All of the talk after Saturday’s Strikeforce show seems to revolve around three main topics:
Fedor’s first (real) loss
Cris Cyborg Santos’ dominance (and resulting officiating)
Lesnar Vs. Carwin previews
These are all worthy subjects, I won’t argue that, but what about the excellent display of MMA across the board?
I’ll admit, I’m a pretty one-dimensional MMA fan. The only reason I watched this Strikeforce show, is because I switched satellite providers and received Showtime for 3 months. I catch WEC, more often since the Aldo/Faber fight. Most of my MMA experience has come from UFC. But on Saturday, I was treated to a great example of MMA entertainment. Possibly the best that I’ve seen.
The Main Card started with Thomson vs. Healy. I have seen Thomson fight, and been impressed by him, before. I expected him to be in some trouble if it went to the ground, given Healy’s dominant and smothering wrestling style. On the other hand, Healy was a big underdog in this fight and Thomson was expected to walk through him. It ended up being a BJJ vs Wrestling battle on the ground, with Healy maintaining top position, but constantly defending Submission attempts at every turn. The stand-up game was a one-horse race, with Thomson having the much better pedigree. Healy found a lot of success getting Josh in his world, but all for naught as Thomson finally sunk in a choke after some masterful transitions to finish the fight. There is a lot of talk about whether the ground-game in MMA is boring, but this fight showed how entertaining it can really be when two guys challenge each other throughout the fight.
The second biggest surprise for me was the Women’s middleweight fight. I wasn’t surprised that Cyborg won, or even that she was so dominating. The surprise came from Jan Finney’s unflappable heart. I firmly believe that Cyborg is a woman that could give any man of equal size a good battle at the very least, and probably a firm beating. She hit Finney with some hard shots in every “button” on the human head. No matter how many times she was hit; No matter how many times she was rocked; No Matter how long she was getting beat on by superwoman, when Finney stood up, it was all forward. Toward the end of the first round, I was thinking that Jan’s corner was going to have to throw in the towel. This woman was not going out while she was alive. I’m sure a lot of people think it should have been stopped early in the first, but I disagree. I don’t think any permanent damage was caused, and Finney was obviously still fighting until the actual stoppage, which was when she just kept taking damage without intelligently defending. All in all, the most heart I’ve ever seen displayed in the cage, and hats off to these ladies.
The mid-point was marked by the retirement of a legend of the sport. Frank Shamrock gave a fond farewell to fans and fighters after becoming one of the pioneers and early stars of the sport. Given the fight that preceded it, emotions were already high when Frank made the announcement, which added to the impact. He will surely be missed as a fighter.
After the solemn moment, we saw the rematch of Cung Le’s only loss in his short career. Le may have entered MMA well past his prime, but he sure can put on a fight. Scott Smith has some seriously heavy hands, regardless of his technical prowess. Cung Le found this out in the first fight, and learned his lesson. Smith was forced to press the action, and ran into punches as he did so. Who would’ve guessed that Cung Le would basically finish the fight with a spinning back kick? Pretty much anyone that watches him fight, but it doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Finally, we saw the seemingly pre-determined fight between Werdum and Fedor. I have nothing new to say about this fight other than I wish I could’ve bet on this fight. I had a feeling that Werdum was going to pull off the ultimate upset, but was still flabbergasted when it happened. I stood speechless for a good 2 minutes just trying to believe it. We will see if this relights Fedor’s competitive drive. Either way, M-1 has lost a lot of negotiating power (read: ridiculous demands) with the loss of Fedor’s generally accepted unbeaten record.
I am extremely impressed by Strikeforce’s ability to put on a great show and entertain throughout. The biggest atta-boys go to the fighters, though. Every one of them came to perform and did so with passion for the sport.