Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Strikeforce needs Sara McMann

The first thing I remember when it was announced that ProElite was coming back was laughing profusely. For those who don’t remember, ProElite was the parent company of Elite XC. You remember that organization that promoted Kimbo Slice as the best striker on the planet and made a 160-pound lightweight class just for Nick Diaz right? Yes, that same ProElite was recently reincarnated under new direction. Still, I couldn’t help but laugh. And so far, it’s been with good reason. Their first event was headlined by Andrei Arlovski. Though he was a former UFC heavyweight champion, he was on a four fight losing streak, three of them by knockout in the 1st round. The two other “big names” were recent UFC castoff Kendall Grove and BJ Penn’s younger brother Reagan. However, ProElite 1 was just the set-up in this comedy show, as ProElite 2 was the punch-line. Co-headliner Andrei Arlovski had a horrible fight with Travis Fulton until the last five seconds, which were awesome (the head kick KO finish). If that fight didn’t put you to sleep, Tim Sylvia’s headlining fight with Andreas “I was somehow in EA Sport’s MMA” Kraniotakes was sure to have you in dreamland. Reagan Penn had also lost a dull decision on the card. It was truly a joke. Their third effort featured a headliner between Kendall Grove and Ikuhisa Minowa. Though I love Minowaman, he should only be fighting men twice his size and with a quarter of his skill.

All the hate aside, there is one thing ProElite has done right: promote Sara McMann. She is a former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, and has a 5-0 professional MMA record. ProElite picked her up after an impressive decision win over tough veteran Tonya Evinger in a Titan Fighting Championships event. At ProElite 3, McMann was given the toughest test of her short career in the form of Hitomi Akano. McMann was able to dominate “The Girlfight Monster” en route to a unanimous decision victory. She showed improving striking technique, as well as a good amount of power in her punches. However, it was the takedowns that were story of this fight. McMann literally threw Akano around like a ragdoll. The difference in power and strength between the two was apparent after the first few minutes. But this article isn’t about what ProElite is doing right; it’s about why whoever is running Strikeforce now needs to sign Sara McMann…immediately.

The first reason is an obvious choice: she fights at 135lbs, a division which Strikeforce actively promotes. The next is another no-brainer: she is extremely marketable. Just like current Strikeforce title challenger Ronda Rousey, McMann is a former Olympian who brings an impressive skillset to the table. She also seems very media friendly, and focused on being a complete fighter rather than collecting titles. In an interview with after her victory over Akano, she stated she wants to be a dynamic fighter anywhere the fight goes, and that she “wants to fight like Jose Aldo.” How can you not like that? The biggest thing to me though is that it could potentially give the women’s division the depth it needs to be taken seriously.

If Strikeforce signed her, they’d have Sarah Kaufman, Meisha Tate, Ronda Rousey, and McMann as the “top dogs.” Add to that female fighters like Liz Carmouche, Amanda Nunes, Julia Budd, Germaine de Randamie, and Alexis Davis, and that’s a pretty nice female division. Also, there are plenty of other fighters at the female 135lb weight class, which could add to the potential. Kerry Vera, the wife of Brandon Vera, hasn’t fought since 2009, but she looked good in her first two fights, and at the very least she would attract a decent amount of attention due to her last name. Zuffa has mended the fence with Golden Glory fighters, so perhaps they are willing to give Marloes Coenen another shot (she deserves it, that’s for sure). Pro boxer Holly Holm is trying her hand at MMA and fights at 135; maybe she’d be an option down the road. But wait...there's more! There are a multitude of tough, veteran female fighters that fight at 135lbs that could be signed to bolster the roster. The talent includes Julie Kedzie, Shayna Baszler, and Roxanne Modafferi, just to name a few. The point is that it could be a UFC caliber division, and I would love to see at least one women’s division in the UFC at some point in my lifetime. By adding McMann and a few other pieces, the female fighters in that division would prove to Dana White that they belong in the UFC. They are highly skilled, marketable, and they do have drawing power. Plus, they could add even more depth to fight cards, to ensure that a boring and/or meaningless fight will almost never happen in the UFC again. Still, it’s all just wishful thinking at this point, but stranger things have happened. Who thought Zuffa would buy Strikeforce at this time last year?

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