I am going to start with December 4th's show. Before, when I looked at this show I thought about what might have been. Now, I'm going to look at it with new eyes and, wow, this works, I'm looking forward to this card. Smith vs Daley? That's a great match up. I remind myself that I always like watching Lawler fight. And what the hell has Valentijn, a man who years ago choked out a prime Randy Couture, been up to lately?
Today I enjoyed an interview Scott Coker gave Sergio Non. The two discussed Strikeforce's aggressive plans for 2011. There was talk of a new syndicated show, 10 Challenger cards, and 10 big events, which hopefully will include a return to CBS. At first read I found myself rolling my eyes at Coker's grand pronouncements. The thought in the back of my head after reading the interview was spoken with Reagan's voice; "There you again". But, then I stopped myself and pondered, perhaps it is best that I give Scott the benefit of the doubt. He has done nothing to warrant this, but as a fan, and as the New Year rolls in perhaps I should alter my perception of the fledgling organization. I decided to wipe the slate clean with Strikeforce.
I am not going to use the December 4th card alone to rebuild my opinion of Strikeforce. Here is one thing that Coker told Sergio that caught my eye:
We'll probably have a championship fight every month in the first two quarters of 2011, which gives us the ability to keep these guys a little bit busier.
Wow. A championship bout every month for the first six months? That's exciting. Say what you want about Strikeforce, but their roster of Champions are an impressive group, including their female fighters. Any one of their champs can headline a card and I would tune in with great interest. If we are really going to see a championship bout every month for the first six months that does a great deal to elevate Strikeforce for me, as a fan.
Of course, a Strikeforce post wouldn't be complete without discussing the heavyweights. Coker has promised that 2011 will be the year of the Heavyweights in Strikeforce. He had this to say to Non:
These guys have some amazing fights ahead of them, and the one thing I will promise you, these guys will fight each other next year. I think by the end of the first quarter, you'll see some big things happening with some of our big guys.
As far as preparation, the top heavyweights are all getting ready for 2011. Fabricio Werdum is rehabbing successfully. Fedor continues his negotiations with SHO as he trains with WBO #1 cruiserweight contender Denis Lebedev. The Russian has been heavily rumored for the January 29th card. Alistair Overeem is prepping for his K-1 run. He has said he plans to return to Strikeforce in the late spring/early summer. But, he might be facing Josh Barnett for the first ever DREAM heavyweight championship on New Years Eve. This would be an interesting bout that would have direct implications on the current Strikeforce HW scene, especially since Barnett will have his hearing this week with the CSAC to reinstate his license. With all of this excitement in the heavyweight division, I am most looking forward to the development of Daniel Cormier and Shane Del Rosario. I would love to see the two of them face off against Sergei Kharitonov and Andre Arlovski early in 2011. This should be the year that one or both of them elevate their position in the heavyweight ranks, as they attempt to upset the establishment that is the Strikeforce heavyweight division.
There are so many other story lines that I am looking forward to watching unfold in 2011 for Strikeforce. As widely touted as their heavyweight division is, I find a tremendous amount of potential in the light heavyweight division. Next week we will see what kind of fighter Dan Henderson is today and if he can compete at the top of the division. Gegard Mousasi has promised a return to Strikeforce early in the year, and we will see if King Mo can bounce back. In the center of it all is the enigma that is Feijao; is he the real deal at champ or will his reign be a short one? The light heavyweight division should be front and center as Strikeforce attempts this ambitious move in 2011.
From UFC 1 thru 124 there must have been a dozen, maybe more, times that I gave them a "second" chance and wiped the slate clean, especially in the early part of the decade when Pride was delivering a much more interesting MMA product. Year after year they rewarded my continued interest. As Strikeforce enters their third year on the national stage I see an organization with an abundance of potential. Most notably in the two MMA marquee divisions of light heavyweight and heavyweight, as well as displaying the talents of perhaps the top lightweight in the world in Gilbert Melendez, and a well established female division. This can be a breakout year for Strikeforce. In the past I would always follow that statement with an almost sarcastic "if", I'm not going to do that this time. I'm going to allow Coker, and the rest of the organization, the opportunity to show me they are capable of realizing the promise and potential they possess. If they do, we as fans of this sport, should enjoy perhaps the finest year yet since the day Royce Gracie stepped in the Octagon for the first time and captured our imagination and attention.