Last night was a good start for Strikeforce with their first show on Showtime. They brought it back to their roots at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA where they have hosted eight other shows. The main card had one solid fight, the rest were fairly one sided.
Overall the presentation was solid but certainly flawed. There was too much pageantry. I really did feel like I was watching a WWE show with all the lights, smoke, and pyro.
The announcers need to be broken down individually. Mauro Ranallo, while over the top, is incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and is a decent play by play guy. Pat Miletich was an excellent analyst and it's too bad this won't be a regular gig with Shamrock coming back to the booth.
Gus Johnson is obviously a boxing guy and doesn't "get" MMA making him utterly useless other than having a third guy to interview fighters—unfortunately he's also the lead announcer.
There were a few weird moments during the broadcast. First, it seemed like an informercial for Gina Carano. They must have shown her at least 15-20 times during the evening. It got so bad even she didn't know what to do anymore when they had her on camera.
I know they were only trying to hype her match with "Cyborg" but it still was excessive. Good thing Cyborg won and a match with Carano looks imminent as I don't think she would've shown up if a contract wasn't in Carano's future at Strikeforce.
Second, there was the notable absence of any trace of Kimbo Slice. Carano was all over the opening montage and the broadcast. However, Slice, who is still under contract to Strikeforce, was stricken from the record. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just interesting.
Third, I found the demonstration of fouls video odd. I honestly don't think anyone who's watching Strikeforce on Showtime needs this video. Strikeforce isn't big enough and Showtime doesn't reach a broad enough audience for casual MMA fans to tune in to this fight. Also, no casual fan has any clue who Frank Shamrock or Nick Diaz are.
Last but not least were the awkward demonstration videos where they used bone and muscle animations to recreate moves in the ring. It was just creepy and unnecessary.
OK I know I really picked the presentation apart but it wasn't as bad as it sounded. In fact I didn't think it was bad at all. I would call it passable with room for improvement. I am actually looking forward to seeing what they do the next time around in June.
Now, on to the fights. The main card showcased some solid talent and there was one excellent fight. Let's start breaking them down:
Brett Rogers v. Ron "Abongo" Humphrey: This fight went almost exactly like I thought it would. Both guys wanted to stand and bang. Rogers used his considerable size advantage to weigh on Humphrey and wear him out.
Rogers got in trouble for pulling some hair and even lost a point. It was irrelevant once he took out Humphrey with some great knees in the second round for the TKO victory. I give Humphrey credit for being as tough as he was. I got the pick right but not the prediction (one round off!).
Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos v. Hitomi Akano: I honestly feel sorry for the women they throw at Cyborg. She's just so much bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than they are that it's not even competitive.
Akano, I'm sure, had some nice ground skills but Cyborg just tossed her around like a rag doll.
Cyborg was smart and bided her time and tried not to get caught on the ground too much. However, once she smelled blood she went for the kill getting the win by TKO in the third round. I got the pick right but not the prediction.
This sets up the first women's super fight between Cyborg and Carano later this year. Hopefully with Carano's size and striking being closer to Cyborg's we will see both women really tested.
Scott Smith v. Benji Radach: In the only good fight of the night both guys went to war in an amazing display of striking. Smith and Radach both rocked each other in the first round but overall Radach displayed the better striking.
The second round was all Radach showing better striking and even getting some takedowns and landing some good ground and pound.
However, the third round is where it all fell apart for Radach. Radach got wobbled early by Smith only to recover and then get jacked with a right hook on the button. Smith wins in a huge comeback (again) by TKO in the third round.
These comebacks are becoming routine for Smith but it doesn't make them (or him) any less exciting to watch. I felt bad for Radach who had the match in the bag but couldn't hold on. I was way off on this pick.
Gilbert Melendez v. Rodrigo Damm: I gave Damm too much credit in this fight. Melendez was the better wrestler and unquestionably the better striker. Melendez just teed off on Damm until he finally got the KO victory in the second round. I got the pick right but not the prediction.
I can't wait until Thomson comes back so we can see the fight we all wanted to see.
Frank Shamrock v. Nick Diaz: I was way off on this fight. I thought Shamrock still had something left in the tank and he would use his experience to his advantage. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.
Diaz came in prepared and ready to battle. He used his reach and youthful energy to keep Shamrock at bey and use those pitter-patter punches to soften up Shamrock. Finally he landed a killer body shot in the second round and went for the kill getting the win by TKO. I was way off on this one too.
Fortunately Diaz showed some respect for Shamrock after the fight but he's still a punk in my eyes. Unfortunately he's a super talented punk who can often back up his trash talk in the cage.
This card sets up some very interesting match ups down the road. Rogers v. Overeem seems very possible. Overeem is not a good match up for Rogers but Rogers is the only marketable star Strikeforce has at heavyweight without "Big Foot" Silva.
Obviously the Carano v. Cyborg match up is looming. I'm not sure where Scott Smith goes from here. He can't fight for the title because he lost to Lawler and Lawler is the next logical choice for Cung Le (assuming he beats Shields in June). Maybe Smith could fight Joey Villasenor
Melendez obviously will wait for Thomson to heal to unify the belts. Diaz v. Lawler could be a great match if Lawler wins. Diaz could even get a shot at Cung Le having beaten Shamrock. Or maybe if he can get back to 170 he could fight Nick Thompson or even KJ Noons after their heated rivalry flamed out.
In any case it appears that in the short term Strikeforce has a bright future and I look forward to their next card. I went an OK 3-2 on the night.
Stay tuned for my UFC 97 preview and TUF 9 episode three review. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...