With MMA promotion Strikeforce’s run officially over, here’s a quick look back at a few of the highs and lows in its history.
THE BEST OF TIMES
Developed plenty of top-end talent
While it’s easy to look at how things ended with Strikeforce — two cancelled events to close out 2012, and an injury-riddled affair to end it all — there were a number of elite competitors that passed through their cage over the last few years.
Fighters like Nick Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, and Jake Shields all rose to prominence under the Strikeforce banner, and Daniel Cormier went from being a prospect to a legitimate contender during his time with the company. The greatest heavyweight of all time, Fedor Emelianenko, graced their cage four times, and Fabricio Werdum re-emerged as a top-10 heavyweight with his shocking upset win of the iconic Russian star.
Alistair Overeem migrated to North America as a result of his opportunities in the Strikeforce cage, and Luke Rockhold progressed up the ranks to become middleweight champion. Now he enters the UFC as one of a couple fighters to watch as they transition into the 185-pound ranks, along with Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo (Jacare) Souza.
Put women’s MMA in the spotlight
No, I didn’t forget Ronda Rousey, Cristiane (Cyborg) Santos, Gina Carano, and the rest of the impressive female talent that has competed for the organization over the years — I wanted to make sure to give Strikeforce their full due for giving women’s MMA an opportunity step into the spotlight.
Strikeforce showcased some of the best female fighters in the sport during their run, elevating three women’s championship fights into the main event position, beginning with the history-making pairing between Carano and Cyborg.
While the UFC has jumped on board now with Rousey’s rise to stardom, and Invicta FC has stepped up to give female fighters an organization to call their own, there is no question that Strikeforce did a lot to put women’s MMA on the map in North America.
THE WORST OF TIMES
Good intentions, bad execution
On paper, the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix looked awesome, and made people nostalgic for the days of Pride. Then Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva manhandled Fedor Emelianenko in the opening bout, it took four months for the second set of quarter-final fights to happen, and we ultimately ended up with the fourth alternate winning the whole thing 15 months after it began.
As much as the Fedor signing was a breakthrough moment, it has to be categorized as a colossal failure. They also mismanaged the Jake Shields situation, as he ended up leaving for the UFC with the middleweight title around his waist after having defeated Dan Henderson.
“Business as usual” — the famous saying from UFC president Dana White after its parent company Zuffa purchased Strikeforce in March 2011 — never came to pass either. The UFC plucked some of the very best talent from the roster, and never replaced them. The talent well eventually ran dry, leading to main card and championship mismatches galore over the company’s final year.
Strikeforce: Nashville (aka The Brawl)
On Saturday, April 17, 2010, the company brought three championship fights and six of their biggest stars to the CBS airwaves. All three contests went the distance, with the final two — Gilbert Melendez’ win over Japanese submission ace Shinya Aoki, and Shields’ grinding victory over Henderson — completely lacking excitement.
The post-fight festivities, however, did not.
With Shields being interviewed in the cage following his win, Jason (Mayhem) Miller interrupted, ducking his head into the picture to ask, “Where’s my rematch, buddy?” Then all hell broke loose, as Shields and the rest of the Cesar Gracie Fight Team jumped Miller. The ensuing brawl was a horrible black eye on the sport and the organization, all unfolding in front of a national audience. It proved to be the last Strikeforce fight to air on CBS.