More than most events, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson was set up in a way that could have either delivered a high level of excitement or been a stale event full of stalling. Up until the final fight it had been quite lacking in terms of excitement. Not that technique had been lacking completely, but there was nothing that anyone was going to be talking about in the morning.
Let's take a quick rundown of the event now that we're a night's sleep away from being "in the moment."
- I have to start with the complaints of the stoppage in Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson. We, as MMA fans, can't have it both ways. We want to talk at length about how the sport is "safer" than boxing because fighters who have been knocked down and concussed don't have a chance to continue simply by being able to get to their feet before a ten count. The under the armpit uppercut that Henderson landed caused Fedor to go limp. The follow up shots from Henderson brought Fedor back. Had the fight continued, I wouldn't be throwing a fit about it. But it was incredibly far from a bad stoppage. The last thing I want in this sport is referees who call fights differently based on who is involved, I don't need legends racking up extra abuse to their brains just on some principle that they've "earned the right."
- Moving beyond that and to the rest of the fight. Both Fedor and Hendo came out throwing with some serious bad intentions. Both men were throwing their entire weight into each punch and looking to knockout a foe that always had an air of "unknockoutable" (I am aware that is not an actual word). Both men were hurt early in exchanges and the eventual clinch against the cage that followed felt more like a brief pause for the fans to catch their breath than any sort of tactical stall. As far as I'm concerned, Fedor can hang up his gloves after last night and I'd consider it a perfectly fine fight to go out on.
- Miesha Tate vs. Marloes Coenen was a really strange fight. Each round had a moment which pretty much dictated the position the round would be fought from until the bell. Takedowns for Tate in rounds 1 and 3 led to her being on top not doing much with her offense, a reversal into back control by Coenen in round 2 saw her spend the round in that position working for chokes and landing heavy strikes. Tate getting the finish in round four felt like a bit of a relief in the first women's bout that I'd anticipated since Gina vs. Cyborg.
- I don't know that I've ever been as annoyed with a fighter as I was with Robbie Lawler in the third round against Tim Kennedy. Kennedy was tired, he was cut and his aggression level had dropped significantly. What did Lawler, known throughout his career for his aggression, do when he had an opponent in that state in front of him? He stared at him. Lawler, clearly down two rounds already, didn't move for the finish, he didn't let his hands go and he gave the fight away. Sure, maybe he wouldn't have landed a knockout blow, but the Robbie Lawler that got to where he is got there by being willing to throw punches. Instead we have Lawler moving his feet a lot (of course this would be called "good footwork") and looking at his opponent, giving the fight away.
- It was great to get to relive the pretend controversy of Kennedy vs. Jacare. Maybe if the Strikeforce announcers and Kennedy himself continue to push the idea it'll prop up a rematch that no one is really clamoring to see. There were close rounds in the first encounter but I can't find a single reputable site that scored the first fight for Kennedy. A few called it a draw, I scored it 49-46 Jacare in the live results, and three Sherdog writers scored the bout 49-46, 49-47 and 48-47 Jacare in their live results.
- The less said about the weird "it's just blood!" thing, the better.
- I just covered Robbie Lawler and I'll get to Scott Smith in a moment, but the other "big striker" on the undercard actually tried to win his fight. Paul Daley showed much improved wrestling, exactly like I said he would. Yes, Tyron Woodley got takedowns during the fight but it was not an easy chore putting Daley on the mat. Woodley clearly won the fight, no one would dispute that. But at least Daley was trying to knock him out. He was a touch too patient with his punches in trying to avoid getting taken down, but he threw and even went for submission attempts. There never felt like there was a moment that he wasn't attempting to find a way to get the victory. The third round roll into an omoplata was ill advised from a "wrong time" perspective, but it was yet another attempt to do something to get the win.
- As for Woodley, he's not the most exciting guy to watch and three of his last four fights have been pretty tough for him. Still, he keeps winning and is the best welterweight in a very shallow Strikeforce division. He doesn't have great striking, but he throws with enough power that it keeps people honest at a distance. His wrestling also hasn't translated as well as one would hope but it has been good enough thus far and will continue to be good enough until he finds himself in the UFC.
- Scott Smith needs to hang them up. I find it really obnoxious when fans cry that only fighters can decide when it's time to retire. Yes, it's their call. But there are times where it is perfectly acceptable to suggest that a guy step away. Smith has taken a lot of punishment and looked incredibly slow and flat out sad as Tarec Saffiedine picked him apart. I have enjoyed his career greatly but I don't think he has much left to offer the sport inside the cage.
- Saffiedine is a legitimate prospect. He's 24 years old and has faced stiff competition and has well rounded skills. His fight with Woodley wasn't one that demanded a rematch, but the two of them are likely to meet again given the way the 170 division is structured in Strikeforce.