10 Things We Learned from Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum

A look at the prevailing stories from Saturday’s Strikeforce event in Dallas

STOP THE CHARADE

The time has come to put an end to the hard sell that Strikeforce and all it’s competitors are among the sport’s elite. No one has believed it to be true for some time, and the more it’s said, the less credible the organization and it’s fighters become.

The effort you put forward and the results you deliver dictates your level of distinction, and nothing about Saturday night’s event said best in the business to me.

Pushing this fallacy made sense for Strikeforce when they were their own organization looking to challenge the UFC for MMA supremacy. Now that they’re under the Zuffa umbrella and the UFC has already began picking stars from their roster, all of that needs to stop. Strikeforce is still home to some intriguing and entertaining match-ups, and that should become the focus; in truth, it should have been their focus all along.

Part of the problem is the unknown future of the organization. It’s hard to know what to say about your brand when you don’t have a clear identity. You’re not going to come out and shout, “We’re #2!” off the top of the broadcast, but selling the four tournament participants as the best heavyweights in the business isn’t a good look either.

I don’t know exactly how you address these issues, but I do know that saying the Honda surrounded by a fleet of high-end cars is the best of the bunch doesn’t make any sense. There is nothing wrong with a Honda, you just can’t try to market and sell it as a Maserati, that’s all.

ON THE TOPIC OF THINGS THAT NEED TO CHANGE…

Saturday night’s broadcast trio needs to go.

The night started poorly and deteriorated from there, and there is nothing that can be done to right the ship other than replacing Gus Johnson, Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock with a much more competent and compelling team.

When you’ve got announcers who are more interested in being loud for the sake of being loud than paying attention to the action in the cage, you’ve got problems. Shamrock and Ranallo were too caught up in arguing their views on the stoppage in the Chad Griggs-Valentijn Overeem fight that they both missed Overeem tapping. Those things are kind of important.

Johnson brings nothing to the table as far as I’m concerned. While he’s tremendous during March Madness, it’s not March and his pedestrian questions, repeated verbal stumbles and general lack of comprehension of the sport takes away from the telecast. If you’re the lead man in the booth, you should know why Daniel Cormier isn’t taking Jeff Monson to the ground.

As for Ranallo, what can I say? When he’s not shamelessly self-promoting, he’s using 37 words to convey a five-word message and shouting at the top of his lungs while he’s doing it. He has the knowledge, skill and natural tenor to be a tremendous analyst and broadcaster, but it seems like he’s too busy trying to be the smartest, loudest person in the room to care.

Meanwhile, an insightful and understated analyst like Pat Miletich is criminally under-used.

WERDUM TOO FOCUSED ON OVEREEM TO WIN THE FIGHT HIMSELF

Lately when I’ve been talking to fighters, they’ve spoken more and more about focusing on what they need to do to win their upcoming fight, as opposed to worrying so much about what their opponent brings to the table. While you’ve got to be cognizant of the strengths of your opponent, you also have to be confident that what you can do is enough to win the fight.

Saturday night, Fabricio Werdum spent too much time worried about Alistair Overeem’s striking, and it cost him the fight. Had “Vai Cavalo” not been so caught up in keeping away from Overeem’s power, he’d have noticed that he was holding his own in the stand-up game.

Despite some success there, every time Werdum dropped to his back, begging his opponent to engage him on the ground, it took away from his efforts on the feet. As he tried to pull guard every time Overeem engaged in close, it gave the appearance that he was hurt and knocked to the ground, pushing the results in Overeem’s favor.

While playing jiu-jtsu was the obvious first choice for Werdum, when it became clear that Overeem wanted none of it, he needed to change things up. Instead of going with the flow of the fight, Werdum stuck in his toes and kept trying to execute Plan A.

Unfortunately, he missed a chance at victory by refusing to move to Plan B.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR OVEREEM TOO

A dominant performance from Alistair Overeem on Saturday night would have quieted doubters who believe the destructive Dutchman is a product of hype and hand-picked opposition. In winning a disjointed decision from a mediocre fight, Overeem missed his chance to silence his critics.

All is not lost for Overeem. In a few months, he’ll get another chance to prove himself against a legitimate contender when he faces Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the semifinal round.

The trouble is that his performance Saturday night has probably moved him from favorite to underdog, and a loss to Silva will become an “I told you so” moment for his detractors. Between now and then, the narrative involving Overeem will remain focused on his place in the heavyweight ranks, and his underwhelming showing in Dallas.

He could have changed all that with an emphatic victory, but just like Werdum, Overeem missed his opportunity too.

BARNETT WINS, CUTS PRO WRESTLING PROMO, REMAINS MISGUIDED

Josh Barnett’s fight with Brett Rogers went exactly as everyone expected, Barnett included.

The catch wrestling specialist took the heavy-handed slugger to the ground and kept him there throughout the first round, than did the same to open the second. Instead of riding out the round delivering scattered elbows and punches to the body, Barnett secured an arm triangle choke and got the submission win. It was a win that stuck to the script to a tee.

His post-fight interview, however, did not.

Instead of answering Gus Johnson’s standard questions, Barnett took the mic and cut a pro wrestling style promo. While I was happy to not have to listen to Johnson ask Barnett, “What was the key to your victory here tonight?” listening to a guy with three positive steroid tests in his past ask the fans for their support missed the mark as well.

Barnett is a charismatic guy with a great personality; he’s also a pretty damn good fighter as well. The trouble is he’s never owned up to his past mistakes and that makes it impossible to put your full support behind him. You always run the risk of him popping hot and submarining another show, or at least forcing a delay because the company has to find a state where he can get licensed.

When you’re not willing to be honest with the audience, you’re going to have a hard time persuading them to support you throughout the rest of the tournament. If Barnett really wanted to win the crowd on Saturday night, he should have gone all Jimmy Swaggert, apologizing for his mistakes as he broke down in tears.

People love a good comeback story, but they need the principal to acknowledge they’ve hit rock bottom first. Barnett will never do that, and as a result, the people will never get completely behind him.


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