Looking to put the Nashville debacle behind them, Strikeforce chugs along with its return to Showtime with a card at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo. With the UFC offering up more counter-programming on Spike, here are five story lines that will determine whether Strikeforce’s “Heavy Artillery” hits its target or turns out to be a dud.
The Grim/Fedor/Ubereem Situation
(Rogers never wore a uniform while working at the Sam’s Club Tire Center.)
Between the tangles of M-1 Global’s ties to Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem’s long absence from the San Jose-based promotion in favor of Japan despite holding its heavyweight strap, Strikeforce looks to clear up the mess with a good night for heavyweights.
Brett Rogers welcoming Overeem back to Strikeforce is a clear-cut set up fight—the opposite of pointless matches like Jason Miller-Tim Stout. Overeem establishes himself versus a top-10 big man to legitimize his untouched title and goes on to raises the stakes against Emelianenko in victory. Rogers’ lone loss is to the undefeated Russian, unanimously recognized as the world’s best heavyweight. There’s no shame in that and the Minnesotan was lucky enough to damage arguably the world’s greatest fighter before meeting his demise. A win over Overeem positions “The Grim” for a shot at redemption.
Emelianenko gets a credible but underwhelming challenger in terms of selling a fight in Fabricio Werdum on June 26, so the winner of Overeem and Rogers will have promotional momentum if the former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion furthers his highlight reel or Werdum shocks the world.
Detractors would point out every heavyweight in the company is on this card, but it’s making the best of what you’ve got. Strikeforce wisely pushes the return of Andrei Arlovski against former EliteXC Heavyweight Champion Antonio “Big Foot” Silva in the co-main event. “The Pitbull” may possess the most talent of those big men but seems destined to squander it while dealing with personal issues. The Silva fight is the marketable Belarusian’s chance to get back on track to rematches with Rogers and Fedor, the men who knocked Arlovski unconscious in his last two fights. The fight is also Silva’s opportunity to show whether he’s a top-20 guy or an opponent for top-20 guys.
The Gator Crawls On
(There’s nowhere to go but up for ‘Jacare.’)
Strikeforce labors in the UFC’s shadow and the assumption by many is that its fighters are inferior. That notion is weakened by the likes of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. The five-time ADCC Champion debuted for the promotion in Dec. with a first round arm-triangle win over Olympic Greco Roman silver medalist Matt Lindland and now faces serviceable middleweight “Smokin’” Joey Villasenor. Another submission from one of the world’s best grapplers could line the 30-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt up for a shot at Jake Shields’ middleweight strap or see him fill one half of a battle for a vacant belt should Shields defect to the UFC.
More Than a Gracie
If Roger Gracie’s isn’t the best submission grappler in the world, he’s in the top 1%. The only man to submit all his opponents en route to an ADCC title started his MMA career with two first round submission victories. But those victories were spread out over four years; a televised match with Kevin Randleman will give Gracie a chance to ramp up his combative career. Randleman, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, underperforms like that’s what he’s paid to do yet his experience and horsepower is a handful for anyone with only two professional fights, regardless of their pedigree.
The Best Ya Got?
Hints that Rafael Calvalcante-Antwain’ Britt is a title eliminator for “King Mo” Muhammad Lawal’s 205-pound crown is an alarming reminder Strikeforce’s light heavyweight and welterweight divisions are many hurdles behind its 155, 185 and heavyweight classes. “Feijao” was seen as a legitimate contender prior to a hiccup against Mike Kyle, but the idea that these are the only light heavyweights in the title mix is a problem.
Whether fans latch on to Lyle Beerbohm for his reformed prisoner and drug addict-turned MMA fighter success story or his “Fancy Pants,” the dude can fight. The undefeated Washington-based fighter has only gone the distance once in 13 contests but Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro represents the sternest test of Beerbohm’s career when they meet center cage.
It’s great matchmaking, but there are currently no plans for the bout to air. The promising up-and-comer versus the respected veteran has title implications and it’s a shame it may go the ghostly way of contender bout Roxanne Modafferi-Marloes Coenen. It’s puzzling that this scrap isn’t deemed worthy of Strikeforce stage time and Greg Nagy is.