Last night was the final Strikeforce event of 2011 and featured two title fights. Earlier this week Strikeforce and Showtime announced an extension to their deal with one of the points of interest being that Gilbert Melendez will remain a Strikeforce fighter. As the last of Cesar Gracie's champions in Strikeforce, it is assumed that a majority of the marketing will go towards 'breaking' Gilbert Melendez to the casual MMA fan. Saturday also marked the return of Cris Cyborg after a year outside of the cage. As with every show there are winners and losers. I'll also give my thoughts on the overall show.
Gilbert Melendez - I said last night that he failed to impress and I stand by my words. That was not a star making performance. That wasn't even a star maintaining performance. That was the single worst performance in a championship fight that I can remember in 2011. His face was a mess post-fight and he landed 24% of his strikes. That's a terrible statistic. He's listed as a winner because he won but he has some work to do to even enter discussions on top lightweights.
Cristiane Santos - Cyborg was a -1800 favorite. She trounced Hiroko Yamanaka and scored the only stoppage of the main card. Glad to see she's back but there's no way she can make 135. She looked massive last night and the cut to 145 is difficult enough for the champ. It's a shame since 135 is where most of the talent in Women's MMA resides.
Gegard Mousasi - Nice win I guess? OSP was scared to fight on the feet and just isn't a good enough grappler to stay competitive with Mousasi on the ground. Gegard has skills but if he fights Mo Lawal again it will be a repeat of the first fight.
KJ Noons - Speaking of winners with terrible striking statistics, KJ won the fight with a striking success rate of 32%. Noons still has some of the best boxing in the division but I feel like he's regressed as a fighter. He barely got past Billy Evangelista.
Boxing - Last night Boxing won. The Carl Froch-Andre Ward fight was great and created a new star in Ward. Though the judges tried to give Froch the fight, they didn't and Ward walked away with the Super Six title.
More after the jump...
Jorge Masvidal - What the hell was wrong with Masvidal last night? Actually better question: what the hell was wrong with Jorge Masvidal's corner? Jorge was down on all score cards and there wasn't any bit of urgency to try and finish the fight. Embarrassing performance in a title fight for a usually exciting fighter.
Jorge Masvidal's Corner - Seriously, their fighter was down on all cards and the best advice they could muster was 'throw the right if you feel comfortable'. That's the best advice they had? To 'throw the right' if Jorge felt 'comfortable'? Jorge didn't have a championship performance and it started with his corner.
Hiroko Yamanaka - I got nothing. She either landed 0 or 1 punches depending on your source. She had to know she wasn't gonna win. Her post-fight quote was 'I don't remember anything'. Yikes!
Ovince St. Preux - Had the opportunity to transition from prospect to top talent. He just looked like a fish out of water when put on his back. He finally came to life in the third round but he's just not there and hasn't developed like a guy of his athletic potential should.
Billy Evangelista - Less taunting. More fighting. Allowing someone to throw punches at his face is letting judges score for his opponent. There is a certain machismo in fighting but last night was a terrible idea.
- The referee in OSP/Mousasi should never referee a fight again. That was one of the worst performances of the ref who was telling fighters to work literally seven seconds after the fight hit the ground. He stood the fighters up multiple times while they were working from dominant positions and made himself a part of the fight. A direct contrast to the referee for Froch-Ward who allowed the boxers to fight out of the clinch.
- I'm happy that Strikeforce and Showtime are continuing their relationship for the next two years but if there is any desire to build the brand they can't have Melendez be that tentative. He wasn't impressive and as the face of the lightweight division he needs to showcase all his talents every night. I tweeted last night that Ben Henderson would ruin Gil Melendez and I stand by that assessment.
- WMMA may be fun to watch but if the best they could do was book Cyborg vs Yamanaka then it may be time to close up shop for 145. Not only did no one actually ask for that fight, it was a like a squash match between the Ultimate Warrior and Steve Lombardi. It lasted as long as one at least.
- Who will be the first MMA journalist to write about Cyborg's ridiculous physique. I don't want to make any sort of insinuations but I personally have never seen a female look that muscular. Her muscles had muscles. I'm not making any sort of implication though so don't read this as such. I'm just giving some food for thought.
- Scott Coker must be an alum of the Milford Academy because he is neither seen nor heard. Yes there are people who don't enjoy Dana White's tendency to be front and center but Scott just isn't willing to play the part of promoter. 2012 will be interesting when he's traveling with Dana and the two need to work together at events.
- Gus Johnson definitely enjoys calling boxing more than MMA. His work on the microphone during Froch-Ward was refreshing and reminded me why I enjoy his work for the New York Knicks and football. People were happy on twitter he wouldn't be calling Strikeforce but after last night's booth work, I'd have preferred Johnson been calling the action.