Outstanding event overshadowed by UFC all week
Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov was an outstanding event from top to bottom, full of highlight reel finishes, compelling bouts and the emergence of new stars.
But if an outstanding event happens in Cincinnati and no one is watching, does it really register?
While the hardcore MMA community was head-over-heels for the performances offered by Josh Barnett, Daniel Cormier, King Mo Lawal and others on Saturday night, the casual fans who make up the majority of the MMA audience couldn't care less. They've never heard of Luke Rockhold, the new Strikeforce middleweight champion, or Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, the man he took the belt from.
All reports from Cincinnati on Saturday night indicated that a crowd far south of being a sellout watched the event. Despite the fact that this Strikeforce event was the most impressive collection of talent the company has put together in recent years, it just didn't matter because it wasn't the UFC.
Well all know this company isn't lasting another 12 months, so why don't we just get it over now?
Round up the fighters deemed valuable additions to the UFC roster, turn off the lights, and close up the doors for good. This entire week showed just how impossible it is for the organization to exist in the shadow of the UFC, and it's only going to get worse.
This was one of the most entertaining events of the year, with Alexis Davis, Jordan Mein and Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante delivering impressive performances on the preliminary card, and every fight on the main card giving fans something to talk about. Throw this card on Spike TV as a UFC Fight Night, and casual fans are still talking about Lawal and Cormier's one-punch knockout wins or Barnett's submission of Sergei Kharitonov.
Instead, they probably didn't see it. If you ask them about this event, all you're getting is blank stares and crickets.
With the UFC on the precipice of another surge in popularity, there is no better time to purge Strikeforce and start moving forward with the strongest roster possible. Instead, Saturday night's event showcased a number of talented fighters with star potential that are competing in MMA limbo.
There isn't a hardcore fan out there who hasn't thought about which UFC fighter they'd match up against King Mo, Rockhold, and Mein, or how cool it would be to add Cormier, Barnett, Kharitonov and "Bigfoot" into the mix with Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Brock Lesnar and the recently unveiled Alistair Overeem.
The time to make that a reality is now. What's the alternative?
According to Mauro Ranallo during Saturday's broadcast, the finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix aren't expected to take place until 2012. There are at least 11 UFC events between now and then, and all the momentum these fighters built in the cage last night will have been squandered.
When the time comes to crank up the excitement again, the same small collection of people who were interested this weekend will remain watching closely, but that's about it. You're not going to cultivate new Strikeforce fans at this stage. The organization is the equivalent of a lame duck coach on a bad football team; everyone is just waiting around for the eventual end.
Or just think of it this way: ceasing operations on Strikeforce now introduces a whole new set of fighters to turn to as injury replacements. Instead of having to rely on unproven newcomers or "returning UFC veterans" to fill the void, the UFC could tab proven fighters that are hungry for the chance to showcase their skills a larger audience.
If the marquee talent from Strikeforce are eventually going to make their way into the Octagon – and everyone and their mother assumes they will – why not doing right now, right when the UFC is about to attract more eyeballs than ever before?
I know there are business forces that factor into this situation, and I appreciate that. But if contracts and commitments are the only thing holding up the process, what's the hold-up?
You have to strike while the iron is hot, or in this case, lukewarm and getting colder with each passing week.