By Zach Arnold | April 1, 2011
Tonight is the first Strikeforce event on Showtime under the Zuffa banner. It’s at Stockton Arena and business has universally, through various media reports, been described as bad. I know UFC was doing a lot of ticket giveaways for the show. No Diaz Brothers on the card + A’s starting 2011 campaign vs. Mariners & Felix Hernandez + largely pedestrian card = little interest. In a sense, I’ll have some interest for the show but mainly due to seeing how “business as usual” will take place. That phrase is one that many MMA writers have been mocking Dana White with since Zuffa purchased the Strikeforce assets.
Here’s how the card looks for tonight’s event:
- Adam Antolin vs. Ronald Carillo
- Tristan Arenal vs. Tom Peterson
- Robert Escalante vs. Raul Sandoval
- Rafael Rios vs. Anthony Avila
- Damian Douglas vs. Wayne Phillips
- Josh Thornburg vs. James Terry
- Caros Fodor vs. David Douglas
- Lorenz Larkin vs. Scott Lighty
- Justin Wilcox vs. Rodrigo Damm
This was the show that Satoshi Ishii was originally scheduled to fight on against Scott Lighty, but he ended up back in Japan to finalize his divorce. Also, take note that there are no longer amateur fights on future Strikeforce cards. Which means that Jeremy Lappen’s biggest backer (for promoters) for CAMO, which was his attempt to take over amateur MMA in California, is no longer giving him moment. I’m sure Zuffa is shedding a tear or two for Jeremy.
One other interesting thing to watch for — will dark match/undercard fights be shown on the telecast? Remember, Showtime hasn’t aired any in the past and their main reason according to various reporters is that airing dark matches taped earlier the night of a show “is a UFC thing.” Well, now Strikeforce is Zuffa. Business as usual?
On Saturday night (MTV2), Eddie Alvarez squares off against Pat Curran. It’s an important fight for him (read Josh Nason’s article on Eddie Alvarez) and it’s an important show for Bellator. They’re on MTV2, which is not a platform that everyone gets on cable. Then their show has a moving time slot to try to avoid weekend competition from UFC/Strikeforce. So, they’re on a platform that isn’t known for a big MMA demographic (under 21) and they aren’t in a position for viewers to remember one basic time slot (let alone those with DVRs who are having trouble recording the program weekly). The margin for error is so slim for the promotion, meaning they cannot afford any screw-ups. Right now, their estimated viewership is around 175,000 viewers. M-1 on Showtime last Friday drew more than that. Bellator is fighting for its future and I wish they would settle on a consistent strategy all the way around. You can’t giving the same speech to everyone and expecting fans to buy into it on the 37th try the same way they may have the first time you gave it.
As for the fight between Alvarez and Curran, I think it will be an excellent contest. The card for Saturday’s MTV2 event:
- John McLaughlin vs. Blair Tugman
- Matt Veach vs. Rene Nazare
- Mike Winters vs. Ryan Quinn
- Greg Rebello vs. Dan Cramer
- Dave Jansen vs. Scott McAfee
- Ben Saunders vs. Matt Lee
- Lightweight Tournament semi-final: Toby Imada vs. Patricky Freire
- Welterweight Tournament semi-final: Lyman Good vs. Rick Hawn
- Bellator Lightweight title match: Eddie Alvarez vs. Pat Curran
‘Business as usual’
Next Saturday (8 days from now), there’s the Strikeforce card from the old San Diego Sports Arena with Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley. This feels, more or less, like the first ‘major’ SF show under the Zuffa umbrella. Mike Kyle is out with a broken hand. Here’s how that card looks:
- Edgar Cardenas vs. Rolando Perez
- Casey Ryan vs. Paul Song
- Saad Awad vs. Joe Duarte
- Brett Albee vs. Virgil Zwicker
- Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Robert Peralta
- Shinya Aoki vs. Lyle Beerbohm
- Gegard Mousasi vs. TBA
- SF Lightweight title match: Gilbert Melendez vs. Crusher Kawajiri
- SF Welterweight title match: Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley
It’s an interesting card in one respect — outside of the main event, there is not a lot of star power here. Nick Diaz become Scott Coker’s #2 ace for ratings on Showtime behind Fedor (as far as regular fighters go). Daley is known because of his fight with Josh Koscheck, but it does not feel like there has been a lot of promotion at all for a fight between two men that, for the masses, is a pretty easy sell to make if you want to put the elbow grease into promoting it.
Aoki should tie up Beerbohm into a knot, but who knows? Melendez/Kawajiri is the fight that the hardcores are interested in seeing, but it’s not a fight with much if any casual fan appeal.
This will be the first event where I think we will see some of our questions answered regarding how serious Zuffa wants to promote Strikeforce and get along with Showtime. How will the production for the shows look? Will there be continuity in terms of trying to rebuild momentum for the HW tournament? What about the Fedor factor? Will Dana White or Joe Silva be at any of the shows? It reminds me very much of the feeling that I had when WCW had Nitro in Panama City, Florida right when WWE purchased the assets from Turner. Will there be an interpromotional war vibe going on or will it be ‘business as usual’?
One thing is for certain — Nick Diaz is recalcitrant to the idea of fighting one of his teammates.
This may be the last time you see Brock smiling for a while, let alone UFC executives if the ratings for The Ultimate Fighter don’t pick up steam over the next weeks.