Even before last week's lackluster fight card put on by the UFC in Abu Dhabi, there were a couple of reasons I was intently looking forward to this past Saturday's Strikeforce event that was televised live from Nashville, Tennessee on CBS. First was an opportunity to see the UFC's chief rival promotion finally put on another show. Another was the card itself, which included three World Championship fights featuring six intriguing, highly ranked fighters with very contrasting styles.
Besides that, I was hoping after last week Strikeforce could capitalize on the let down of UFC 112 and really hit a home run with this show. Alas, hope continues to spring eternal as the optimism that preceded this potentially dynamite card ended up being a dud. 'Murphy's Law' is typically defined as "anything that can go wrong will go wrong."
I'm not going to say that was totally the case here as there were some positives to be drawn, however all three fights going the distance in one-sided performances and a melee on national television far outweighs any of those. Strangely, one could not have expected things to play out as they did considering the potential for fireworks in all three fights; but this is the risk that is taken when the match-ups feature a classic striker versus grappler scenario.
In the main card's opening bout we had rising star Muhammad 'King Mo' Lawal versus the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) Champion Gegard Mousasi. A few weeks back I interviewed King Mo, did a feature on him and in it I stated "MMA's Majesty is ready to reign." I am glad to say I was right as King Mo won, however on the other hand, the guy I said had fast hands and was multi-talented appeared to be one-dimensional.
The world class wrestler did only that as he repeatedly took down Mousasi and just controlled him on the ground. His 'ground and pound' attack wasn't even 'lean and mean'. While he clearly won the fight in the end, he was the one who looked beaten and battered with a closed left eye from Mousasi's constant hammer fist punches off his back; strike one.
In the second fight of the night, the lightweight (155 lbs.) championship featured defending Strikeforce Champion Gilbert Melendez against Shinya Aoki, who is the lightweight champion from the 'Dream' promotion in Japan. Aoki, a renowned submission wizard with a bad boy reputation, went the distance but was pummeled and dominated by Melendez, who I credit with executing a perfect game plan for his opponent.
In my opinion, Melendez supplied the only real action of the night, but unfortunately it was far and few in between as Aoki would constantly fall to his back in the hopes of drawing Melendez in, which he never really did. Melendez won on all judges scorecards 50-45, which explains how one sided this fight really was; strike two.
Finally, the main event of the evening pitted the Strikeforce Middleweight (185 lbs.) Champion Jake Shields against the living, but aging, legend Dan Henderson who recently came over from the UFC. After a potential disaster for Shields in the first round where he got dropped twice by Henderson right hands, he survived and turned the tide as he imposed his ground game on Henderson the rest of the way and literally controlled him for the next four rounds.
Even though he was dominant in his positioning, his striking from the top position left a lot to be desired. Although he peppered Henderson with punches, he never seriously had him hurt. Strike three, you're out!
If that weren't bad enough, after the fight when Shields was being interviewed live in the cage, Jason 'Mayhem' Miller, host of MTV's 'Bully Beatdown', who had fought earlier on the card, unexpectedly comes in the cage. He then does a 'Kanye West on Taylor Swift type move' and interrupts the interview by asking Shields about a rematch.
Looked at as disrespectful by Shields and his camp, all hell breaks loose inside the cage as bodies are flying everywhere. Granted, compared to the infamous Andrew Golota/Riddick Bowe melee in Madison Square Garden, this was nothing, but for a growing sport trying to sell itself to the casual fan, this was not good look.
Add to this that HBO had a boxing doubleheader featuring some rising stars of their own that put on two action packed fights and overall, this was not a good night for MMA; especially in front of a national television audience where Strikeforce struck out.