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Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey Parting Shots

By on March 8, 2012

If you missed last Saturday’s Strikeforce event, you also missed one of the more brutal finishes you’ll ever see in MMA. Ronda Rousey seemed to know ahead of time what was up, warning fans not to miss the live action and “have to watch it on YouTube later”. Surely, a lot of people who missed Strikeforce have been searching online for replays after talk of her title win over Miesha Tate spread.

Sure, Showtime would rather have you subscribe and watch the fights live, but for Rousey’s purposes it really doesn’t matter. The point is that people were talking about women’s MMA. Strikeforce won’t be around forever. Right now, with Gina Carano apparently never returning to the sport and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos serving a one-year suspension for PEDs, women’s MMA needed someone to step up. Rousey and Tate did.

The same trash talk and chicanery that veteran fighters rolled their eyes over produced the most-anticipated women’s MMA fight since Carano-Cyborg. It produced a marketable, dare I say “controversial” star that can take the division and run with it. While women who have been fighting three times as long and toiling away in smaller events may resent that Rousey used her mouth and her looks to get into the spotlight, she may be saving women’s MMA in the process.

The fact is that there aren’t a lot of compelling matchups for Rousey. Just as with Carano and Cyborg before her, you can expect a lot of one-sided fights in the upcoming months for the new champ. However, and this is key- Rousey can sell a fight against anyone. She can turn on the trash talk and sell a fight against a fighter who would appear to have little chance against, who has little charisma of her own, or who fans have simply never heard of. People will tune in just to see Rousey perform.

Tate noted in the pre-fight press conference that she thought Rousey was marketing herself more than the sport as a whole, and that she was doing so for the selfish reason of furthering her own career rather than to build up women’s MMA. Respectfully, I would ask, “Does it matter?” I would argue that it doesn’t. When Strikeforce finally limps its way to the grave a year or whenever from now, the future of the women’s side of the sport will rely on whether Dana White and the UFC will pick up a division or two. If there’s a fighter like Rousey involved, he will have no choice but to do so.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tate’s own contribution to the buzz-worthy status of last weekend’s title bout. From coming out at the opening bell swinging for the fences to briefly taking Rousey’s back and refusing to tap for what seemed like minutes to the deep armbar that ultimately finished the fight, she made the bout memorable. If Rousey had just tapped her within a minute like with her other fights, no one would be rushing to YouTube to see the fight, and less people would be asking if others saw it or talking about it. Her gutsy performance elevated that bout and made it what it was. Was it hard to watch? Disgusting? Brutal? Yeah. Will anyone who watched it ever forget it? No way.

Free Gilbert Melendez!

Is there anything more pathetic than watching poor Gilbert Melendez pretend that he’s even the slightest bit interested in a fight with either the one-dimensional KJ Noons or a broken-down Josh Thomson? I have a lot of respect for Thomson and especially enjoyed watching him in his UFC days years ago, but he just can’t stay healthy. As a result, he is so cautious during training that he isn’t prepared for fights, which results in stinkers like Thomson-Noons. Why should Melendez, who may be the top lightweight in the world, be wasting time in the prime of his career facing Thomson, Noons, or the resurgent, but still unheralded Pat Healy?

The idea of a guy facing opponents that have no business being in there with him (and in Thomson’s case, who he has already faced twice) just to keep the charade of a dying promotion alive is simply sad. Shields, Diaz, Henderson and nearly the entire heavyweight division have left. It’s time for Melendez to follow them and start competing in fights that matter.

Quick Shots

–Another guy who needs to be liberated from his Strikeforce contract is Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Apparently, the powers that be don’t want him to rematch Luke Rockhold, and so he’s spent the last six months of his career either a) training and waiting, or b) fighting Bristol Marunde, which isn’t that much more exciting than a). He’s already fought all of the decent Strikeforce middleweights, so turn him loose and let’s see some fresh fights for Jacare.

–A sad thing about fan favorites who, as Lorenzo Fertitta might say, like to “war” is that their eventual declines come very suddenly and drastically. Such is the case with Scott Smith, who may have hit this point in his career even earlier if his toughness and knockout power hadn’t prolonged things. His last two wins were over Cung Le and Benji Radach, and in both he looked awful before he pulled out a comeback out of nowhere and laid each man out. So, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s seven straight fights (going back to three years ago) where he hasn’t really looked good. It’s been a memorable run, but his time is over, at least at the higher levels of the sport.

–I mentioned recently that there’s more to being a great striker than just striking. People often forget about the value of footwork, head movement, throwing combinations and using angles when it comes to sound striking. Instead, it’s easy to assume that the guy who hits hard and knocks a lot of fools out is a great striker. On Saturday, we were reminded why that’s not the case. Paul Daley hits like a truck and has a great left hook, but either doesn’t know how to put together good combinations or simply doesn’t care to. His defense is subpar, and as a result, he got out-struck by a 35-year old Kazuo Misaki. As I mentioned during my live blog, though, there is one positive to this fight: Daley started resorting to takedowns and control to try to win the bout, which means that if he ever complains about an opponent doing the same to him again, he’s a hypocrite. Of course, that won’t stop him, but whatever.

Say What?!?

It was shit.

-Josh Thomson on his performance against KJ Noons. Thomson has noted since in interviews that he hates fighting the way that he did against Noons (using a lot of takedowns, control and well, stalling), but you’ll note that he took the win and ran, nonetheless. And you know what? He should. Being entertaining is great, but winning is what keeps your career alive.

You Stay Classy

On the prelims, Brandon Saling fought and thankfully, lost by TKO to Roger Bowling. Saling was sporting some Nazi tattoos in the cage on Saturday night, and not only that, but he has a history of domestic violence and the rape of a girl under 13 years old. Fortunately, Saling’s license has been revoked in Ohio and New Jersey, as he had not disclosed his legal troubles to anyone before competing. Athletic commissions in other states always follow suit when it comes to suspensions, too. The issue here is not that an ex-con can’t fight, but that Saling hid his criminal past and has not only appeared on a preliminary bout for Strikeforce, but also Bellator as a result. Don’t these organizations do routine background checks? Anyway, you stay classy, Brandon Saling.

Sound of Violence Award

Ronda Rousey’s success doesn’t just stop at brutal armbars and trash talking. She knows how to pick her walkout music, too, and “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was an inspired choice.

Movin’ On Up Award

Kazuo Misaki may have walked right into a title shot with his great performance against Paul Daley on Saturday night. Expected by many to have trouble with the powerful Daley, Misaki fearlessly out-struck his opponent and won a clear decision victory in the process. Could he be the man to fight Nate Marquardt for the vacated welterweight title? It looks that way.

Beautiful Loser Award

On the main card, the fighters on the losing end all ended up there decisively. With apologies to Miesha Tate, this goes to Alexis Davis, who was a game opponent for Sarah Kaufman in their bloody fight. Davis even managed to take the last round while losing a majority decision to the ex-champ.

Holy $#!% Award

Is there any doubt? From Tate coming out and landing some pretty solid punches to the first armbar that Tate narrowly escaped to Tate briefly taking Rousey’s back, this whole fight qualifies. The unforgettable finish, with Tate’s arm bending all the way back as she refused to tap until serious damage occurred, was a decisive end to a fast-paced battle.

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