Tim Burke: Strikeforce will close up shop after this weekend's final event in Oklahoma City. The promotion definitely had their ups and downs, but they also put on a lot of good fights and gave platforms to fighters that the UFC couldn't or wouldn't. Instead of focusing on the negative, let's just keep this simple. What was your favorite moment in Strikeforce history?
Brent Brookhouse: I was cageside for Fedor vs. Rogers and that has to take it for me. The atmosphere during Fedor's entrance was wild considering that it wasn't a "massive" crowd and Rogers' success in the first round had the crowd buzzing. But the moment for me was the punch that dropped Rogers. I honestly didn't know that a punch could be that loud when it landed. For all the insanity of Werdum subbing Fedor and some of the other stuff, it's as simple as the legend's best Strikeforce moment.
Fraser Coffeen: I've always been an unapologetic Fedor fan, so that Rogers KO was indeed great, but for me, Strikeforce was already past its prime by that point. I liked them best as the scrappy regional promotion showcasing local talent. And no fight better captured that spirit than Cung Le vs. Frank Shamrock. The history between them, the rabid fans, Shamrock's theatrics... it all added up to incredible drama, with a suitably momentous ending. To me, that was Strikeforce at its finest, and it was never topped.
Dallas Winston: Cheese-ball alert, but I'm quite proud to be a positive fan of the sport and I loved Strikeforce dearly. Really, their ventures should be viewed as an extreme success, because being bought out by Zuffa authenticates that they had a tangible presence and posed a viable threat. I applaud them for attempting to fill many of the holes left by Pride's disappearance: the colorful entrances to the ring, picking up top- and mid-level global talent (Aoki, Kawajiri, Hirota, Misaki, etc.) and wisely being willing to cross-promote in order to strengthen their roster.
My favorite Strikeforce moment was probably Nick Diaz vs. Frank Shamrock. Diaz had been widely criticized for having no punching power and it was just a fun fight and definitive win for Nick overall, but I dug the "new blood vs. old lion" angle. The press conference staredown was a classic moment in MMA: Frank was all professional, in a suit and extending a sportsmanlike handshake, while Nick was in jeans and a hoodie and, of course, greeted Frank's handshake with his signature middle finger. Frank's reaction was unforgettable as well. You could see the transformation from "this is any ol' staredown; done it a million times" to being caught off-guard by the offense, then kind of chuckling at it like he should've known.
The icing on the cake was a tiny little detail, but one that really made an impression. Diaz absolutely owned Frank and showed his typical level of heated animosity throughout. Even though I'm a Diaz fan, Frank is a true pioneer and someone who's earned my utmost respect, so it was really satisfying to see Nick help him up after the fight was stopped, get his hug on and raise Frank's arm as a sign of his own respect for him.
John Nash: Strikeforce could promote. They didn't have the media guns and money Zuffa has, nor does Coker have any personality to help him, but he new how to put a fight on that you wanted to see. Fights that you anticipated, with names that were relevant and matchups that often delivered. Frank Shamrock vs Cung Le felt like a big fight, before, during, and after. Fedor vs Rogers the same. Even fights a few notches down in importance: Melvin Manhoef vs Robbie Lawler was a hardocre fans dream match.
But what I'll remember most about Strikeforce is what they failed to deliver. The fights they had us salivating for that they couldn't, for whatever reason, pull off. Cung Le and Robbie Lawler, Mayhem Miller and Nick Diaz, Bobby Lashley and Batista. Ok maybe not the last one. Even his biggest triumph, the Grand Prix, ended in a whimper when the UFC pulled Overeem to protect him as a ppv draw.
Perhaps most disappointing, Fedor was destined to fight Overeem and yet for a multitude of reasons it failed to take place. Worse, the failure to have it probably cost Coker Strikeforce. That's what I'll remember most
Ben Thapa: You may laugh at a deaf person saying this, but hearing Fedor's anthem as he walked out to the Bigfoot fight was amazing. Being physically present for a fighter of that magnitude's entrance and feeling that swelling music almost carry you away with anticipation, memories of PRIDE and the emotions you have cumulatively and inadvisedly invested in a fighter who briefly bumped into in the hallway at the press conference is a special moment - but it's still not my favorite Strikeforce memory.
That would be Diaz/Daley. The greatest one round brawl in the history of the sport. That fight more than any other got my friends and family buzzing about how bonkers and awesome MMA could be. This see-saw battle between snarling welterweights is the one you show someone if you have five minutes and one fight to convince that someone that MMA is awesome.
And it'll work. It'll work like the Stockton Slap. Bap, bap, bap, (expletive), bap, bap, boom - they'll fall in love with MMA - or deeper into love - after watching that fight.
Steph Daniels: My favorite Strikeforce moment was probably Cung Le vs. Frank Shamrock. While I like both guys, I've got a soft spot for Le, due to the fact we've been friends for a long time. The lead-in to the fight was amusing, because despite Frank's best efforts to not trash talk, he couldn't help himself. Cung, as always, was a beacon of respect, but when it got down to the nitty gritty in the cage, Frank walked out (or was he carried out?) with a broken arm and a loss.
Strikeforce put on a lot of memorable fights, and at one point, was a legitimate rival to the UFC. It might have only been for a moment, but they definitely presented a solid roster, and some great cards. I'll miss them, for sure.
T.P. Grant: There are so many memories fans can take away from Strikeforce. The home of Frank Shamrock's final MMA run, the undefeated run of Nick Diaz, their ambitious Heavyweight Grand Prix, but for me Fedor's time there really stands out. There was just something about Fedor in the mid-to-late 2000s that really felt like you were witnessing something special in the sport.
What really stands out to me is when Fedor was submitted by Werdum. That really felt like a historic moment in the sport, the ending of an era. Now clearly Fedor had stopped being the best Heavyweight in the sport by 2010, but his first "legitimate" defeat in the sport felt the like the closing of a historic chapter. On top of that it was such a shocking upset, so few people expected a fighter as one dimensional as Werdum was, at that time, to be the one to knock off Fedor. Now since then the luster is fully gone as Fedor went on to lose against Silva and Henderson in decisive fashion, and has he has entered a pseudo retirement/exile. I felt downright giddy as I walked home from the only bar on the Northside of Chicago that showed Strikeforce events, and that night had a real "special sports" moment that I remember to this day.
Tim Burke: Just like Dallas, I loved Strikeforce. Their cards were almost always built to entertain, and while they lacked the relevance of the UFC sometimes, they put on some amazing shows. It's hard to narrow it down to just one thing for me, but if I had to, I'd go with Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor's stock was plummeting at the time, but I didn't care. Both of those guys are amazing fighters and I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. They just blasted each other all over the cage and when Hendo finally caught Fedor with that shot and put him out, I was in utter shock. Denial might be a better word. I could not and would not believe that Hendo knocked him out. It took about 20 replays before I finally accepted it. Then I went bonkers all over again.
Overall, Strikeforce really did help with the evolution of the sport. They helped drive up fighter pay, they provided an alternative to the Dana White show, they weren't scared to bring in international talent or try new things, and they made San Jose a legitimate fight town. I'm going to miss them, almost as much as I miss the WEC. Scott Coker and Frank Shamrock - thank you for all that you did for the sport.
Mookie Alexander: I'm surprised nobody mentioned Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Cyborg. That's a hidden classic fight and admittedly in the months leading up to this, I criticized Strikeforce for their supposed top WW fighting someone way below his level for the title. Those concerns went away when Cyborg was effectively landing leg kicks in the 1st round and engaging in a typical fun fight as you'd expect from him and from Nick. While Diaz got the armbar win late in the 2nd round, I remember it as a great display for the fans and a very good showing from Cyborg.
It's a shame Strikeforce is going out like this, but sometimes these things happen in MMA....