10 Thoughts on Strikeforce Challengers 17

How to judge a weekend that gave us two shows that were neither important or all that thrilling? It is 4 plus hours of MMA after all but hardly the most satisfying use of a weekend ever. First up is the winner of the battle, quality wise at least, as Strikeforce churned out a stale and predictable Challengers card that peaked, fortunately for them, with their main event. Not since Frank Mir nailed Cro Cop with one have I seen a knee change the complexion of a fight so quickly (and yes I considered Patricky Freire’s recent heat seeker). In this case it changed my feelings on the entire Strikeforce welterweight division assuming that we are still treating it as an actual division and not just a feeder system for GSP when things dry out in the UFC. Below are 10 thoughts on the five fights from the main card, I would have loved to comment on the prelim and hey, if we can take Scott Coker at his work maybe I will be able to in the near future.

1) Heading into their first fight I saw Roger Bowling as a sure fire up and coming stud who would easily consume Bobby Voelker on his way to a special career. Three fights later and things could not be further from the truth. The sad thing, at least from Bowling’s perspective, is that had he channeled his energy better and not gone all gung ho out of the gate he probably would have won the fight and the trilogy. As it were Voelker forced him to eat a picture perfect knee and then finished him off for yet another 2nd round TKO stoppage victory. Voelker may be severely lacking in the charisma department but after this he deserved a ticket to the Arena Series and, even more importantly, a new opponent.

2) Back in the day of Strikeforce independence my Inside Fights colleagues and me would argue over whether or not the Strikeforce announce team should ever mention the UFC. I was in favor of it and to me it spoke to the side of me that enjoys truth telling. The UFC plays a huge role in the MMA universe that we currently know and to not acknowledge it would be to live in a state of denial. Just because they say that their competition is doing something right doesn’t mean that they are in love with or envious of the bully on the block, it only means that they are interested in providing proper context for their fans. But now that they have been swallowed by that particular bully the glowing statements have exploded exponentially and it is impossible not to view that as something demanded upon by the suits at the top.

3) I’m a big Stephen Quadros fan and to the best of my memory I don’t ever remember this being an issue before but on Friday night he was way to eager to share his scorecard with the world. Pretty much the second a round ended he was blabbing about who his winner was. As someone who was trying to score this fight for this website it really put pressure on me to finalize my decision the second the bell sounded or else I risked having his powerful suggestion slip into my process. This is, of course, preferable to the UFC where they just don’t give scorecards (Joe Rogan just makes vague comments about who is ahead in the fight), but the gold standard is Bellator. There Jimmy Smith gives the viewers at home the break between rounds to think about who took the frame before announcing his (on screen no less) at the beginning of the next round.

4) Even though the card was well endowed for a Challengers event it still stung to have Lavar Johnson pull out at the last minute. His replacement, Shawn Jordan, put up a heroic fight against Devin Cole, winning the first round and nearly stealing the fight. In the end though Cole ended up being the big winner as he went from big underdog to big favorite and walked away from the weekend with another tally in his W column.

5) Even though it eventually ended with the heavy favorite standing victorious the opening bout between Adlan Amagov and Ron Stalling really did help bolster the entertainment value of this card. Amagov won thanks to some artistic striking and a few well placed cage grabs and I look forward to the next time I can see him in action.

6) The recent rash of Strikeforce signings have left some feeling perplexed (aren’t they about to be closed for business??) but my theory is that Zuffa plans to use that brand to fight back against the spectacular series of signings Bellator has engaged in recently. Zuffa can hardly have Bjorn Rebney gobbling up all the green prospects out there but it also doesn’t make sense to move them into the UFC at this stage of their career. So why not sign them to Strikeforce and use it as a farm system until they can contractually shut it down? Better that than having them get locked into one of Bellator’s notoriously lengthy deals.

7) It’s also been a long standing complaint of mine that once a fighter gets stuck in the Challengers vortex it is too hard for them to escape. Why in the holy hell is Ovince St. Preux still banging around down there against guys who are making their promotional debut when in reality he should be about one win away from challenging for the Light Heavyweight title. Of course he looked dominant and unstoppable last night, he had to be. Anything less would have moved him down the ladder and that’s not a position Strikeforce should be putting their new stars in.

8) Considering that this weekend had both a Strikeforce and Bellator card I think it is a good time to point out that at this point in time pretty much any card Bellator puts out is more interesting to me than any card Strikeforce puts out. Sure, Strikeforce won this battle but do we really think that the stakes are all that high here? If the promotion closes in a year how many of the people we saw Friday night will ever make it to the Octagon. We can rule the ladies out and pretty much anybody who lost. That leaves Avagon (maybe but he has a ways to go), St. Preux (I’d say yes but it is hardly a slam dunk), Devin Cole (ummm…No!), and Bobby Voelker (can you say Shark Fights?). With Bellator at least there is continuity there. They are running divisions that are growing and putting on good fights and will only continue to get better.

9) Sarah Kaufman of course is really fighting against the tides of history here as after her somewhat cozy Strikeforce home got bought up she has been left to put on fights like the one of Friday that leave her in a state of purgatory. She’ll win fights and look good doing it, she’ll even go on TV and demand a chance to fight for a title that means nothing and will probably be non-existent in a year’s time and for what? Not that I blame Dana White for his anti-women’s MMA stance, it isn’t profitable and there simply are not enough athletes to go around, but the case of Kaufman is really pretty tragic.

10) Now we move into what may be the biggest fight in Strikeforce history next weekend as Dan Henderson takes on Fedor Emelainenko that also is light on importance. Hopefully it will bring more noise than this somewhat muted card did and even though it has a slight Senior’s Tour stink about it I will certainly be there watching every blow. My gut tells me that the fight is Henderson’s to lose despite his 206 pound claims which would be really sad for Fedor and his legacy. Of course as of now he is the betting line favorite and for once in his career will be the heavier fighter, with any luck it will be a night to remember.

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