Ten Things We Learned From Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg

What to Make of Roger Gracie?

The grandson of the legendary Carlos Gracie earned his fourth consecutive submission win on Saturday night, sinking in a rear naked choke on his most experienced and talented opponent to date, Trevor Prangley, in the opening bout of the Showtime broadcast.

There is a lot of debate as to what, if anything, Gracie’s win over Prangley means for his prospects as a contender in the light heavyweight division. Much like Nick Diaz’s success has to be examined in the context of who he’s fighting and where he fights, the same holds true for Roger Gracie.

While his toolbox is still missing some key essentials, Gracie’s otherwordly jiu jitsu puts him in the mix in the Strikeforce 205-pound division. The key here is that we’re talking about Strikeforce.

If he were to defect to the UFC, Gracie gets eaten alive, but in a division where Antwain Britt was a win away from a title shot, “King Mo” won the belt because then-champion Gegard Mousasi had zero takedown defence, and Ovince St. Preux is considered an exciting prospect, Gracie fits in quite nicely. Additionally, it’s not like we haven’t seen elite jiu jitsu players rise through the ranks on the strength of the grappling skills alone before.

Demian Maia has never been much more than a jiu jitsu wizard with rudimentary stand-up, but he climbed to the Top 5 of the UFC middleweight division and a championship bout opposite Anderson Silva. “Jacare” has gone one better by winning middleweight gold with Strikeforce; while he’s a more complete athlete than Maia, it’s not as if Souza is knocking people out either.

For now, Gracie has proven a lot of people wrong by submitting Prangley, and he did so in quick and dominant fashion. Until his next opponent is announced, that will have to do.

Production Problems, Part I

Strikeforce has got to do something about their announce team. I know it has been said before, but it bears repeating.

Frank Shamrock brings nothing to the booth. You can argue that he dumbs it down for the casual fans, but why bother? The action essentially speaks for itself, and when the self-nicknamed “Legend” wants to ask Pat Miletich if “Jacare” beating Lawler is considered an upset, there is no way to take him seriously.

The countless references to Nick Diaz beating him up are both bad and good to me. While I despise self-referential doofuses, it also triggers my memory of watching Shamrock get beaten up, and that part is great.

Mauro Ranallo is too much to handle. The more I listen to him, the more I turn down the volume. ZING! Thank you folks, I’m here all night. Tip your waitress. Try the veal.

But seriously, the more I listen to him, the more I think “Boom goes the dynamite!” mixed with hyper-elitism; he wants every minor movement to be a major overture and turning point, and his insistence on saying “mata leon” everytime someone uses a rear naked choke is pointless; anyone who knows that term doesn’t need the commentary, and those listening to his call have no idea what he’s talking about anyway.

And don’t even get me started on Jimmy Lennon Jr.

Production Problems, Part II

Last night’s broadcast had run its course by 8:30 PST, leaving an hour of airtime available. Do you think Strikeforce took that opportunity to showcase some of the impressive finishes and potential stars from the undercard?

Nope, and it makes no sense.

Maybe there are elements to their contract with Showtime that preclude them from doing so, but when 60 minutes of TV time dedicated to your programming is available, shouldn’t you be able to show your program? Instead, it was off the air with the broadcast, leaving the undercard excitement unaired to the masses, squandering a chance to show Nate Moore’s impressive knockout of Nathan Coy or Germaine de Randamie’s knockout of Stephanie Webber.

You can’t build stars if you’re never giving them any exposure, and having already brought an audience to your show, forgoing a chance to do just that with a spare 60 minutes of airtime is a poor decision.

Production Problems, Part III

I know this looks like me picking on Strikeforce, and there might be a modicum of truth to that; I don’t adhere to the “if you don’t have anything good to say” adage because many important lessons can be learned by listening to your critics. Trust me.

Maybe I’m holding them to unattainable standards, but the overall delivery of this event was AAA. When my wife looks at the television and remarks, “Everything about it just seems second-rate,” you know there is serious room for improvement.

If you’re going to introduce fighters as they come out form the back, don’t have them standing on the ramp waiting to hear their names called; either keep them behind the curtain or follow them from their dressing room. Watching Herschel Walker and Robbie Lawler pace in place was annoying.

Yes, the UFC has set a lofty standard and Strikeforce hasn’t had nearly as much experience in putting on large scale events, but that only holds weight for so long; at some point, they need to iron out the wrinkles. So far, they’ve shown no interest in becoming wrinkle-free, and it takes away from the high points of their programs.

All That Being Said…

I’m really excited for the Strikeforce schedule this year.

Diaz has established himself as one of the very best fighters competing outside of the UFC, the Heavyweight Grand Prix is bound to produce some excitement, and the company’s continued willingness to put together entertaining fights has me looking forward to their upcoming schedule. Now if they could just do something with their overall production, we’d be in serious business.

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