In film criticism there is a quick way to check to see whether or not a movie can be considered feminist. The parameters are pretty simple: are their two female characters with names that have a conversation with each other about something other than men. Sounds simple enough, but in practice very few movies actually fit that criteria. I have a similar rule about Strikeforce articles. Think about how many Strikeforce articles mention Zuffa. The number is probably pretty close to ninety percent. The Zuffa umbrella was hung even lower over Friday's Strikeforce Challenger's event considering it was the first Strikeforce event to be ran under Zuffa ownership.
I thought about this as I walked into the Stockton Arena last night to pick up my press credentials. I'd been to Strikeforce events before, and they had always put together well produced and self contained events. It was only when I was at home watching events on my TV set did I ever make absent minded comparisons to the UFC's product. The UFC handled the credentialing, and the jumbo tron ran a couple advertisements for Brock on TUF. That was basically the extent of Zuffa's influence as far as I could tell. It did seem like it was business as usual.
There was however a larger organization that cast it's shadow over the entire event. That was the city of Stockton itself. Last night's show was basically a regional MMA event broadcasted nationally, and the fans in attendance likely wouldn't have wanted it any other way. There was a contingent of at least thirty fans all wearing t-shirts advertising home grown fighter Josh Thornburg. They continued to support him even after James Terry dropped him with a blistering counter right.
The fans were everything you would expect of a Stockton crowd. Loud, boisterous, profane, but most of all passionate. Every other fighter on the undercard apparently fought out of a camp called Team Stockton, and each one got a louder cheer than any fighter fighting on the main card. They even enthusiastically booed a Team Stockton opponent who had the audacity of being from a town as far away as Sacramento. Sacramento is less than an hour north of Stockton.
The event was dominated by the three biggest camps in the region: Team Alphamale from Sacramento, AKA from San Jose, and of course Cesar Gracie's Gracie Fighter camp from Stockton. Northern California is a really rich region for mixed martial arts, and these three camps are the hegemonic forces. Last nights card was great evidence of that. At points it seemed like an old school dojo vs dojo battle.
The main non-regional draw for this card was meant to be Satoshi Ishii making his Strikeforce debut. Unfortunately the tragedies in Japan kept Ishii off of the card and the Riverside based fighter Lorenz Larkin stepped in on short notice. He walked out with the Melvin Manhoef Muay Thai gladiator shorts on and "Super Bad" by James Brown on the speakers and quickly stole the show. He put on a dazzling display of upper cuts and head kicks that demolished his opponent Scott Lighty. It was much more exciting than Ishii's takedown heavy attack and poor ground and pound was likely to be. This card didn't need an international star. In fact, it was better without one.