Strikeforce: Los Angeles Main Event Curious

I’m going to be honest, and I say this as a fan of both Renato “Babalu” Sobral and “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler: this fight didn’t make sense to me when they first announced it, and it’s even more confusing in the wake of the news that the winner will receive a title shot.

For starters, this fight is being contested at a 195-pound catchweight, ten pounds between Lawler’s middleweight home and Sobral’s place of residence as a 205-pound light heavyweight. What good actually comes from these two meeting at a middle ground?

While it would certainly be a name-brand feather in the cap of the winner, it has no real divisional implications. Sobral doesn’t look any better at light heavyweight for beating a middleweight, and defeating “Babalu” has no impact on Lawler’s place in the 185-pound rankings. Marquee matchups should help propel the title chase forward; this one just fills space on the poster.

Secondly, ten days after this event, the real must-see Strikeforce event of the month goes down, with Fedor Emelianenko making his return against Fabricio Werdum. With a jam-packed combat sports calendar already this month, a somewhat meaningless meeting between Lawler and Sobral easily gets lost in the shuffle.

Slotting it on the main card of the June 26th card headlined by Emelianenko would have made much more sense. This event lost one of its major draws (sadly) the minute Bobby Lashley was forced to pull out of his fight. Adding Lawler and Sobral to a card that already includes Emelianenko, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, Josh Thomson and the Cung Le – Scott Smith rematch would have made for a five-fight collection worthy of pay-per-view dollars, or very close.

Instead, we have one decent card and one mediocre event. How many people do you honestly think will tune into the mediocre event?

Wednesday, the plot thickened with word that the winner of this contest will earn themselves a title shot. Somehow, winning a fight at a non-traditional weight will put either Sobral or Lawler in line for a title fight in their respective divisions. I fail to see how that works?

Sobral would get the chance to face Muhammed Lawal for the light heavyweight crown without having won a fight at the 205-pound limit since dropping the belt to Gegard Mousasi. While Lawler has at least earned a middleweight victory, he was getting his leg jacked up by Melvin Manhoef before landing a great one-punch finisher to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But with the dearth of available challengers in each weight class, Strikeforce has few options outside of promoting the winner into a future title shot.

And maybe that should be the lesson here.

While the desire to put forth a growing number of events to compete with the UFC is understandable, the San Jose-based outfit clearly doesn’t have the capacity to do so. The depth of talent within the ranks just isn’t there, leaving events like the one in Los Angeles without much else after the main event.

With so few truly engaging options, having Nick Diaz face Hayato Sakurai in DREAM and letting Jake Shields leave for the UFC makes little sense. The same can be said for loading up CBS cards with three title fights, thereby exhausting six serious talents in one night. Though we all know why they do it, it’s also the reason that the UFC has yet to make the same kind of move to network TV.

Strikeforce is stuck trying to compete with a company they can’t compare to. They need to be following the UFC model from the pre-TUF days; rolling out quality events every other month, not trying to run two cards in a ten-day span on a paper-thin roster.
D’you know what happens when you skip the former and move right to the latter?

You end up with Robbie Lawler and “Babalu” Sobral headlining an event in a meaningless catchweight contest, and the winner earning a title shot.