This Sunday morning, MMA fans booted up their computers and eventually made their way to their favorite MMA sites. If they watched both offerings from the UFC and Strikeforce, they knew what to expect. If they didn't, they were greeted by headlines, similar to one here from Bloody Elbow, like Strikeforce Knocks Out The UFC In The First Round. This was the theme among the MMA community today, both fans and writers, since Strikeforce put on a stellar event last night, while the UFC put on a plodding finale to their Ultimate Fighter reality show. The show that took UFC to new heights years ago. There were moments watching the UFC show last night that I felt Rogan and Goldberg were calling a tennis match, with their hushed tones, at the intimate venue inside The Palm. So, for one night, it could be said that Strikeforce was a more entertaining promotion than the UFC. That is just one night, and the UFC card was pedestrian, to say the least. But, the seed has been planted and now we will see if it can take root.
A few weeks back I wrote a piece titled Wiping The Slate Clean With Strikeforce. In it, I discussed how I was going to stop griping about what Strikeforce was doing wrong and let them entertain me. Well, last night they did that, and then some. It was one of the most enjoyable cards any MMA organization has put on in some time, especially outside of WEC. One of the great things about last night's card was that it was not a culmination of events, but a beginning. I'm interested in seeing what happens next for each winner of last night's bouts. It looks like Hendo will face Feijao next. That is a tremendous test for the 40 year old former champion. But, even past that, there a bunch of other fights at Light Heavyweight that are demanding of my attention. What happens next with Mousasi and King Mo? Who does OSP face next? Mike Kyle looked amazing last night in the first round against the mammoth Bigfoot, his training at AKA is really paying off, and he is going to be very difficult at 205. A year ago we were looking at Strikeforce's Light Heavyweight division and saw an anemic crop at one of the most important weight classes in MMA. This year, we have the promise of some great fights ahead of us in the coming year.
This is starting to become a growing theme at Strikeforce. They are signing and developing talent in each weight class so that every show they put on has some meaning to it. Look at the next Challenger card. It is headlined by two of Strikeforce's top prospects in Cormier and Woodley. Woodley's opponent, Saffiedine, is quite a prospect in his own right. But they didn't stop there. Undefeated Middleweight prospect, Yancy Medieros is also on the card along with female Middleweight Julia Budd facing Amanda Nunes. That is an excellent Challenger card.
Now, don't get me wrong. In no way am I saying that Strikeforce is ready to supplant the UFC as the top MMA organization. It's not even close. By the time the next Challenger card takes place UFC will break gate records at The Bell Center in Montreal with GSP vs Koscheck and they will put on another PPV featuring a bout for the Lightweight Championship on New Years Day. The sheer volume and depth of their roster will always keep the UFC humming. Let's face it; we all watch the UFC, but not everyone watches Strikeforce. How does Strikeforce draw the attention of more MMA fans? That is the real question. I find it curious when we, as fans, engage in taking sides in "Promotional Wars". I guess it is a natural component of competition. But, if both organizations put on the best show that they can, we are the ones that benefit the most. That is what it comes down to for Strikeforce. One card at a time. Strikeforce has built a strong enough roster that they can put on ten Championship cards, ten Challenger cards and have each one mean something while delivering quality MMA in 2011. I loved last night's show. I can't wait for the January 7th show and there is a lot of promise surrounding the January 29th show as we await the next step of a fighter who hails from Stary Oskol.
It's unlikely that Strikeforce will ever dethrone the UFC from their perch atop MMA. On the flip side, none of us can say they never will either. What we can say today is last night Strikeforce put on a superior, more entertaining show than the UFC did. January will come and by the end of that month we will see who entertained us more. If Strikeforce does continue to deliver shows like they did last night they will widen their fan base. As FEG continues their struggles more talented fighters will join Strikeforce's roster in the coming year as well. There will come a day when Strikeforce will put on a PPV, and maybe a second, and a third. Somewhere in there, certain fans might have to pick one for the month between Strikeforce and UFC. If Strikeforce makes that decision a difficult one, then they will have succeeded at a task that once seemed impossible. They will truly be competing against the UFC in a way no other US MMA organization ever has. We should all be so lucky.