Blog: Strikeforce Fallout

Apr 13, 2009

Atencio: Counter-programming UFC 100 ‘all rumors’
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET: From the department of common sense: In an interview with, Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio shot down reports he would be looking to “counter-program” (PC speak for “implode”) his event against July 11’s UFC card.

There was slight, sadistic logic in the move. If Affliction could net a broadcast deal, then perhaps a small portion of the UFC’s audience would see the appeal of saving their $50 and catching a Fedor Emelianenko fight for free. It could have conceivably cost the UFC thousands of dollars. Seismic.

If this was ever a possibility, Atencio’s latest statement could be read to mean that a network deal was broached and didn’t come to fruition. That, or the Internet took a questionable premise and ran it into the ground. Two guesses where my chip is going.

Diaz vs. Roy Jones discussed; Stockton mortality rate on the rise
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Wales News Service/Splash News

Nick Diaz vs. Roy Jones Jr.
wouldn't be much of a contest.
Monday, 8:10 p.m. ET: -- a site spearheaded by Cesar Gracie’s camp -- has issued a provocative statement that Nick Diaz would be happy to fight Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match.

Close your jaw. You’re letting flies in.

I would be lying if I said that watching Diaz against an aging Jones would not be immensely entertaining -- possibly in the same way I watch with a wrenched gut every time Johnny Knoxville sets his privates ablaze -- but it would also be fraudulent not to express my urgent demand for several EMTs and possibly a funeral director on standby.

Perspective check: Nick Diaz out-struck a hobbled, slightly crippled, middle-aged (for a fighter) Frank Shamrock. Against a 160-pound K.J. Noons, a pro boxer-hyphen-MMA fighter with an undistinguished record, Diaz’s face was turned into tomato puree. A man has to know his limits. Having a pro boxing match against one of the all-time greats, even one in decline, is begging for permanent delirium.

It almost certainly won’t happen. Diaz, one suspects, is simply making noise and eyeing a decent payday if Jones takes the bait. And if he does, is the fight even sanctionable?

And is “sanctionable” even a word?

Is Le incomplete?
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Dave Mandel/

Is Cung Le complete?
Monday, 6:20 p.m. ET: Fighter and recreational philosopher Nick Diaz followed his win over Frank Shamrock Saturday by expressing doubt that Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le has a total package of skills.

“Cung’s not a complete fighter,” Diaz told gathered press. “He’s never fought anybody.” (That his comment instantly vaporizes any substance to his win over common opponent Frank Shamrock was of no apparent concern.)

Is he right? Maybe: Le’s ground game is untested, but with good reason. He’s extremely adept at stopping takedowns. Despite the surge of true multi-hyphenates like Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko, we still have a surplus of athletes that do one or two things well enough to make up for what they can’t do.

Anderson Silva has mediocre wrestling, but that hasn’t stopped him from going for a record ninth consecutive victory this Saturday at UFC 97; Brock Lesnar’s submission arsenal is low on supplies, but he’s still a terrifying, horrible monster -- Lou Ferrigno minus the green paint.

Diaz would likely handle Le on the canvas, but Le’s ability to possibly prevent it from getting there deserves his respect.

Randleman’s return
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Monday, 6:15 p.m. ET: A couple of years ago, I posted an editorial on, “The Disappointments,” that dressed down athletes that didn’t live up to their physical or technical potential. It earned a few nice notices, and more than a few responses that advised me to die painfully. (Thanks, Dad.)

Looking at it now, little has changed, save for Vitor Belfort’s seeming reincarnation as a 185-pound buzzsaw. And now the No. 4 entrant, Kevin Randleman, is set to debut in Strikeforce after spending the past several years dealing with a host of health issues. (He competed only once in 2007-08, a win over Ryo Kawamura overseas.)

Randleman’s understanding of MMA has always been rather incomplete: He’s an explosive, violent wrestler, but if you have an answer for that, he doesn’t pose too many other questions.

That hasn’t stopped him from being an attraction: Randleman is cut from the Tyson mold, where the promise of spectacular destruction is often just as appetizing for fans as the reality. One hopes he’s used the time off to gather a more formidable and well-rounded game.

Shamrock’s ribbing
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Dave Mandel/

Reports state that Shamrock
was advised to pull out.
Monday, 5:10 p.m. ET: The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reports that Frank Shamrock sustained cracked ribs prior to his mauling at the peppering hands of Nick Diaz Saturday and was advised to pull out of the fight.

Shamrock has been a walking, talking ad for calcium supplements for years, but I think the biggest detriment to his performance was simple inactivity: Diaz was only his third fight in two years, a sloth-like schedule for a sport that evolves by the day. Sparring -- even brutally hard gym sessions -- is no match for the reality of someone trying to take your head off for a prize purse.

One possible spin to the situation: His “legend” chipped, Shamrock may now be more active and less suspicious of doing anything to tarnish his perceived invincibility. It’s still a young year. If Shamrock has two more fights before ’10, I’ll believe he’s willing to drop the diva routine and get down to the hurt business.

Scott Smith is plenty tough enough
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Monday, 1:35 p.m. ET: I've been aware of the same way I'm aware of character actors: I recognize the face, I appreciate the work, but in the end both often take a back seat to the bigger, more bombastic personalities.

That's changing rapidly. Smith is responsible for one of the best finishes in UFC history: a last-second haymaker delivered to a charging Pete Sell just before Smith himself collapsed to the canvas. Two wars with Robbie Lawler came next, and they were the kind of fights that made me reconsider the humanity of four-ounce gloves.

All that was apparently just practice for Saturday, when Smith turned in one of the gutsiest, grittiest performances of the past several years in besting a dangerous Benji Radach. Dazed, knocked down, possibly nearly out, Smith just kept coming: a T-1000 in Affliction shorts. He eventually caught Radach, hugged his kids and walked off like storybook endings were just another day in the office.

The sport is full of "tough guys," but every so often one comes along that redefines that term for another generation. Don Frye did it in the '90s; Smith is doing it now.

Shamrock = old soldier
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Dave Mandel/

Nick Diaz had his
way with Frank Shamrock.
Monday, 1:30 p.m. ET: As someone who wore out his VHS copy of UFC 22 back in the day -- with Frank Shamrock finishing his UFC career in style versus Tito Ortiz -- Nick Diaz's deconstruction of that mystique was a little hard to bear.

Shamrock, looking considerably slower than he did against Phil Baroni in 2007 and Cung Le in '08, had no answer for Diaz' reach or ground methodology. He huffed, he puffed, but it was Diaz who blew his house down.

Frank has always had trouble with jiu-jitsu specialists: A 1998 bout with Jeremy Horn, considered a throwaway fight for the then-champion, saw Horn dominate before Shamrock converted to Catholicism in mid-fight, praying for and getting a miraculous kneebar; Renzo Gracie controlled him with relative ease in '07; otherwise unimpressive Elvis Sinosic gave him a competitive fight in 2000.

At least one big-money match is out the window: a sequel to the Le/Shamrock fight, which was a popular pick for the scrap of '08. Could it still happen? Only if Strikeforce wants to abandon any semblance of integrity and hand title shots to undeserving contenders.

Better for Shamrock and the promotion is a 10th-anniversary rematch with Ortiz, which would guarantee at least one marquee attraction comes out with a win. (That assumes Ortiz signs, which is far from a certainty given his masochistic relationship with the UFC.)

Depressing as it was, the Diaz/Shamrock fight at least gives a sedative to the notion that Shamrock could go for a run in the UFC's current climate. If he couldn't handle Diaz's swarm of strikes, the violence he'd suffer in a fight with Anderson Silva is beyond comprehension.

On Strikeforce: Scenes from a class struggle
By Jake Rossen ([email protected])
Monday, 1:15 p.m. ET: Nick Diaz didn't exactly morph into Cary Grant on Saturday, but the show of respect and affection he displayed after a one-sided win over lethargic legend Frank Shamrock might have earned him a few new followers.

Diaz, characteristically brash in the buildup to the fight, embraced Shamrock, raised his hand and told the crowd that Shamrock was an influence growing up. (That, and dog-eared copies of High Times magazine procured from a Stockton 7-11.) His ire was raised only briefly, when the arena crew momentarily misplaced his shoes. A search party for his Vans was dispatched, and order was restored.

While they were canvassing, it might have been a good idea to try to find out exactly what the win means for Diaz. If he's comfortable fighting at 179 pounds, he's cornering the market on a weight class recognized by no one. It was an impressive performance, but if he intends to allow his natural weight gain to influence a move to 185 pounds, he should be prepared for far tougher challenges and much, much bigger men.

• With the Diaz brothers failing to incite a riot, Strikeforce's first show was a substantial improvement over the gaudy, tacky veneer of EliteXC, the company whose talent it absorbed, "Highlander"-style, several months ago. Only minor gaffes remain: a booming in-house soundtrack that made frequent and creative use of rap's favorite word -- rhymes with sucker -- was picked up over the air; two creepy CGI sparring partners displayed techniques while missing all of their skin, giving the show an aura of Discovery Channel ick; announcer Mauro Ranallo pronounced "saga" as "sega," which resulted in a Coke Zero going airborne at my screen.

• The good: Pat Miletich offered considerable insight without sounding as concussed as some of his fighting peers put in a similar position; and no giant dragon, which means fewer people mistook the event for an anime convention …

• … unless you count Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano's Godzilla-style mauling at the vicious hands of Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos. An awful mismatch and a poor representation of the depth of talent in the women's division. If fights can't be made without one athlete giving up a terrific amount of weight, I wonder what the future holds for the class after Santos and Gina Carano finally meet. Right now, it's looking like tumbleweeds.
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