Promoted to the Front Page by Anton Tabuena
Some questions, in my humble opinion, are better left unasked. That may not be the case here. However, I do maintain that there is no clear answer as to which promotion made the best deal - the UFC by signing Jake Shields away from Strikeforce or Strikeforce by grabbing up UFC defector, Dan Henderson. Perhaps, both benefited from the swap of sorts, or it could be that a true winner is yet to be determined. I can't answer that, but in true blogging fashion, we should probably review some of what has been said on the topic thus far.
The ever-controversial, Jonathan Snowden:
As Shields floundered, Henderson did what he always does in the face of adversity. He came back as good as ever. It was easy to dismiss Dan Henderson before Saturday night's Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title fight in Columbus. He was too old. Too predictable. Like the other warriors of his generation it seemed like it was time for Dan Henderson to call it a career.
Strikeforce got what it wanted from Henderson: a fighter who will do his damnedest to deliver exciting fights in the cage. The UFC got exactly what they bargained for as well - Jake Shields, warts and all. After he loses to Georges St. Pierre in Canada at UFC 129, which fighter would you rather have? A guy who will make crowds smile as long as he can and then undoubtedly go out on his shield and help create a new star or two along the way? Or a new Jon Fitch to stand alongside the original, the one man who has been giving White headaches for years?
Snowden's arch nemesis, Subo (aka Derek Suboticki):
What an awful trade for Strikeforce. They pay above-market value (as determined by Zuffa, who seems to do a pretty good job determining the value of fighters) for a free agent that's pushing 40 and was among the best wrestlers in the country two decades ago. For his inaugural fight, they put him against their best fighter, whom decisions him in a way that loses viewers and culminates in an embarrassing black eye on national television. Their best fighter leaves, having cinched a career-best win over their prized new signing, and Strikeforce is left with an overpaid veteran that's never been proven to draw and seems more suited for 205. Why, I'd argue that the only possible thing that could be worse would be for Hendo to then beat a hot prospect that Strikeforce cultivated.
In all honesty, both the above bloggers make great points. The Henderson/Shields fight turned out to be a small train wreck for Strikeforce as Shields was able to completely out grapple an aged looking Henderson. If you'd asked me just after that fight, I would have said that Scott Coker struck out big time. But, wait. Though Shields was able to eek out his first UFC bout against Martin Kampmann, he looked about as bad as he could against a fighter who chose to fight him primarily on his terms.
At this point in time, we need some guidance. Enter Bloody Elbow's elder statesman, Kid Nate:
I don't know how long Henderson can reign as an over-40 champ in a young man's game, but in a way he's the perfect kind of fighter to hold the Strikeforce belt. He's clearly still a UFC caliber fighter, but he's also one we know wouldn't be winning any UFC belts if he were to return to Zuffa. That leaves us free from the annoying questions about where Strikeforce champs Gilbert Melendez and Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza stand in the top ranks of their division.
On balance, Henderson has bolstered Strikeforce's depth at light heavyweight. It shouldn't be about employing charades to try and convince the viewing public that your stable of fighters are better than they truly are. Let the top fighters fight. Even though Dan Henderson isn't a top five light heavyweight, he's still better than the vast majority of his potential opponents in any promotion.
The problem with Henderson is that he's up in age and really isn't a blockbuster name in terms of drawing power. He is still a great fighter who generally puts on exciting fights. I think, as Nate does, that he's a good fit for Strikeforce at this stage in his career. Bring on Fedor.
Turning to Shields, he's a guy that the UFC had to sign. Period. I'm far from an enthusiastic fan of Jake Shields, but he's definitely earned his shot to fight the best in the world. He's beaten the top fighters outside the UFC, so it makes sense that he should challenge the best that the world's pre-eminent MMA promotion has to offer. Furthermore, the UFC prides itself on being the be all and end all of MMA. If Dana White wants to credibly tout himself as the purveyor of premium MMA competition, he has to get guys like Shields if at all possible.
As I said, Shields was almost a necessity for the UFC. They needed a fresh face to challenge Georges St. Pierre, and they couldn't let a consensus top welterweight/middleweight float around outside their promotion. Shields does have a shot against GSP. Personally, I don't think he'll get it done, but his insane skill as a grappler gives him a chance against about anyone. Unfortunately for the UFC, Shields' less than crowd pleasing fighting style will always be a liability for the promotion even if he's successful. Honestly, it's a bigger liability if he is successful.