Because Saturday’s network television broadcast of Strikeforce pre-empts “CSI: NY,” we have, in a sense, already won. But event producers may not be satisfied with paving over the career of Skeet Ulrich: what they really want is to snag an appreciable share of the coveted 18-49 male demo, that segment of the population most likely to enjoy repeated punches to the head and advertisements for beef jerky.
To attract them, CBS and Strikeforce are hoping the monosyllabic Russian Fedor Emelianenko will outgrow his cult popularity among tape collectors to become a mass-audience draw. On their side: he’s exciting, dangerous, and far less likely than Kimbo Slice to be knocked out by a man in a dress.
Working against them: he’s a bit flabby, and has never seen the inside of a tattoo shop.
Like Slice before him, Emelianenko appears to be gaining notoriety in the farm league known as YouTube. His fight with freakish Hong Man Choi has netted nearly 2.5 million views; vs. Matt Lindland, two million. This is a far cry from a Slice video that grabbed ten million hits; it’s also, as popularity gauges go, pretty shaky. (But we live in a viral era. Beats phone surveys.)
People obviously care about this guy. Whether it’s enough to satisfy network television standards is what we’re about to find out.
What: “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers,” a ten-bout card hosted by the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, IL.
When: Saturday, November 7, at 9 p.m. ET.
Why You Should Care: Because Emelianenko is inarguably the best, most dominant heavyweight the sport has ever seen; because opponent Brett Rogers doesn’t seem to care one bit about it; because Jake Shields looked ferocious in his first 185-pound bid; because Fabricio Werdum has a hell of a puzzle to solve in a fellow jiu-jitsu stylist who happens to be twice his size; and because mixed martial arts on the network that once employed Walter Kronkite is progress.
Fight of the Night: Emelianenko/Rogers, both in status and styles, can’t disappoint.
Sleeper Fight of the Night: Marloes Coenen and Roxanne Modafferi, who are likely to show off the women’s division preference for competitive, fast-paced fights.
The Confusing Alterna-Show of the Weekend: Strikeforce Challengers Series, a minor-league event airing at 10 p.m. ET Friday evening on Showtime.
Hype Quote of the Show: “I never really was a Fedor fan…I only watched the [Andrei] Arlovski/Fedor fight…It’s just another man to me.” -- Rogers on life in a cave, to the OC Register