Thursday, January 13, 2011

FIGHT BLOG: UPDATE - WTF Strikeforce!?!?!?

In my last blog yesterday, I praised the Strikeforce and UFC heavyweight divisions for making their 265-pound classes relevant this year.

Well apparently I spoke to soon when it came to Strikeforce's plan. The San Jose-based company released the terms for this year's Heavyweight Grand Prix. I just read it on and I can honestly say I was enraged at what I read.

OK, actually before I go into an insane rant and lash out at the moronic decision, let me give you something that they did right with the rules for this tournament:

"If any fight results in a draw, an independent fourth judge will determine who advances or who wins based on the fighter's overall performance in the fight," Coker said. "We will have a fourth judge on hand scoring the fight independently of the three that we normally have."

I actually like this concept. As we've seen this year, draws are still a possibility, and considering the first two rounds will be three-round matches, a point deduction or a 10-8 score could make that happen.

This fourth judge will determine the winner based on the fight as a whole, just like it was done in PRIDE. While I think adding half-points would be the ideal in a non-tournament format, having a judge to decide the fight as a whole works in a tournament format where you need someone to advance.

Now that I got there good idea out of the way, let's get to what is upsetting about this tournament. According to the press conference, Coker said Alistair Overeem's title will not be on the line at any point of the tournament; rather, "The tournament final will be five, five-minute rounds for the Strikeforce world grand prix championship."

Um... what? Really!

Strikeforce has once again made a move that completely destroys all the positives of  what was a good idea.

Let me see if I got this right: Overeem has defended his belt one time (I repeat, one time) since he won the title in 2007. He's fought in Japan multiple times in that period.

Now you want him to compete in a tournament where he could theoretically burn three fights on his contract and not defend his title once in that period?

What's more, if he was to lose in the first round to Fabricio Werdum, who most of the MMA communtiy believes has earned a title shot, Werdum could theoretically win this entire tournament, beat Overeem, Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko (for the second time in 18 months), and Overeem would STILL be the Strikeforce champion?

What exactly is the purpose of this tournament?

I get that Strikeforce may be a little uncomfortable having their title defended in a three-round fight, and making Overeem's route in the tournament all five-round fights is unfair to him, but with the exception to the less-than-one round that Overeem spent beating up Brett Rogers, this title has been in limbo for more than 36 months.

And now you want to guarantee that the belt sees no time for the rest of 2011? It sounds like the only way it gets defended this year is if Overeem loses and fights another eliminated fighter (which, by the way, would make your title seem like a consolation prize).

Strikeforce has set up a situation where the winner of this tournament will have significantly more credibility than the actual heavyweight champion (unless Overeem wins the tournament, of course) and sets up a doom scenario where the champion looks weaker than at least three of the guys in the tournament.

PRIDE understood the tournament format. Bellator understands the tournament format.

They know/knew that when conducting a tournament, you either set the belt as the main prize or keep the champion and at least one other contender out of the tournament so that the champion is free to defend during the tournament. Then the tournament determines the new No. 1 contender.

Strikeforce has made this tournament so much less meaningful because while the best non-UFC fighter will be determined, they will, in all likelihood, have nothing to show for it.

I guess the good news is that when the UFC inevitably goes after the tournament winner, Coker won't have to vacate the belt. He hasn't done it in three years of semi-inactivity, so why should he start now?

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