ariel Helwani recently that he was training harder than ever, and that prospect alone has many MMA fans salivating at what The Armenian Assassin can do in the cage if he reaches his full potential. This one will be a back and forth affair early, but I think the younger Gegard gets a highlight reel KO in the later rounds. Mousasi by KO.
Josh Barnett v. Nandor Guelimino
Three fights left on the card and, sadly, none of them are particularly competitive. You could call them ‘showcase’ fights for some of the promotions top stars, but that might be a little generous. Barnett is one of the greatest Heavyweights of all time and this booking is just an attempt to use his name to get people to tune in to Showtime. Barnett’s future with the UFC is uncertain. Dana White isn’t all that warm to the idea of bringing Barnett back into the fold, so he might have to use this fight with Nandor to prove he belongs with the best 265ers in the world. I don’t know much about Nandor, but I don’t think anyone really does. He does have a loss to Semmy Schilt on his record, which is something, I guess… Barnett could probably finish this fight any way he wanted, but I think he takes this thing by TKO to send a statement to DFW Jr. Barnett by TKO.
Daniel Cormier v. Dion Staring
Cormier is an approximate 20-1 favorite coming in to this fight. That means he is a bigger favorite than Anderson Silva was against Stephan Bonnar, now that’s saying something. Cormier IS the next big thing in MMA. After his win over the aforementioned Barnett, there was no debating the former Olympian is a force to be reckoned with. He is primed for a great run at either Heavyweight or Light Heavyweight and has all the makings of a future champ. Dion Staring on the other hand, doesn’t… The Dutch southpaw has been training with the Blackzillians for this bout, but I don’t see it helping him much come Saturday. Staring is an active fighter who has a decent amount of experience under his belt, but Cormier is an animal unlike any he has ever faced. I would think DC will attempt to minimalize the damage he takes in this one, so I don’t see him looking to stand and bang with Staring. The former Olympian will go for the takedown early and often, working his way to a TKO victory. Cormier by TKO.
Strikeforce Welterweight Championship Bout
Champ Nate Marquardt v. Tarec Saffiedine
What importance does a belt even have if the promotion is folding after this show? Who knows… but Nate the Great and Tarec Saffiedine are fighting for it to end the night on Saturday. Nate looked like a MONSTER in his welterweight debut against T-Wood. His Mortal Kombat-esque finishing combo against the cage was pure savagery. I can see Nate doing big things in the UFC Welterweight division provided he gets brought back to the promotion he was let go from just over a year ago. Tarec is a Team Quest product and a close training partner of the great Dan Henderson, but I just don’t see him putting it together to outlast Marquardt at 170. Nate is a force at this new weight, and he will be looking to assure himself a job in the UFC with a dominant win on Saturday. No knock to Saffiedine, but Nate makes quick work of this one on the feet. Marquardt by KO.
This one should be free for many of you out there, so cue up the Boyz II Men on Saturday night and enjoy Strikeforce finale. Let us know your thoughts on Strikeforce’s demise in the comment section or on Twitter!