Same old flaws on display at Strikeforce Challengers

When it comes to Strikeforce these days the only thing most fans have on their minds is their…well…interesting booking which is viewed by most to fall somewhere between negligent and criminal. There are a myriad of examples from their recent past to point to; awarding title shots to people new to the company or coming off of a loss, being pushed around by Fedor Emelianenko and his posse of managers, calling something a number #1 contender match and then taking it back, floating the idea of a Bobby Lashley/Dave Batista super fight as their ticket to the PPV market. For their vacated Middleweight Title they are having a match between Jacare Souza (Their chosen one I think we can assume) and Tim Kennedy, then at a later date are holding an 8 man tournament to decide who will be first to challenge the new champ. Why not just have the tournament decide who the champion is? Probably because
that takes too much control out of the hands of management.

And while those types of problems with always be there when you combine big egos with bigger business transactions you would at least think they would have the wherewithal to control their Challengers series which is essentially the equivalent of the UFC’s untelevised prelims. But after watching last night I might beg to differ. For my money the only two people on the card with name value were Miesha Tate and Ryan Couture (thanks dad), but in the main event we found Joe Riggs and Louis Taylor. No way was anybody out there actually chomping at the bit to see that one. Of course the 0-0 Couture doesn’t deserve the slot but they could have at least had the finals of their 135 pound women’s tournament headline, especially considering how much play it got across the rest of the broadcast.

The aforementioned women’s tournament, which involved Miesha Tate, Maiju Kujala, Hitomi Akano, and Carina Damm, was quite entertaining though it also suffered from meddling. Predictably it saw Tate pull off victories over Kujala and Akano to earn a future title shot against reigning champ Sarah Kaufman. The last second bracketing which took place at the weigh ins was an exciting twist though I am not a 1000% convinced that it wasn’t predetermined. I think we can all agree, after all, that the 1 seed ended up taking on the 4 seed in the opening round.

But the most glaring flaw was the decision, certainly made with the fighters best interest in mind, to have the first round be made up of two 3 minute round and the finals be made up of three 3 minute rounds. It drained a lot of excitement out of the rounds and made it so that one takedown was all it took to win a round. Akano worked hard and got herself an arm bar submission but the other two fights (three if you count the one between Liz Carmouche and Colleen Schneider who were serving as backups) went to decision (at which point they neglected to give us scoring totals!).That said Tate turned in an impressive, though not dominant performance. Both of her rounds against Kujala were almost too close to call and she lost handily to Akano in their first round.

Obviously no debuting pro MMAer really deserves to be on national TV but the sport does make exceptions for celebrities and now nepotism. Ryan Couture, son of Randy and a product of Xtreme Couture, fought fellow virgin Lucas Stark and, answering all of Strikeforce’s prayers, got a dominant first round submission via triangle choke. The announcers wouldn’t shut up about how un-Randy like his performance was and how dear old dad, master of the ground and pound, could have never pulled off a triangle like that. The transparent shilling was a little nauseating but I guess they can’t really be criticized for creating their own home grown stars. Some of the reports I’ve read have him as a mediocre prospect who had some difficulties in his amateur career. Time will tell of course, but he looked sharp and motivated to me but he’s jumped into the deep end of the pool at a very early stage in his career.

The other big gripe about the card seems to be the team of restart happy refs who were pushed around and outsmarted by the fans. The one that really had Mauro Ranallo hyperventilating came in the first fight when a guillotined Tate slipped a Von Flue choke on Kujala but never got to see it through as the oblivious Ron Mation stood them up due to lack of action. Another, bigger disaster was narrowly avoided in the finals when another referee, clearly taking his cues from the restless, booing crowd went in for the stand up but thought better of it at the last possible second. Tate and Akano were in the midst of an intense, legitimate grappling contest that was never intended to amuse the peanut gallery. In the main event Riggs and Taylor circled each other for about 8 seconds before the ref was on their case as well. This was the first sanctioned MMA event held in Arizona and I was totally unfamiliar with these refs. Is there a correlation? Were they fresh recruits brought in by the state? My knowledge of the process by which the Arizona State Athletic Commission brings refs into the cage is woefully inadequate but I do know that something went terribly wrong last night. Pat Miletich, diplomatically expressing his frustration pointed out that it’s better to have refs who are also former fighters. I agree, although I’m not sure if he knew about Mation’s non-existent MMA record off hand or if he was talking a veiled swipe at his physique.

  • Hitomi Akano def. Carina Damm via submission (triangle armbar) at 1:48 of round 2 in a women’s 135Ibs tournament semi-final fight
  • Miesha Tate def. Maiju Kujala by unanimous decision in a women’s 135Ibs tournament semi-final fight
  • Liz Carmouche def. Colleen Schneider via unanimous decision in women’s 135Ibs tournament reserve fight
  • Ryan Couture def. Lucas Stark via submission (triangle choke) at 1:15 of round 1.
  • Miesha Tate def. Hitomi Akano by unanimous decision in the women’s 135Ibs tournament final
  • Joe Riggs def. Louis Taylor by submission (punches) at 2:07 of the third round in a catchweight (182Ibs) fight

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