It was an amazing weekend for MMA. The UFC kicked off its flyweight division with an entertaining, non-stop, action-packed scrap between Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall and Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson on Friday night. And Saturday night saw women’s MMA reinvigorated by two great fights between Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis and the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Title bout between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. However, it wasn’t all good…
Here on MMA Gospel, we do a column after fights called “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and I’m going to use that format with my own spin: The Epic and the WTF?! It was originally going to be “The Epic, the Shitty and the WTF?” but I found it hard to separate the shitty from the WTF.
June 26, the contract between WMMA’s most prominent champion, 145lbs. queen “Cyborg” Cristiane Santos (10-1) and the Zuffa-owned promotion Strikeforce expired. In the days since, many rumors have surfaced regarding her future and the reasons behind the promotion’s decision to waive their rights outlined in her championship clause. These rumors range from extremely likely, (Santos asking $150,000 a fight to continue with the promotion) to the believable if unlikely, (Zuffa wanting to focus on the more talent rich 135lbs. weight class), to the outright absurd, (Zuffa is run by sexist pigs bent on the destruction of WMMA). While these debates will continue until an official statement is released, and indeed, will likely continue after such a statement in the case of the Zuffa-hating conspiracy theorists, the real question is who really comes out as the biggest loser in this situation: Strikeforce for losing a huge draw and exciting fighter, or WMMA itself for seeing its undisputed queen expelled from the biggest stage in the sport?
Dallas, Texas. It was only fitting that in a state where everything is bigger the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix would continue here. The Dallas Mavericks finally won their first title. The entire city and all its surrounding areas are still reliving that moment to the point every other song on the radio has some kind of Mavericks, “Thank you, Dirk” promo to precede the next track. The days leading into the Grand Prix though had the combat loyalists already staking claims and picking sides that even the minute leading to the fight was adrenaline-filled. As a fan of the sport, I have always found enough joy just sitting back at home or at the local sports bar watching my guys get the job done. It was not until I attended the Grand Prix, my first MMA event no less, that watching two men go at it in a high stakes brawl became an even greater experience.
Dallas, Texas has the basketball greats the Mavericks, the hockey stand-outs in the Stars, and multiple NFL Superbowl Champions the Cowboys, but on June 18 Strikeforce invades the American Airlines Center with the second half of their Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament with Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1 champion and seemingly unstoppable muscle-bound behemoth “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (31-12) taking on rival “Vai Cavalo” Fabricio Werdum (14-4) at the helm. Supporting the edge-of-the-seat main event is a star studded card of heavyweights with international star “The Babyfaced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) taking on heavy handed “The Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2) and two Grand Prix alternate bouts. Former UFC heavyweight title contender and world renowned submission king “The Snowman” Jeff Monson (37-11) returns to the American spotlight as he is welcomed to the Strikeforce ranks by the undefeated OSU and Olympic team wrestler Daniel Cormier (6-0) and IFL veteran and heavyweight dark horse “The Grave Digger” Chad Griggs (9-1) meets former PRIDE veteran and kickboxing powerhouse “The Python” Valentijn Overeem (27-21). Outside of the tournament brackets, the return of the much loved “Conviction” Gina Carano (7-1) against undefeated Sarah D’Alelio (3-0) has been pulled due to Carano not receiving medical clearance from her doctor and as a result, former Elite XC Lightweight Champion KJ Noons (9-3) and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal (19-6) will fill the spot with a shot for the lightweight title on the line. The tournament may dominate the card itself, but it is the match between Overeem and Werdum that has the attention of the MMA world as the first man to record a recognized legitimate win over “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-3) faces the man that MMA fans worldwide have wanted to see him face in a rematch of their 2006 PRIDE bout. Both fighters have come a long way since then; the dynamics have changed and it will be interesting to see which of these two warriors has progressed the most.
Dallas, Texas gets the honor of hosting the second installment of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix quarter-finals as Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum comes to the Lone Star State’s third largest city this Saturday night. On the slate for the evening is the continuance of the Grand Prix with “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (31-12) squaring off with “Vai Cavalo” Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) and “The Babyfaced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) stepping into the cage with and “The Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2). Also up for action are tournament alternate eliminator bouts featuring “The Python” Valentijn Overeem (27-21) against “The Grave Digger” Chad Griggs (9-1) and “The Snowman” Jeff Monson (37-11) vs. Daniel Cormier (6-0). As a result of “Conviction” Gina Carano (7-1) pulling out of her bout, KJ Noons (9-3) and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal (19-6) have found their lightweight title eliminator bout pushed up to the main card. While it lacks the name recognition of Carano, the bout is nevertheless a far more important bout int the big picture of Strikeforce as one-time title contender Noons looks to get his career back on track against a man who is looking to capitalize on a dark horse win.
The American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas shall host the second installment of the inaugural Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix less than one week after its home team the Dallas Mavericks toppled bitter rivals the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. This Saturday, June 18, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament resumes after a three-month break to bring its heavy hitting champion face-to-face yet again with his former foe and to wrap up the last of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarter-Finals as well as bring some of its up-and-coming stars to the big stage. Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (31-12) meets “Vai Cavalo” Fabricio Werdum (14-4) in a long awaited rematch that pits arguably the world’s best heavyweight striker against the world’s best heavyweight Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion, PRIDE, and Sengoku stand-out “The Baby Faced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) fights Chicago-born slugger ”The Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2) in the co-main event to determine which man moves on to the tournament semi-finals. The reemergence of “Conviction” Gina Carano (7-1), who was making her return to the cage against undefeated Sarah D’Alelio (3-0), has been pulled due to Carano not receiving medical clearance from her doctor and has been replaced by a previously scheduled prelim bout between former Elite XC Lightweight Champion KJ Noons (9-3) and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal (19-6). Opening up the main card though are a pair of tournament reservoir bouts with former UFC heavyweight title contender and American submission specialist “The Snowman” Jeff Monson (37-11) returning to the big leagues opposite the undefeated rising star Daniel Cormier (6-0), and IFL veteran and heavyweight dark horse “The Grave Digger” Chad Griggs (9-1) looking to continue his dominant win streak when he meets former PRIDE veteran and powerhouse “The Python” Valentijn Overeem (27-21). With the opportunity for either Griggs or Overeem to partake in one of Strikeforce’s most major events, both men have a lot to gain but even more to lose.
Saturday, February 12. The night was chilly as usual but even another freezing night could not damper my mood as I drove towards East Rutherford, New Jersey and the start of the unprecedented (in the US at least) Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament being put together by Strikeforce. With so much emphasis put on the UFC, fans really had to be surprised to see the wealth of heavyweight talent amassed for this tournament. That I was witnessing the launch of such an historic MMA event left me quite gleeful. Of course events that unfolded would show that for Strikeforce no good deed goes unpunished. But we’ll get to that.
As I drove toward Lot 26 which is designated for the press and employees I stopped to ask every parking attendant where the lot was located and was instructed to just keep driving. When I finally circled the entire IZOD Center and came to my designated lot I made an ill advised, on-the-fly decision to not stop by the parking person manning this lot and a few seconds later felt like Billy Hayes in Midnight Express as my car was surrounded by several guys who looked as if they were competing in the evening’s Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament or at least a local tough man contest. After the some venting of steam by guys whose mood was not enhanced by the freezing temps, I was finally able to spit out my name and ultimately allowed to proceed and park. So began my first sojourn as a credentialed press dignitary. I almost ended up buried with Jimmy Hoffa and other luminaries in the nearby meadowland swamps courtesy of Mo and the guys.