The slow, miserable death of Strikeforce

Watching Strikeforce collapse to its final breath is certainly a depressing thing to witness. It’s demise accelerated by Zuffa, LLC’s purchase of the company as we slowly saw the writing being sprawled out on the wall. But, damn, this has really been painful.

Once upon a time, Strikeforce was an dependable alternative to the UFC. It’s roster was strong enough to stand on its own as it helped establish names like Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem, Gilbert Melendez, Gegard Mousasi, Luke Rockhold, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Daniel Cormier. Their biggest coup came in the form of the tantalizing Russian dish that Dana White couldn’t sign, Fedor Emelianenko. But that experiment failed once Fabricio Werdum caught the indestructable Fedor in a triangle. What Strikeforce perhaps stumbled upon was the rise of Women’s MMA thanks to the stunning Gina Carano, the devastating Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, the gutsy Miesha Tate and the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey.

Strikeforce had something for everyone and made great strides when it hit network television before the UFC. Yup, it was good times watching Strikeforce. It’s just too bad that it is coming to such a miserable ending.

Ever since the Fedor vs. Henderson fight in July of 2011, Strikeforce has struggled with attendance and it has appeared that it became the red headed stepchild once Zuffa made the purchase. Even though UFC President Dana White wanted to be more hands-on with the product, Showtime’s new boss Stephen Espinoza decided that Strikeforce didn’t need White’s personal touch.

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And then, slowly, the wheels came off.

Once the UFC started snagging Strikeforce fighters, most MMA pundits figured that the end was near. Those that were left on the roster, like middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, were quite vocal about wanting to jump ship to the UFC. Meanwhile, Strikeforce struggled to get attention. There were no great strides in building stars for a mainstream audience but few managed to break through including Ronda Rousey. Once Dana White began warming up to the idea of Women’s MMA, we all knew it was a wrap.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker constantly tried to save face in front of the press, but he, too, knew the end was near. Even before the September 29 card was cancelled, the lightweight title fight between Gilbert Melendez and Pat Healy was groan inducing. It’s not like any of us were really upset when Melendez’ knee injury caused the card to get cancelled. But then when it was announced that Daniel Cormier and Frank Mir were going to face each other on November 3, we had something to be excited about. But dammit to hell if the organization wasn’t cursed and infected with the nasty injury bug that has ransacked the UFC. Unfortunately for Strikeforce, their roster wasn’t deep enough to endure injuries and once Mir and Rockhold went down, there was no reason to even have a show. Once again, Strikeforce saw an event cancelled.

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People like myself shouted at the television “Just die already!” but, for some reason, the crippled organization continued to press on as they scheduled their “final” event for January 12, 2013 titled “Champions.” Boy, that was an ill-fated title from the jump. There would be no Ronda Rousey but Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier were all scheduled to fight. Cormier was set to fight a relative nobody but Rockhold would face the “undefeated” Lorenz Larkin (“undefeated” with the exception of the obliteration turned no-contest at the hands of King Mo and his failed drug test) and Melendez was rescheduled to face Pat Healy. Seemed like a stacked card until the “champions” started dropping like flies. Melendez first and Rockhold second. To make matters worse, Rockhold said that he never signed up for the fight and was recovering from an injury. Oh, that’s nice. Well, we still have Nate Marquardt as a champion.

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Would anybody be surprised if Cormier or Marquardt ended up injured and off the card? Probably not.

The reality is that witnessing the three legged dog limp to the finish line isn’t the last image that we’d like to see of Strikeforce. It would have been cool to see all of the past Strikeforce fighters on one card. You know, like a Nick Diaz vs. Nate Marquardt showdown and perhaps Alistair Overeem vs. Cormier. Jake Shields and Luke Rockhold would be fun, just like how a Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi fight would be interesting. 

That’s the last image of Strikeforce that I would have liked to see. This one? Not so much.

Part of me wants to just see this last show taken out to the woodshed Old Yeller style and put out of its misery. Is that so wrong?