Photo via WWE
This post is going to be a little like that ill-fated O.J. Simpson book. You remember, the one about how he committed the double murder? Now I don't believe Strikeforce is ready for Pay Per View. But if they did it, here is how it would happen.
First and foremost, I disagree with my colleague Brent Brookhouse. Strikeforce's biggest matchup isn't Alistair Overeem-Fedor Emelianenko or any other fight targeted exclusively at hardcore fans. That's the mentality that put Affliction under. A few hundred thousand care enough about that fight to watch it for free. A quarter of them might buy it on PPV. We're aiming higher. We'll cater to the hardcore in a bit, but first thing first:
Main Event: Bobby Lashley vs. Dave Batista
Lashley on his own isn't a proven draw. But as we've seen with Wrestlemania 23, he's capable of creating massive interest with the right matchup. This is that matchup. No one knows what Batista might bring to the game. He's a neophyte for sure, untrained and unskilled. But he's an excellent athlete, like most WWE stars. More importantly? He knows how to sell a fight.
There's little doubt that WWE fans have helped create the UFC boom. The fans left over from WWE RAW fueled The Ultimate Fighter's success and Brock Lesnar was an immediate factor at the box office for the UFC. Now we all know that Lesnar has succeeded in the cage because of his stellar amateur wrestling background and his work ethic. But that's largely irrelevant. If you're Strikeforce, you need to get on the radar and draw eyeballs. That's the part Batista and Lashley should be able to do and do well.
Co-Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum
At Bloody Elbow we can tell you first hand the name Fedor Emelianenko means something. Behind Brock Lesnar, it's probably the best name in the industry at drawing viewers to your site and can keep hardcore fans engaged in argument for hours. Adding Fedor to the card is perfect; Lashley and Batista can draw in a new contingent of WWE fans, while Fedor and Werdum rematch one of the most memorable upsets of all-time. I think this fight is a better fit than either man against the untested (at the box office) Alistair Overeem. Fans in the United States haven't gotten to know Overeem yet. We'll introduce him to the world on the undercard in a highlight package.
145 Pound Women's Title: Cyborg Santos vs. Erin Toughill
With due respect to Toughill, it doesn't matter so much who fills this slot against Cyborg. Cindy Dandois or another unknown face will do nicely as well. Women's MMA will immediately differentiate the Strikeforce product from the UFC and Cyborg never disappoints. Plus, unlike most Strikeforce cards, they can use this megacard to build another fight.
Gina Carano Tuneup Fight
If Strikeforce is serious about making this work, they need to come with guns blazing. Bringing Carano back sends a signal that this card is something worth watching. And, while you can't count on the MMA gods to cooperate, it is about time Strikeforce started building future main event on their undercard. This is one way to do it.
Dan Henderson vs. Gegard Moussassi
Coming off a devastating loss to Jake Shields, Henderson can fight at his preferred weight in a matchup he should likely win. The winner can fight Muhammed Lawal who should be positioned ringside.
Robbie Lawler vs. Melvin Manhoef II
It's always nice to start things off with a bang, isn't it?
That's a collection of matchups that I think can sell. Can it do well enough to make up the cost of all that name talent? That's the real question and the conundrum for anyone who isn't the UFC trying to enter the PPV market. There is enough talent out there outside of Zuffa's grasp to draw 100-200,000 PPV buys. But it's expensive talent, making the show cost prohibitive. My advice to Strikeforce is not to do it. Build some talent on your Showtime shows. Create an organic build to a fight fans care about. Let things percolate a bit. Some of the most successful cards of all time for the UFC have been the result of issues that were allowed to linger a bit. Your time will come. But if you have to do PPV now? Here is how it should happen.