Strikeforce made its Showtime debut last night, attempting to put its best foot forward with a main event of Frank Shamrock and Nick Diaz. As always, the show did well locally, attracting almost 15,000 fans to the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Nationally, it was another story all together. Promoters had hoped that the voluble Shamrock and the trash-talking Diaz would get tongues wagging. Instead, there was very little talk about this fight at all. Some of that was because of the nature of the catchweight fight. Shamrock has competed for years at light heavyweight and then middleweight. Diaz has competed as a welterweight and a lightweight. To put it another way, no one was demanding this fight.
The other problem ended up being Diaz’s reticence to engage Shamrock in their prearranged storyline. The idea was to focus on Shamrock’s win over Nick’s jiu jitsu instructor Cesar Gracie, but Diaz rarely addressed the issue and Shamrock was forced to switch to the angle that Diaz was “bad for the sport.” This was when Strikeforce could get Diaz to talk to the media at all. He wasn’t willing to do many interviews, and the fight buzz just never really got started. It will be interesting to see how well the show does, especially with competition from SPIKE TV (UFC 94 replay) and HBO (a big Winky Wright-Paul Williams boxing match).
1. Benji Radach and Scott Smith engaged in a pitched battle that was both the best and worst fight of the night. Let me explain. The two had a spirited slugfest, there can be no doubt. The action was furious (until they got tired) and they were evenly matched. Sometimes a fight like this can stand on its own merits.
Unfortunately for Strikeforce, just having a solid action fight wasn’t enough. With Gus Johnson and the rest of the broadcast booth touting the two as among the very best fighters in the promotion, it was important that the fight be more than just spirited. It needed to be good-and neither guy looked particularly good.
It’s hard to see Strikeforce as real competition for the UFC if these are supposed to be two of their very best 185-pound fighters. Does anyone believe that either guy would be a favorite against a mid-level fighter in the UFC like Alan Belcher? Strikeforce would be better off selling these fights for what they are-good action fights between experienced professionals. These aren’t the best fighters in the world, and it makes the group look bad promoting them like they are.
2. The California Athletic Commission should be embarrassed for letting the Cyborg-Akano fight go forward. The two fighters were clearly not in the same weight class and it just makes the sport look bad to promote this kind of mismatch. Can we all just agree that Cyborg and Carano are not little women and are never going to be 135 or 145-pound fighters? Make a weight class at 150 and make them fight there. Constantly missing weight makes the whole operation look unprofessional.
3. Gilbert Melendez made short work of Rodrigo Damm, a late fill-in for Lightweight champion Josh Thomson. This is especially impressive because Melendez had focused his training on Thomson; Thomson and Damm couldn’t be more different fighters. I was amazed that Gilbert not only engaged Damm on the ground, where he is at his best, but knocked him out there. I hope Thomson gets well soon, because this is a fight I need to see.
4. Frank Shamrock looked completely finished, a shell of his former self who could barely even move around the cage. Announcer Gus Johnson pushed Shamrock to announce his retirement post-fight, but Shamrock vowed, to a decidedly tepid crowd response, to fight again. If Frank is likely to lose regardless of opponent, it may be time to pull the trigger on a Tito Ortiz rematch. Unless they can sign a big name UFC free agent to fight Ortiz, this is the best matchup the promotion has available and Ortiz is certainly angling behind the scenes for this fight.
5. Why did SPIKE TV run endless commercials touting the controversial fight between Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn, encouraging fans to see what the fuss was all about for themselves, and then cut out all the action between rounds in favor of commercials? How were fans supposed to “see for themselves” what happened during “Greasegate” if SPIKE didn’t even air it? It wasn’t really addressed in the commentary and I’m sure many people tuning in left that broadcast a little confused about what the heck was going on.