Brett Rogers is nowhere near as good as the Strikeforce announce team made him out to be at the outset of Saturday night’s broadcast. He is not among the top heavyweights in the sport, and he doesn’t have outstanding striking either.
That being said, he’s not as bad as some will say in the wake of his second round loss to Barnett and string of three straight losses inside the Strikeforce cage.
The truth, as always, resides somewhere in the middle.
Rogers is the epitome of the kind of fighters would benefit from Strikeforce being shifted to a Triple-A organization beneath the UFC. His knockout power is very real; Andrei Arlovski can attest to that. But he’s still incredibly raw and has no business competing against the trio of proven, veteran heavyweights he’s faced over his last three fights within the organization. He needs time to develop against similarly skilled opposition, not to be forced to fend off the advances of Emelianenko, Overeem and Barnett.
By repositioning Strikeforce as a minor league outfit, a guy like Rogers could face the Lavar Johnsons of the world; tough, but similarly unproven heavyweights who need to show a something more before taking the next step up in competition.
He has been a victim of short rosters and circumstance over the last few years, and a young fighter a couple years removed from changing tires at Sam’s Club isn’t going to say no to any fight he’s offered. But now that there is an outlet where Rogers can develop and face the proper level of competition, here’s hoping he’s afforded that opportunity.
MASVIDAL STEALS THE SHOW WITH WIN OVER NOONS
The best performance of the night came from the most unexpected source. Jorge Masvidal delivered the most impressive victory on the main card, picking apart favorite K.J. Noons to pull off solid upset and insert himself in the title picture.
For the second consecutive fight, Masvidal used a good blend of stick-and-move striking with well-timed takedowns to get the better of a more highly regarded opponent; previous to beating Noons, Masvidal ended Billy Evangelista’s 12-fight unbeaten streak.
Talent had never been a question with Masvidal; the precise hands and varied striking he used to batter Noons has always been present. Until recently, his focused had been what held him back. But it seems like the days of coming into fights overconfident and unprepared are gone, once again giving Masvidal a bright future.
PROVING THE CLICHE
Next time you scoff at an interview where a fighter says they’re not looking past the man their about to face, think of Noons.
In the build-up to Saturday night, Noons admitted he believed he’d already done enough to merit a lightweight title shot and was looking past Masvidal. Kenny Florian told me in advance of his fight with Diego Nunes, “In this game, you look past anyone and you’re asking for a beatdown.”
Noons probably should have read that interview.
Usually the more skilled and dangerous boxer in the cage, Noons was beaten to the punch repeatedly Saturday night, and had no answers. After the opening round, one that saw Masvidal open a gash in the middle of his opponent’s forehead, Noons was left searching for a knockout that never came.
Now, instead of proving he deserved a spot opposite Gilbert Melendez, Noons proved he’s got a lot of room to grow when it comes to his approach to his career and the task at hand.
ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE FROM DANIEL CORMIER
As my editor Jeremy Botter said in his recap of Cormier’s victory over Jeff Monson, “his time as a prospect is through, and his next opponent should be someone significantly higher on the ladder than the stuff Cormier is used to facing in his career thus far.”
It’s an apt and echoed statement through the MMA community in the wake of the two-time Olympian pushing his unbeaten streak to eight with a dominant decision win over the veteran grappler.
Cormier’s striking is coming along nicely and he showcased those skills on Saturday night. He landed at will against Monson and mixed things up as well, working in several kicks, punches to the body, and a couple of Superman punches for good measure. As his stand-up continues to improve, having a world-class wrestling base will make the American Kickboxing Academy product a serious threat in the heavyweight ranks.
His success, both Saturday night and thus far in his career, underscores the lingering question surrounding the organization as a whole. There are few options left for Cormier in Strikeforce, so where does he go from here? He’s not quite ready to challenge Overeem, Werdum or the very best of the division, but he’s far superior to any of the secondary options available.
A move to the UFC would make the most sense and afford Cormier the chance to continue developing against the right level of opposition. Whether that is something that can realistically happen remains to be seen.
GRIGGS CONTINUES TO MAKE THE MOST OF IMPROBABLY OPPORTUNITY
Last August, Strikeforce brought in Chad Griggs to get beaten up by Bobby Lashley. A year later, Griggs and his trademark muttonchops are still riding an unexpected wave of success and popularity.
After outlasting Lashley in Houston last year, Griggs won a sloppy slugfest with prospect Gian Villante in February. Saturday night, he pushed his Strikeforce win streak to three by forcing veteran Valentijn Overeem to submit to strikes just over two minutes into the opening round.
Griggs has now won six straight overall and become a crowd favorite in the process, his massive chops and straight foreword style in the cage making him an everyman that’s easy to cheer for inside the cage.
Not bad for a guy who had given up the sport and was supposed to be a patsy this time last year, huh?
HOW’S THIS FOR A COMPARISON?
Sunday afternoon, Rory McIlroy claimed the U.S. Open with a wire-to-wire victory. It came on the heels of the Northern Ireland native blowing up in the final round of The Masters just two months ago. His three-round performance at Augusta showed promise; his performance at Congressional was promise fulfilled.
Strikeforce is McIlroy at The Masters right now, and they may not get to have their U.S. Open moment.
There is a great deal of potential within the organization. From some of the young talent on the roster to the television and cable deals that are already in place, there are positives that can be identified. The problem is that just when you think they’re taking the next step, they throw an 80 on the board in the final round and leave you wondering if they’re ever going to figure it out.
Saturday night’s event fell flat where it counted most; the biggest stars gave the weakest performances and the production screamed “second-rate” when the announcers we shouting “We’re world class too!”
McIlroy bounced back in a big way this weekend by address the problems he had at Augusta, making the necessary adjustments and playing to his strengths. Here’s hoping Strikeforce does the same.