Sunday, January 22, 2012

UFC vs. Strikeforce: March 3 edition

Its times like this I seriously wonder if when Dana says Strikeforce operations will be “business as usual,” he means that he will continue to sit back and watch Strikeforce die. He’s already plucked three of their champions, and biggest draws to boot, from the organization to the UFC. I didn’t mind that, as Diaz, Hendo, and The Reem have all proven they belong in the big show. Still, with a new Showtime deal in place and Gilbert Melendez staying put, I thought the Zuffa big wigs were actually serious about Strikeforce’s longevity. Then, this happened. I already had March 3, 2012, engrained in my head. It is the start of the UFC’s flyweight tournament in Australia, and we get to see four of the best, if not THE four best, flyweights competing for a shot at UFC gold. Oh, and we get an exciting headliner in the form of Alves vs. Kampmann. The kicker: it’s all free on FX.

Strikeforce recently announced a March 2012 date for their next show, to coincide with the Arnold Sport’s Festival in Ohio. There are some great women’s bouts on the card, with Miesha Tate squaring off against Twitter rival and armbar junkie Ronda Rousey for the women’s 135lb belt, and Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis fighting for the next shot (or at least they should be, either way it’ll be fun to watch). The card is rounded out by a potential slugfest in Paul Daley vs. Kazuo Misaki and a pivotal lightweight bout between KJ Noons and Josh Thomson. Also, Caros Fodor, a top prospect who’s been on fire in Strikeforce, will face tough veteran Pat Healy. This is a solid Strikeforce card, with two high-profile women’s bouts and fights from the men that have some intrigue to them and are sure to entertain. The only red flag that popped out at me was the date: March 3. The same date as UFC on FX.
How could this happen? Even though it takes place in Australia, the UFC brass knows their fanbase, so this card will likely air no earlier than 9PM. Most Strikeforce cards start between 10-10:30PM. There is going to be some overlap if they do this like I think they will, which will undoubtedly hurt one card or the other. In the words of The Angry Video Game Nerd, what were they thinking!? You put your major promotion in direct competition with your smaller promotion that’s struggling to stay afloat. Are they really trying to kill Strikeforce this quickly?? Ranting aside, most MMA fans will either be choosing one or the other that day (or in my case, one to watch live and one to DVR). So, which one is going to be the best card overall?

Strikeforce – The women’s title fight definitely brings a lot of intrigue to this card. How will Miesha Tate fare in her first title defense? Can Ronda Rousey keep her submission streak alive? Or is it too early for her to face a challenge like this? All of these questions will be answered in what should be an action-packed title fight. KJ Noons vs. Josh Thomson should be a fun fight as well. While the winner may be next in line for a shot at Gilbert Melendez’s title, it means little in terms of the lightweight division overall. Misaki vs. Daley has the potential for fireworks, unless Misaki is able to take Daley down. Either way, it’s an intriguing and probably a highly entertaining tilt, but once again, it means little overall in their division. Kaufman vs. Davis is going to be a very competitive fight in the female 135lb class. Here’s a little known fact that makes this fight more interesting: Kaufman handed Davis a loss in Davis’ first pro bout. Since then, Davis has been in the ring/cage with some of the best female talent there is, such as Tara Larosa, Tonya Evinger, and Elaina Maxwell. With an impressive 11-4 record, Davis’ last two wins came in Strikeforce. She first beat tough veteran Julie Kedzie by unanimous decision, and then derailed the Amanda Nunes bandwagon by 2nd round TKO. Kaufman has since rebounded from losing her Strikeforce 135lb title with two consecutive wins, the last being an impressive decision victory over the dangerous Liz Carmouche. Beating Carmouche all but guaranteed her a title shot at Miesha Tate, but instead she got leapfrogged by Ronda Rousey. In my mind, this is the sleeper fight of the card. Both will come out looking to make a statement, and make it an entertaining one as well. Finally, there’s Fodor vs. Healy. Healy is coming of an impressive submission win over firecracker Maximo Blanco, and Fodor is coming off an equally impressive KO victory over fellow prospect Justin Wilcox. Taking out Wilcox as quickly as he did proves Fodor has some serious potential. Facing a battle-tested vet like Healy, this fight should tell us a lot about the future of Caros Fodor.

UFC – The card starts off with Constantinos Philippou vs. Court McGee. Costa is on a nice two fight win streak with victories over Jorge Rivera and Jared Hamman. He showed he has a ton of power in the Hamman fight, but McGee is tough as nails and has well-rounded skills. This will be an interesting fight to see how Court McGee continues to develop. Next up, there are the first two bouts of the UFC Flyweight Tournament. These two bouts, Joseph Benavidez vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani and Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall, are per-per-view main card material if they had name value. Then again, that’s why I’m ecstatic that this tournament starts on free TV. The UFC can establish them as truly the best in their class, in front of a huge audience that just has to press the power button on their remotes to see the fights. That way, they can be future headliners of PPV cards. Oh, and how could I forget the main event: Thiago Alves vs. Martin Kampmann. The tow have been “up-and-down” lately. Kampmann’s win over Carlos Condit seems like a distant memory after his back-to-back loses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez. Talk of another title run from Alves came to a screeching halt with a decision loss to Rick “The Bedtime” Story. Ironically, Kampmann just beat Story in his last bout. Both are fighting to remain relevant in an ever-changing welterweight division. Look for them to put on a kickboxing clinic, as both will want to come out to entertain and impress.

The Verdict – Upon further review, this is actually a lot closer than I originally thought. It basically boils down to personal preference. If you want to see top-tier women’s fights, go with Strikeforce. If you want to see flyweights, go with the UFC. The other main card fights for each are about even in terms of pure excitement they could bring, but the UFC’s fights mean more in terms of overall division ranking. Obviously, if Zuffa can pull this off where they don’t air concurrently, then everybody wins because fans can watch both with no overlap. Still, if they do overlap, I’m going with the UFC (sorry Miesha). I’ve been waiting for the Flyweight tournament like Ralphie was waiting for his Red Rider BB Gun at Christmas. Throw in that it’s on free TV, and I wouldn’t miss this for anything. If you’re a fan that’s still on the fence, I think the point that puts the UFC ahead of Strikeforce is the flyweight tournament. You have four top 125ers in their prime, battling for UFC gold. It’s also the first “tournament” the UFC has put on since the ill-fated lightweight championship tournament that ended with BJ Penn and Caol Uno fighting to a draw at UFC 41 in February 2003. I believe it will produce two fights that will take place at an incredible pace and contain loads of back-and-forth action. Either way, with two high quality cards to choose from that day, although it’s dumb from a business standpoint, the fans are truly the winners on March 3.

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