Contraction makes the most sense
Honestly, can we just pull the plug on Strikeforce?
I know there are contracts in place with Showtime, but if you can find a way to facilitate taking the biggest star in the company out of the organization, I’m sure this is nothing a couple briefcases full of money can’t fix. We’ve reached the point where it’s the only move that makes any sense.
Divisions are in disarray. Champions and contenders are lacking. There are no concrete answers being given to explain how it will all get sorted out.
That’s because there are no legitimate plans at this stage; things are just happening and Strikeforce is rolling with the punches.
Of the seven divisions contested under the Strikeforce banner, two are without champions, while another two have title holders who do not currently have contracts with the organization. How can you be taken seriously as an organization when four of your seven divisions are devoid of champions?
Everyone knew when Georges St-Pierre beat Jake Shields and Nick Diaz survived Paul Daley that the Strikeforce champ would find his way to the UFC. As for the rest of the championship conundrums, your best guess is as good as mine.
There are undoubtedly business ramifications to cutting Alistair Overeem, but fans don’t care about the dollars and cents of daily operations. They want to see fighters fight. Overeem was one of the few members of the Strikeforce roster capable of generating more than a passing interest in the brand.
Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is a star, though her departure generated far less fanfare. The women’s 145 pound champion exercised an option in her contract that let her walk. I suppose it’s only fair to levy half the blame for this situation on Strikeforce, since the dominance “Cyborg” has displayed played an equal partner in there being no one interested in fighting her over the last 12 months. But I can’t fathom going more than a year without being able to find someone willing to take a stack of cash and a shot at the title. It’s not like Strikeforce has been picky about their opponents for “Cyborg” in the past either. If they found one Jan Finney, they can find another.
As curious as the cutting of Overeem is, the most bizarre situation is that of Dan Henderson. He’s the light heavyweight champion and yet had just one fight remaining on his contract going into the Fedor Emelianenko bout.
You can argue that Henderson collects more money than he’s worth and the company didn’t want to invest those kinds of dollars into a 41-year-old, but he’s a champion. If you’re not interested in paying the guy at the top, why should anyone pay attention to the other fighters below him?
The state of the welterweight division in the absence of Diaz illustrates the troubles Strikeforce is facing to a tee.
Though his victory over Daley should earn Tyron Woodley a shot at the vacant welterweight title, he’s undeserving of the role. People equate champions with being some of the best in the business. Woodley is a blue chip prospect, but he’s not even top 25 in his division. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the organization acknowledged they’re considering pairing Woodley with Saturday night’s other welterweight winner, Tarec Saffiedine, to determine the next champion. It makes no sense.
For one, Woodley already beat the Team Quest product. I can’t imagine all that much has changed in the last seven months to alter the outcome of the rematch. Furthermore, the unbeaten Woodley needed to grind out a hard fought win over a top 15 opponent in Daley to earn his chance, but Saffiedine earns the same honor by winning an extended sparring session opposite Scott Smith?
It’s unbalanced match-making for the sake of filling the void, and it ultimately does more harm than good.
With the current state of the organization, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there are only two real options for Strikeforce:
(1) become a full fledged minor league system to the UFC
(2) pack your bags and go home
The first option doesn’t appear to be something Zuffa wants to do, and you can’t really blame them. Why go out of pocket to develop talent when various other promotions across the globe are more than willing to do it for you?
If that is the case, there is no point in delaying the inevitable any longer. Turn off the lights, lock the doors, round up the fighters who are coming to the UFC and let everyone else shuffle off to the smaller shows. Continuing the charade any longer doesn’t make sense.
Instead of rushing Woodley and Saffiedine into an ill-conceived title fight simply to put the belt around someone’s waist, wouldn’t they both be better off honing their skills and continuing to develop in the deep waters of the UFC welterweight ranks?
The middleweight division faces the same challenges.
There are so few challengers for champion “Jacare” Souza that Luke Rockhold has been given a title shot despite being out of action since February 2010. Tim Kennedy earned a solid win on Saturday night and probably another shot at the title, but do we really want to see Kennedy-Souza 2 this quickly? Much more interesting options await them in the UFC.
Rockhold can be allowed to progress at a more reasonable rate instead of being thrown into a title fight and potentially halting his momentum with a loss. Someone like Aaron Simpson makes more sense for Rockhold at this point.
Bouts with the likes of Alan Belcher and Chris Leben would be tremendous opportunities for Kennedy. Putting Souza in the cage with Chael Sonnen or Michael Bisping could help validate him as a top-tier middleweight.
Henderson shouldn’t be battling under-developed emerging talents like Gegard Mousasi or “King Mo” Lawal; he should be in the 205 pound mix in the UFC alongside other elite light heavyweights in the sport. At the same time, Mousasi and Lawal would be better served battling it out with veterans like Vladimir Matyushenko or fellow prospect Alexander Gustafsson.
The UFC dominates the MMA landscape. Since there doesn’t appear to be any desire to close the gap or move Strikeforce to permanent Triple-A status, that really leaves only one option.
It’s time to pull the plug on Strikeforce once and for all.