Stupid Predictions™: Still Stupid Postmortem; Suggestions to the Athletic Commission for Judging and the Rules

Posted: September 13, 2011 in MMA
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I'm back, baby!

For those of you that missed Erika and me on Fight Fans Radio today, we discussed the Strikeforce fight card last weekend and its consequences. You can get the full podcast on the Fight Fans Radio website, but below are the stories that came out of that very surprising card that I think are most important and deserving of a more detailed write up. Just to let you know, I went 3-2 in the main card, whereas Jason Probst and Erika went 2-3. For the undercard, I went 3-2 versus Jason’s 2-2. My record is 25-16 (61%) in main cards, and 51-33 (61%) overall. (I should mention that I accidentally picked Lima over Kyle, but because none of you will believe me, I’m leaving it a loss.)

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals #1: Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov

Josh Barnett: Looking back at how the tournament has played out, Josh Barnett has been handed two perfect stylistic matchups in this tournament, making his path to the finals relatively easy. Let’s face it: Brett Rogers is nothing more than a big man, having never beaten anyone of consequence (except for his victory over the clearly-fading Andrei Arlovski). Not too many people ever considered him elite, but he got into this tournament because the Strikeforce roster is very thin. Kharitonov is tough as nails and has dangerous technique, but only in one dimension (striking). Once a guy of similar build gets a hold of Kharitonov, he’s toast. This has made this tournament easy for Barnett so far, and if Daniel Cormier’s hand injury is serious enough to keep him out of the finals, Barnett will be handed another favorable matchup in Mr. Chad Griggs. With everything else working against this tournament, an easy final match would be a disaster . . . or not, if Zuffa really doesn’t care about Strikeforce’s survival.

Sergei Kharitonov: We didn’t discuss this on the show today, but I reiterate that I’m worried about Kharitonov’s future with Zuffa due to Zuffa’s dispute with Kharitonov’s management company, Golden Glory. Golden Glory has recently made it clear publicly that they’re willing to work under Zuffa’s restrictions, which gives me hope that Kharitonov will keep his job, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors? We don’t, so for all we know, Kharitonov’s days are numbered. I hope not, because given the right matchup, he’s an exciting fighter.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals #2: Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio Silva

Daniel Cormier: What the hell? I mean really; what the hell? A small number of talking heads picked Cormier, but I think they were making an improbable pick, hoping to be able to say, “See, I told you I was a genius.” No one who’s last name isn’t Cormier was giving him much of a chance here despite his obvious potential. Well, now we all have to think twice about this. There’s no “potential” here; it’s actual. In fact, right now I’m leaning towards picking Cormier in the finals (assuming his hand injury doesn’t keep him out of the fight). Unlike his other opponents, John Barnett will not be able to easily take down and submit Cormier, and on their feet, Cormier has proven he has knockout power. In any case, it’s clear Cormier has a bright future in the UFC.

Antonio Silva: If the inevitable UFC-Strikeforce merger took place tomorrow, Silva would probably make the cut, but he’d be on double-secret probation if he did. He needs a solid win against a solid opponent if he wants to last. With Fedor’s best days clearly behind him, Silva’s accomplishment in taking down the Last Emperor has lost its luster.

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship: Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza

Luke Rockhold: This is another one of those, “What the hell?” fights. In fairness to the entire fight predicting community, there’s just no reason Rockhold should have won. Even if he’s theoretically good enough to beat Souza, which would be hard to predict considering the quality of his opponents, he shouldn’t win anyway if he hasn’t fought for 19 months. That just doesn’t make sense. This is good, however, for Strikeforce, as I’ll discuss below with respect to the probable composition of the next (last-ever?) Strikeforce card. However confusing this is, Rockhold cleanly and fairly won this fight (though not 50-45 on any sane person’s card), and hats off to him.

Ronaldo Souza: A loss is a loss, and it sucks, but we haven’t seen the last of “Jacare” Souza. He should make the cut when transitioning to the UFC.

Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie

Muhammed Lawal: Lawal won in less-than-spectacular fashion. Who cares? What’s more interesting is what he apparently wants to see happen next. Lawal came out and said that he wants a pay-per-view event pitting Strikeforce fighters against UFC fighters, and after the card a complete merger of the two organizations. He referred to Strikeforce as having cancer. As I discuss below, he’s probably correct, and I doubt many of you will agree.

Roger Gracie: Statistically-speaking, a professional fighter shouldn’t be knocked out by the very first power shot he faces. This was embarrassing. Gracie is not ready for prime time. He needs to learn some rudimentary striking before he fights again on a main card. As far as I’m concerned, I think it’s downright stupid to hold the Gracie family accountable for what a single member of the family does — everyone is solely responsible for their own performance and behavior — but the flip side of that is that he also deserves no special breaks because he has a famous last name. Admit it, everyone: Roger Gracie is currently minor-circuit material.

Strikeforce as an Organization

As I see it, Strikeforce has one good card left in it, and then it’s done, but that card could be huge. Here’s what I expect to see:

  1. Josh Barnett v. Daniel Cormier for the meaningless Grand Prix heavyweight championship belt
  2. Luke Rockhold v. Tim Kennedy for the meaningless Strikeforce middleweight championship belt
  3. Rafael Cavalcante v. Muhammed Lawal for meaningless revenge
  4. Antonio Silva v. Chad Griggs for a shot at a UFC roster spot (though both will get it)
  5. Ronaldo Souza v. [someone]
  6. Mike Kyle v. [someone]

Despite my sprinkling of the word “meaningless” throughout this list, this is actually a really good card. With Strikeforce dying, it’s titles mean nothing, and I’m not a fan of “revenge” matches, but each of these would be good fights or would mean something after the eventual merger of the UFC and Strikeforce. Moreover, there’s a good excuse to allow Tim Kennedy to fight for the title, and any chance you have to put an American hero on the main card, you take it. Whether you think the matchup would be interesting, and whether or not you think Kennedy deserves another shot so soon, are both irrelevant. The guy just appeared on the Deadliest Warrior. This will sell PPVs and put butts in the seat better than any other fighter on the Strikeforce roster. Lastly, if Dan Henderson doesn’t move to the UFC immediately to face Anderson Silva (with Silva presumably fighting the winner of Brian Stann and Chael Sonnen), he’d be available for the card as well, and it wouldn’t matter who he was facing. (I’ll fight him.)

However, after this card, regardless of the results, I don’t see Strikeforce having anywhere else to go. There won’t be enough interesting matchups to sell PPVs or tickets. This will be the end of the promotion unless Zuffa changes its tune and starts feeding Strikeforce its fighters that they no longer want in the UFC. I don’t see that happening. Zuffa has made it clear that they are not planning to use Strikeforce as an in-house minor league.

A Proposal for Judging

As I suggested above, the fact that one of the judges scored the middleweight championship fight 50-45 Rockhold is insane. On the show, I suggested a possible short-term solution to the rampant problem of poor judging. As one of our listeners, Matthew, pointed out, the long-term solution is education and a legitimate licensing/certification process. For now, however, requiring judges to explain their scoring on the scoring sheets themselves would help identify exactly what the problem is, and it would provide an immediate remedy for a poor understanding of the rules (at least for the next fight the judge scores). The explanation could be a two or three sentence essay the judges are required to write between rounds giving a general impression of what they think of the round. The explanation could instead be a series of check boxes or fill-in-the-blanks, indicating, for example, whether the judge thought “effective grappling” should be weighed more or less than “effective striking,” or whether both fighters were so closely matched in both that “octagon control” actually became the deciding factor. I’d be willing to accept a longer time between rounds if necessary to give judges enough time to add their explanation.

Of course, neither of these should substitute for simply educating people before they have a decision to make, but that’s going to take some time to implement. We need an immediate solution, however short-lived it might be.

A Proposal for Adding Comments to the Rules

If you want to litigate cases in court, you need to follow the rules. That may seem obvious, but the point I’m making is that every court has a comprehensive set of rules governing procedure during litigation. Despite how through these rules are, they nevertheless have “comments” attached to most of them that provide clarification for rules that might be unclear. To my knowledge the CSAC and NSAC, the two big hitters of MMA regulation, don’t have comments attached to their rules and regulations. It’s about time they do.

Off-topic: Bellator

Briefly, I want to mention that Ben Saunders was back to his old self, doing quite well in his Bellator welterweight tournament match. He was overwhelming. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he finds his way back to the UFC, though he shouldn’t rush it. Overall, the Bellator card was good as well. I’ll be keeping tabs on the progress of the tournaments they’re conducting.


This guy loves to throw knees

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Strikeforce on Twitter @Strikeforce
Follow Josh Barnett on Twitter @JoshLBarnett
Follow Sergei Kharitonov on Twitter @sergeikhar (unverified, and little-used, account)
Follow Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva on Twitter @BigfootSilva
Follow Daniel Cormier on Twitter @dc_mma
Follow Luke Rockhold on Twitter @rockholdMMA
Follow Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Twitter if you can find him there. I couldn’t.
Follow Muhammed Lawal on Twitter @KingMoFH
Follow Roger Gracie on Twitter @rogergracie, or don’t. He has a single tweet on there that’s almost 1 year old.

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