Originally posted on Ninja's Place.
Strikeforce : Henderson vs Babalu couldn't have come at a better time. In sports they say "winning is the best disinfectant". In the NFL quarterback controversy can be eliminated by a dominant performance on Monday Night Football. The Maimi Heat's struggles will be soon forgotten if they find themselves on a ten game win streak. In MMA though it's a little different, knockouts are the best disinfectant. Before last weekend, Strikeforce was suffering badly in the court of public opinion. Pundits and fans alike, even Strikeforce's biggest supporters and defenders(including myself), were turning their backs on the San Jose based promotion in droves in recent months. There was much conversation about Strikeforce that revolved around their absentee heavyweight champion, and M-1 and the contract negotiation hell that comes with Fedor Emelianenko. Much was made of Emelianenko's loss to Fabricio Werdum and the fallout from that hasn't been exactly healthy for the promotion. There was the marquee signing of Dan Henderson, which soon turned disastrous as he was taken down and controlled by Jake Shields after the first round which made him look old and ineffective. This was made worse by the fact Shields then bolted for the UFC and was made to look pedestrian himself by fringe contender Martin Kampmann. Mayhem Miller(a 200 pound MW) and his increasingly annoying campaign to bait Nick Diaz into moving up in weight had stolen the thunder of Diaz's revenge over KJ Noons. Pretty much, if there was a Strikeforce story, it was a bad one.
But what most fans and writers lost sight of was what is ultimately most important ; the happenings inside the cage. The fighters made sure to remind us of that on Saturday. The narrative that has dominated the MMA media and blogsphere since then is Strikeforce's first round knockout of the UFC on Saturday night. While the UFC put together yet another irrelevant free card of spare parts that was only worth what we paid for, full of tentative fighters afraid of getting cut and stalemated fights, Strikeforce and their fighters went all in and delivered what fight fans are here for in the first place - brutal violence committed at the highest level. There is the argument that this was a "UFC farm league" show consisting of mostly TUF'rs who will be out of the UFC in a year - which holds some weight if you don't consider that this show actually fits into a pattern of free shows over the last couple months which disappointed on paper and in the cage over and over. There is the argument this Strikeforce show was exciting because the fights were all one sided mismatches, which is also entirely unfair. Lawler vs Lindland has been written off by some, but Rich Franklin is back in the title hunt after a KO of Chuck Liddell. Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell's million buy watershed moment that ushered in this era was predicated on a beat down of Ken Shamrock. If Paul Daley springboards off a fight with Scott Smith into a title shot, don't forget Anderson Silva did the same on the back of Chris Leben. There is no significant difference in the style of fight booking between this event and in the UFC.
This card was more than an isolated night of action. Not only did the event re-energize the fans, they re-energized the divisions in Strikeforce. Antonio Silva maintains his status as a top heavyweight, despite his scare at the hands of a short notice Mike Kyle, who even in a loss had his stock rise in both the promotion's and the fan's eyes. Robbie Lawler reasserts himself as a dangerous contender for the MW title, while Paul Daley and Dan Henderson did much to generate marketable title fights for the coming year. After a truly disappointing year for Strikeforce, you have to believe the promotion is happy with the way this card sets up things for next year. The building blocks for the "phase II" year Coker predicted have been placed.
Scott Coker is criticized more and more for his quiet nature, juxtaposed against the brash White who is always in your face. This weekend though Coker's fighters did their talking in the cage. And save for a few WEC fights that weren't shown on the broadcast despite time not being a serious issue, White's did not.