“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”
T.S Elliott, “The Hollow Men”
If you were an MMA fan that tuned into the Strikeforce main card tonight instead of the 49ers-Packers game you missed out on a good NFL thrashing for what amounted to the MMA version of a Saturday morning professional wrestling show in the 1980s. It was a series of one-sided beatings with a competitive main event, nothing more, as Zuffa finally pulled the Strikeforce plug as the ostensible #2 promotion in MMA for quite some time was exiled to the graveyard of dead MMA promotions.
After a fairly engaging undercard, with a number of Strikeforce mainstays fighting in what felt like a UFC audition, the main card started and the beatings began. Unlike the old office joke moral didn’t improve, however, as the main card felt like the biggest collection of mismatches in a major MMA promotion in some time. In many ways it didn’t feel fair, especially in the evening’s heavyweight fights.
Ed Herman, fighting at a catchweight on short notice, gave us the best and most precise look at Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza’s ceiling as the Brazilian BJJ wunderkind outstruck and the Team Quest product before performing a clinic on the ground. Herman, no slouch himself, had no answers as Souza nearly replicated PhiL Davis’s “Mr. Wonderful” kimura submission before Herman tapped near the end of the first. Souza looked like an elite middleweight against a name opponent with relative ease.
Mike Kyle would look to be game against Gegard Mousasi … until the fight hit the ground. Mousasi worked another ground clinic on the former UFC fighter and got a submission there. It was competitive, at least, and Kyle apparently retired after the fight’s conclusion. He told Ariel Helwani that he was done as he walked into the locker room, something the MMA Fighting & Fuel TV reporter tweeted out as soon as it happened.
And then the night’s two biggest mismatches occurred.
Josh Barnett made quick work of Nandor Guelmino, dragging him down to the mat and taking an arm triangle that was practically gift wrapped for him. It was as if Barnett wanted to describe his MMA fights like how Thomas Hobbes described life: Nasty, brutish and short. Barnett’s post fight pro wrestling-esque promo lasted longer than this fight and somehow Guelmino was more competitive in that than when fisticuffs occurred. He looked like a tough fighter but the oft-tweeted joke of that this was a bad radio contest where MMA fans got to fight their favorite competitor rang in the way cringe humor often strikes us in the midst of a comedy show.
Someone much crasser would ask if he was a “Make a Wish” kid.
The night’s worst beatdown was from Daniel Cormier, who followed up a five round thrashing of Barnett earlier in 2012 with an early contender for Beatdown of the year for 2013 in Alistair Overeem’s sparring partner. It was a fight that was hard to watch as Staring, who didn’t give up, was seemingly put out of his mercy by Big John McCarthy near the end of the second.
The night’s big shock was Tarec Saffiedine defeating Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce welterweight title, winning the promotion’s final fight and leaving as a champion. In many ways it was the story of Strikeforce that Saffiedine would wind up wearing gold as he walked out of the company and presumably into the UFC. Working his way up from Challengers shows, Saffiedine easily took the fight from the high-priced free agent brought in and given a title shot immediately. In many ways Saffiedine duplicated what Jake Shields did several years ago in defeating Dan Henderson. Saffiedine was an afterthought, a massive underdog for a title fight (though a relatively close matchup on this particular main card), as the thoughts of Marquardt’s first UFC fight was much more prominent.
And this is how Strikeforce ends. Considering the promotion began its foray into MMA with a mismatch between Cesar Gracie (making his only appearance as a fighter) against UFC light heavyweight legend Ken Shamrock in San Jose it’s almost appropriate that it ends this way. A card few watched, one that was massively overshadowed by a compelling NFL game occurring at the same time and without announcing mainstay Mauro Ranallo in a place not necessarily known as an MMA hotbed marks the promotion’s finale. Scott Coker may have said that it was time for it to go, of course, and that it ends like a staple of ‘80s morning television is par for the course.