As the finals days dwindle for Strikeforce, you cannot help but head down memory lane. We’ve already taken a look at the future and the present so now it’s time to past of Strikeforce and what they did good, bad and the things we all want to forget.
The Strikeforce of old was nothing like what fans saw over the last few years. In fact it wasn’t even in the MMA business for two-thirds of its existence. Prior to holding its first MMA event in 2006, Strikeforce was all about Kickboxing until the sport was legalized in California. Based in San Jose, California Scott Coker built Strikeforce from a regional show that held the majority of their events at the HP Pavilion, into the #2 Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the world.
Coker didn’t do it along though, fighters like Frank Shamrock, Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le helped built the brand to heights not even they could imagine. Then when fighters like Tyron Woodley, Tim Kennedy, Luke Rockhold, Daniel Cormier and Ronda Rousey arrived they helped the promotion hit its highest of highs.
With those highs, Strikeforce also saw their far share of lows along the way….
The Talent – Strikeforce has produced or built up a number of top fighters throughout it’s nearly seven years. Along with the above mentioned names, fighters like Nick Diaz, Gina Carano, Paul Daley, Alistair Overeem, Miesha Tate, Jake Shields, Gegard Mousasi and Fedor Emelianenko all fought inside the Strikeforce cage.
The Fights – Not demanding their fighters to sign exclusive contracts allowed Strikeforce to put on fights that would never have happened without them. Fights like Vitor Belfort vs. Alistair Overeem, Gilbert Melendez vs. Shiny Aoki and Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko come to mind. Not to mention all the female fights that fans could not see with the UFC.
The Heavyweight Grand Prix – When Strikeforce announced their plans for a heavyweight Grand Prix that included several of the top guy’s fans went nuts. But this was a case of a great plan poorly planned. The tournament took place across four events over a 15 month period and by the time Daniel Cormier won people had forgot how he and Josh Barnett ever got there.
The Last Emperor – First off Strikeforce should get credit for actually signing Fedor Emelianenko, something the UFC never was able too. The bad here ended up being The Last Emperor who went 1-3 with the promotion after not losing for nearly 10 years. His win over Brett Rogers got fans excited but the three defeats in a row that followed sent him back to Russia.
The Final 13 Months – Aside from a handful of good fights the final 13 months have been a steady nosedive. First there were the high-profile fighters Cristiane Santos (Stanozolol), Muhammed Lawal (Drostanolone) and Rafael Cavalcante (Stanozolol) all testing positive for banned substances in the span of six months. Then you had the fighters openly talking about the UFC, clearly not wanting to be with the sinking ship that was Strikeforce. Finally there were the back to back shows that were cancelled in September and November of last year that sent the final nail into the coffin.
The Nashville Brawl – The brawl that took place after the main event between Jake Shields and Dan Henderson was bad enough but that fact it was on network television and seen by an estimated 2.9 million viewers made it that much worse. The full-scale thug fest was the product of Jason Miller sticking his nose where Gilbert Melendez, Nick Diaz and the rest of the Cesar Gracie camp thought it didn’t belong. As Strikeforce broadcaster Gus Johnson said “Sometimes these things happen in MMA” but never again on CBS.
To end on a good note, the success of Strikeforce has been used as a model for others “smaller” MMA promotion throughout the world. The UFC rightfully so takes most of the credit for building the sport to where it currently sits but the contributions the Strikeforce has made must not be overlooked or forgotten.