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What's Next for Strikeforce?

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This past weekend Fedor Emelianenko and the MMA world were shocked when Fabricio Werdum pulled off the upset in the 1st round of Strikeforce & M-1: Fedor vs. Werdum in San Jose.  It was just the 2nd career loss for Fedor and 1st that anyone could remember.  The Last Emperor was/is one of a handful of fighters that the UFC would like to have but don’t.  Dana White has always maintained that Fedor is not the best heavyweight fighter in the world, and after watching him lose to a guy who went 2-2 in the UFC, he must still be smiling.  But what happens next for 2nd biggest organization in MMA?

Strikeforce possesses an impressive list of current champions:

  • Heavyweight – Alistair Overeem
  • Light Heavyweight – Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal
  • Middleweight – Jake Shields
  • Welterweight – Nick Diaz
  • Lightweight – Gilbert Melendez

Those are 5 champions who all belong in the Top 5 in the world in their respective divisions (King Mo likely just outside Top 5.)  But simply put that is a group of fighters to feel confident in for an organization.  But when you look a little closer the future may not be as bright for Strikeforce.  (The rosters simply can’t compare, check out the article UFC vs. The World from last week.)

Alistair Overeem vs. Fedor would have been the best fight they could put together.  Overeem finally defended his SF belt with a dominating performance over Brett Rogers (at the time a Top 10 HW), and if Fedor had defeated Werdum, there would have been a fight that even Dana White would be intrigued to see.  But as it turned out Werdum pulled off the upset and now there is talk about a rematch putting the title on hold… again. 

On the plus side Werdum is no Seth Petruzelli and we know Fedor is no Kimbo, Strikeforce is not going to fold up shop a la EliteXC because of this result, but it certainly doesn’t help.  MMA fans know Werdum is a solid heavyweight (#10 on BostonThrowdown’s latest MMA Rankings), but casual fans see Fedor’s mystigue diminish. 

Ratings were reportedly very good on Showtime, but that means a lot of people saw the once unbeatable Fedor fall in swift fashion.

What needs to happen: Bobby Lashley needs to continue to dominate and become a threat in the division.  If Fedor does in fact fight Werdum again, he would need to destroy him and then hype up a Fedor vs. Overeem fight and hope people still want to see it, I know I do. 

The Light Heavyweight division is thin to say the least.  King Mo is your current champ after he defeated the much hyped Gegard Mousasi.  Strikeforce says Lawal will defends his belt in August, but have not named an opponent at this time.  Who could it possibly be that would be exciting?  Babalu had to fight Robbie Lawler at 195 proving they don’t have enough big names.  Super fights should match ups that fans are dying to see (B.J. Penn vs. GSP or GSP vs. A. Silva), not merely 2 of your name guys. 

Sokoudjou is not deserving of a title shot, and if they sign Ketih Jardine and put him in a title fight it would look embarrassing.  I guess Babalu is the guy?  We’ll see, but with Shogun, Rampage, Rashad, Lyoto, Lil Nog, Bones, and Couture all in the UFC its tough to load up in the Light Heavyweight Division. 

Jake Shields, a natural welterweight, sits a top Strikeforce’s middleweight division.  He dominated Dan Henderson in his last fight, right after Hendo did not re-sign with the UFC.  Jason “Mayhem” Miller wants a rematch for the belt, and unfortunately for SF he made his intentions known in the ring after Shields’ win and got attacked by the Diaz brothers. 

Cung Le looked good this weekend against Scott Smith, and could be in line to face Shields… unless of course Shields bolts to the UFC which seems to be very likely at this point.  Not the most exciting fighter, but perhaps the most dominating in Strikeforce, they could see Shields bounce to their biggest competitor.  Would you like Shields vs. Anderson Silva or GSP?

The welterweight division has Nick Diaz as its champ.  There are a lot of great welterweight fighters in the world, and none of them, besides Diaz are in Strikeforce.  Zaromskis proves to not be Top 10 worthy and Jay Hieron may be past his prime.  Could Diaz also be on the move to rejoin the UFC?  Never say never with Dana White. 

Gilbert Melendez beat DREAM champ Shinya Aoki in a Strikeforce event in his last fight, cementing him as one of the very best lightweight fighters in the world.  Strikeforce employees many talented lightweights, perhaps their strongest division.  Combine their roster with the group from DREAM and it’s the only division that can rival the UFC. 

Possible match ups for Melendez in his next fight include: JZ Calvancante, K.J. Noons, Vitor Ribeiro, Tatsuya Kawajiri, re-matches with Josh Thomson, Mitsuhiro Ishida, and Shinya Aoki, and don’t rule out SF and Bellator getting together to promote a Gilbert Melendez vs. Eddie Alvarez fight.

Bottom line, for organizations not named the UFC to really achieve success they need a lot of things to go right and get some luck.  The Fedor loss certainly doesn’t help SF, but as I said, it won’t ruin them either.  They need to put on great shows when they are on national television and must continue to grow and sign talent.  It is going to be tough to withstand losing top tier guys to the UFC, like Shields, but that opens up an opportunity for someone else.  They also can’t put titles on hold like they have in the past. 

Strikeforce, like DREAM, Bellator, and Sengoku can all survive, but they are all very far away from truly “rivaling” the UFC. 

BostonThrowdown is on twitter @BostonThrowdown

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