Post-Hangover Thoughts - Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery Shows Lack of Growth in Production Values

via i135.photobucket.com

Rather than run through a list of takeaways from the event like normal I just want to focus on one thing today, the poor production that continues to haunt Strikeforce cards.

Let's get this out of the way first.  Heavy Artillery was a good show.  It had solid fights, did a nice job of helping to introduce/continue to build up guys like Antonio Silva, Jacare, Overeem, Roger Gracie, Feijao.  But no matter how good of a show Strikeforce puts on, the production is serving as a constant drag and distraction from the action.  At its worst the commentary becomes so bad that it actively serves to alter the perception of what is happening in the fight to the less informed.

During the Arlovski/Silva fight the first round was a surprise as Silva was countering a very flat Arlovski and winning the stand-up battle.  This led to the announce team actively "taking a side" in the fight.  In the second and third round there were multiple exchanges where Arlovski would land two punches, Silva would miss one and the only commentary offered would be "Silva missing with a counter."  As Gus Johnson and Frank Shamrock exploded with excitement at every glancing punch from Silva a very close fight was unfolding.  Two of the judges, as well as myself, gave Arlovski the second round and I actually had him with a slight edge in the third before Silva took him down late in the round and did enough work to take a decision.  From the commentary you'd assume that the scorecards should have read 72-14.

The Jacare/Villasenor fight was another example of distracting commentary misrepresenting a fight.  Jacare dominated all but maybe 30 seconds of the fight.  He was outstriking Villasenor, getting constant takedowns, doing damage from the top, avoiding the punches of "Smokin' Joe."  But as Jacare fatigued slightly the announcers screamed that the fight was Villasenor's for the taking.  As he came in throwing wild punches that clearly missed before getting countered and power doubled to the ground it was repeated that it was his fight if he had the will to take it.  It actually served to make Jacare look bad.  The fight was framed as an exhausted Jacare just trying to survive the perils of Villasenor's pressure game when Jacare was actually doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.

Finally, yet again, Showtime went ahead and chose not to broadcast any undercard action, instead going off the air 30 minutes before the scheduled broadcast end.  American Top Team fighter Francisco France won in under a minute and a half, Mike Chandler pulled off a victory in under a minute, Jesse Finney won in the first round.  All of these are guys who will be on Strikeforce cards in the future (Chandler and Finney have been on Strikeforce cards in the past), they're all guys with the skills to make some noise in the future, and none of them made the broadcast.  Lyle Beerbohm and Vitor Ribero went to decision so that may have been difficult to get on the broadcast, but they still could have shown a highlight to continue pushing the growth of their now 14-0 prospect.

At some point the broadcast needs to be improved.  It is obvious that Showtime and CBS have no interest in using extra time to show undercard bouts, that is probably just something we have to accept.  They don't do it with boxing, they're unlikely to start with MMA.  However, the commentary is something that must be addressed and it must be addressed soon.  Gus Johnson is bad at his job, he is an active distraction who doesn't have a firm grasp of the sport.  Frank Shamrock is awful on the mic, he cheerleads and ignores activity. Mauro has, sadly, become a joke as he seems unable to call fights at the level that he did in PRIDE.

If the Strikeforce product is to be taken seriously it needs to be presented in a way that allows fans to take it as such.  Until then even their best events will be damaged.

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