Two tales of the weekend: Alistair Overeem flew into the States, suffered repeated questions about his physique, assaulted an American citizen, and then flew back to Holland, settling into a role as a legitimate threat to Fedor Emelianenko’s status as the best.
In North Carolina, several fighters arrived prepared to fight but left emotionally drained with nothing to show for it.
There is always a winner and a loser. It’s not always decided in the ring.
Strikeforce prevailed Saturday, with Overeem’s pre-sold reputation as a destroyer on full display against a curdling Brett Rogers. The man who gave Emelianenko a rough first round last fall had virtually nothing for Overeem -- not even the hyped right hand that promised to at least keep Overeem honest. Now, only two obstacles remain in Strikeforce assembling their best chance at a high-profile heavyweight match: Emelianenko getting past Werdum and Strikeforce getting past Emelianenko’s notoriously difficult management.
Both are problems, but nothing compared to what might have been the most spectacular meltdown of a burgeoning promotion to date. Shine Fights spent most of Friday and Saturday in court answering charges that their contract with eccentric boxer Ricardo Mayorga violated Mayorga’s promotional agreement with Don King. Shine’s game from the beginning was to stick their heads in the sand and presume that King would somehow roll over for their stunt casting of Mayorga as an MMA fighter. (Mayorga had filed suit against King last year, but dropped it without explanation. That should’ve been clue one.) It ended the only way it was going to, with Mayorga sitting on the sidelines and Shine trying to assign blame to the North Carolina boxing authority and King.
In fact, the show’s cancelation is one hundred percent a result of their building an event around the toothpick-supported premise of Mayorga breaching a valid contract. We’re a long way from the ninjitsu experts of the 1990s, but this business will always be home to amateurs.
Next for Overeem: Probably risking his hypothetical shot at Emelianenko with gift-packaged fights in Japan.
Next for Rogers: A loser-leaves-town match with Andrei Arlovski, who traded one problem (a suspect chin) for another (decayed boxing ability) against Antonio Silva.
Next for Silva: The winner of Bobby Lashley/Ron Sparks in June.
Next for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza: Filling a vacated middleweight belt for a departing Jake Shields against Dan Henderson.
Next for Roger Gracie: 3-0 is a start, but his stand-up might get him murdered against a brawling light heavyweight. Mike Kyle could test his chin without the added pain of takedown defense.
Who played who in the Shine/Mayorga meltdown?
From day one -- when Ricardo Mayorga claimed no contract with Shine was in place even as Shine swore the opposite -- the idea of using a Don King-owned boxer in an MMA fight was very expensive wishful thinking.
At the time of the signing, Mayorga was upset King hadn’t offered him the agreed-upon number of fights (three per year). Suddenly, he’s interested in MMA. Was it because he had a genuine curiosity, or because he wanted to stomp his foot to get King’s attention?
Mayorga, even in his semi-retired state, is a high-profile boxer who has advisors -- and no counsel would ever tell him it’s in his best interests to be choked out by a veteran fighter in Din Thomas. (If he wound up fighting, getting mounted might have been enough to get him tapping.) Shine’s blazing incompetence cost a lot of fighters a lot of lost time and income. That level of aggressive stupidity shouldn’t earn them any second chances.
Are we fully sold on Overeem?
Inflated to proportions that would make Mattel proud, Overeem made Rogers look like a child Saturday, tossing him around and punishing him on the mat. But Rogers’ reputation comes primarily from knocking out Arlovski, a fighter who continues to fade; Overeem’s new build hasn’t seen a second round in MMA yet. If he can maintain a cardio output for three or five rounds, he’ll remain dangerous. If not, he’ll wilt just like anyone else.
What happened to Arlovski?
Arlovski had a few key minutes in the winter of 2009 when he looked like he was going to dethrone Fedor Emelianenko. One unfortunate flying-knee attempt later, he was getting a chalk outline.
The post-Fedor experience has not been kind to Arlovski: he took a late-notice fight with Rogers and paid the price. Saturday, he was outboxed by a faster, bigger man in Antonio Silva in a three-round loss that held no bright spots. Arlovski commands a high asking price in the sport, but his results are no longer worth the investment. If he cannot find confidence in a rematch with Rogers or against someone else, his own personal recession is coming.
Is Overeem/Emelianenko big enough for pay per view?
Emelianenko drew a rumored 100,000 households for each of his Affliction pay-TV experiences against Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, impressive by non-UFC standards. While it would appear Overeem is more marketable than either, he lacks the UFC exposure that made both of those men familiar faces to the omnipresent “casual fan.” Strikeforce may still want to capitalize on the interest of the bout by making it a premium attraction, but their relationship with CBS would benefit mightily with the ratings appeal of the fight.
What do you do?
What Strikeforce lacks is the harmonious deal the UFC has struck with Spike: using a channel as pay-per-view barker programming. The best of both possible worlds would be to secure a two-hour CBS slot from 8-10 p.m. to broadcast a premium undercard with an inexpensive, high-profile main event -- any combination of Kimbo Slice, Herschel Walker or Jose Canseco would do. You’d use as much of that time as possible to hype the 10 p.m. start of the Emelianenko/Overeem pay per view. It’s synergy rather than a lopsided transaction.
CBS could balk -- they’re not in the Strikeforce business. But they should be. And partnerships involve concessions.