Earlier today, news broke that StrikeForce head Scott Coker doesn't want to have an immediate rematch between Fabricio Werdum and Fedor Emelianenko, but would rather Emelianenko fight either Champion Alistair Overeem, a top contender in Antonio "Big Foot" Silva, or PrideFC veteran Sergei Kharitonov.
Okay it's been established that in potentially having their Heavyweight Championship be fought between Overeem and a man coming off of a loss for the second straight time, StrikeForce is treating their title belt like feces. It's been reiterated in countless articles, fanposts, comments and message board threads.
Even I was saying this at first, but the situation is a lot different than if they were a promotion with a much deeper roster. Part of the problem is just the difficulties in dealing with M-1 Global. While Coker made what was arguably a major mistake in acquiescing to their original demands in the first place, including agreeing to omit a very standard championship clause from Fedor's contract, I don't think he's making a mistake this time with his most recent proclamation, and this is coming from a huge UFC fan. Given the situation, it seems as though Scott Coker is actually being very smart here, and is just hedging his bets depending on three different possible outcomes in negotiations with Fedor's M-1 Global handlers.
Since StrikeForce is not the UFC or WEC, and have only very limited credible match-ups, they are pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place. There are plenty of people saying that having Fedor fight Overeem after coming off of a loss is stupid and makes StrikeForce look bush-league, and makes a mockery of their championship, and normally they'd be right on all three points and I certainly won't argue the latter two. There are people saying that Sergei Kharitonov is not a worthy opponent at this point and it's a waste of a Fedor fight, much like any number of overmatched cans he's fought, and while Kharitonov is hardly a can, normally they'd be right. There are even people saying Antonio Silva somehow isn't good enough for Fedor, which I have to strongly disagree with considering Fedor just came off of a loss in what was supposed to be a #1 Contender's match, and Big Foot is more than arguably StrikeForce's #4 Heavyweight, and also someone he's never fought. I can still agree it's not a dream match.
However, with Fedor having only one more fight on his contract with StrikeForce, and negotiations between StrikeForce and M-1 Global still ongoing, Coker seems to be trying to cover all his bases here since he doesn't know what the outcome might be. Furthermore, the fact is that M-1 wants the Werdum rematch more than anything to try and diminish the one huge blemish on Fedor's record, so even if Werdum doesn't end up needing surgery and is available for the rematch, Coker telling M-1 they can't have that yet is the best way to get them to play ball.
If Fedor's management agrees to both a contract extension and a championship clause, then Fedor vs. Big Foot makes a lot of sense, since Big Foot is StrikeForce's most credible HW after the Overeem/Werdum/Fedor triumvirate. The former EliteXC Champion's only StrikeForce loss is a narrow decision loss to Werdum, and he's been on two major StrikeForce shows including one of the CBS ones. That is scenario #1, and the one that makes the most sense for StrikeForce if they get everything they want at the negotiating table. If Fedor wins, he rebounds and can be given a title shot without making a mockery of the StrikeForce title belt. If Big Foot wins, StrikeForce has another credible title-challenger and a star.
In scenario #2, if M-1 only agrees to a Championship clause, then putting him against Overeem while Werdum is injured may deeply disrespect the StrikeForce Heavyweight Championship (a title with a rich, meaningful history of all of two fights), it does lock up Fedor should he win, setting up a money rematch with Werdum afterwords. It also sends Fedor out on two consecutive losses if Fedor loses, making StrikeForce look like a credible organization since the mighty Fedor will have lost not once but twice there.
In the last scenario, if M-1 doesn't agree to any changes, or maybe if they somehow agree on a contract extension but not a championship clause (something I doubt StrikeForce would agree to unless M-1 lowered their price and reduced their other demands), then StrikeForce is still going to have to book a match with Fedor since chances are his current contract is guaranteed. Beyond that, he's probably also guaranteed a main-event slot, and a fight against Lavar Johnson isn't something that could be taken seriously (not to mention that that sort of match-up might not be sanctioned by some state athletic commissions). They still might as well sacrifice someone relatively expendable, and the recently signed Kharitonov is as good a choice as any. He's a former Top-10 Heavyweight and one of the few great heavyweights from Pride that Fedor never fought. At the same time he's relatively unknown to casual fans, and if he loses, StrikeForce won't have lost that much. Furthermore if Kharitonov loses but doesn't get destroyed, it's not like they couldn't still use him. A match against Andrei Arlovski would certainly be plausible (although I'd hope Arlovski gets more of a tune-up fight first after the slide he's been on). Finally, if by Kharitonov somehow actually wins, then StrikeForce can play up that Kharitonov was also the last man to actually beat Overeem and also has a win over Werdum, and he can be waiting in the wings for either man.
So after a rather spotty track record over the last year, I have to give Mr. Coker some credit here. He's a promoter in an unenviable position, and he's just doing what he has to here.