The Aftermath: Five Thoughts From Strikeforce Nashville

(Jake Shields defends his belt - photo courtesy Strikeforce/ Esther Lin)

Strikeforce Nashville concluded last night with all three main card title matches going the full five rounds.  In the opener, King Mo Lawal beat an uninterested Gegard Mousasi to take claim the Strikeforce light heavyweight belt.  The second title fight of the evening saw Gilbert Melendez totally dominate consensus top three lightweight Shinya Aoki to defend his Strikeforce lightweight championship.  And the final bout of the evening featured MMA legend Dan Henderson fall to Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields.

Each winner dominated their respective fight, though there were very few fireworks in any of the matches.  For a full recap of the fights, see our live coverage here.  And now on to my take aways from Strikeforce Nashville.


1. The shows on network and cable television have got to figure out how to air the walk out. There are some really great moments that come during the walk out (Diego Sanchez’ “YES!” for example). Not only can a fighter’s walk out be quite entertaining (King Mo, Mayhem Miller, etc), but it is a great opportunity for the fans to see a little bit of the fighter outside of the actual fight.  Is he relaxed and having fun?  Is he super serious?  Does he look nervous?  Who is in his corner?  What song did he choose to walk out to?  And finally, it’s a very valuable time for the companies that sponsor these great fighters whose money affords them the opportunity to fight MMA for a living.  It’s a solid 3-4 minutes of prime advertising that can make the difference in a company choosing to sponsor a fighter or opt to pass on the event.

2. Strikeforce needs to allow elbows on the ground. Anyone who had ever watched the UFC before was probably wondering what the heck was going on in the King Mo vs. Gegard Mousasi fight (or even when Melendez was on top several times or when Shields had mount).  The answer, Strikeforce doesn’t allow elbows on the ground.  I can’t help but think that Mo would have finished Mousasi if he could have dropped some massive elbows after he took him down nine times.  It adds an element to the ground game that rewards a fighter who is in dominant position.  But more importantly, for MMA as a whole, there needs to be a standard set of what is legal and what is not.  And since the UFC surely isn’t going to change any of their rules, it’s up to Strikeforce to step up and make MMA a little easier to follow for the droves of new fans the sport is gaining on a daily basis.

3. King Mo Lawal will be a top five light heavyweight by the time he’s 30. The potential is just endless.  Sure, there are holes now.  Maybe there was a little bit of a cardio issue.  Maybe his hands still need a bit of work.  Perhaps he can sharpen his ground and pound a tad.  But what we saw Saturday night was a guy that can literally dictate where the fight takes place nearly any time he wants.  His wrestling is Olympic caliber and the rest of his game is darn near there.  He’s a true student of the game and will not rest until he’s regarded as one of the best fighters in the game.  Another year or so of intense training, and he’ll be there.

4. Jake Shields saved the reputation of one-dimensional fighters. After jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia was totally outclassed by Anderson Silva and submission wizard Shinya Aoki was dominated by Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields was supposed to solidify that one-dimensional jiu-jitsu guys no longer could beat the elite in mixed martial arts when he was KO’d by Hendo.  Well, not so fast my friend.  Jake Shields put together a masterful performance and showed that if you are truly a master at one of the arts and you are at least competent in the stand up, you can win fights against some of the best.  Shields joins the elite of mixed martial arts and has now won 14 fights in a row, last losing in 2004.

5. Age is the great equalizer in sports and MMA is no different. I spoke of Dan Henderson being 39 years old in our preview of the event.  Little did I know that age would show its ugly head so much in his fight with Jake Shields.  Dan Henderson is an Olympic wrestler.  He was taken down by Shields what seemed like a dozen times in their fight and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.  I just can’t see Dan getting manhandled like that if this fight took place even two years ago.

Bonus Notes:

– Frank Shamrock’s commentary at the beginning of the Henderson vs. Shields fight was just plain embarrassing.  We get it Frank. You don’t like Jake Shields.  But you’re not getting paid to rag on a fighter you have beef with.  You’re paid to do color.  Act like a professional.

– The post-fight brawl was just ridiculous.  So many things went wrong in there I don’t know where to start. But first off, there’s no reason to have 30 people inside the cage at the end of a fight.  Congratulatory hugs and high fives can wait three minutes until after the interview is over.  Also, who is working the door?  If Jason Miller wasn’t supposed to jump in the cage, then he shouldn’t have been let in.  This all seems so elementary to me that I can’t believe that Strikeforce doesn’t have a hold on it all yet.  I could get on my soap box here, but I’d rather not give any more attention to this silliness.

– And finally, Dana White must be super stoked right now.  Between all the fights being, well, kinda blah – then add the post-fight melee on national television – he’s gotta be feeling pretty good about the UFC’s position in the sport right now.