“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.” Eighteen of the Strikeforce’s mixed martial artists will enter the Sears Centre in Chicago, IL on Nov. 7 for Strikeforce/M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Rogers, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.
Greatest Heavyweight on Greatest Platform?
Fedor Emelianenko is the best heavyweight in the world. He’s arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter, too. Whenever he steps into the ring, or the cage—as he will for the first time against Brett Rogers—it’s an event.
On CBS, Emelianenko will no longer be limited to hardcore viewers who revered the former Pride heavyweight champion during his reign or those purchasing Bodog’s lone foray with the Russian or Affliction’s two pay-pay-view offerings. The casual viewer and diehards alike will have a chance to witness mixed martial arts’ version of Mike Tyson.
At 30-1, the Russian’s lone loss was a bogus stoppage due to a cut eight-years, 11 months and 26 wins ago, and he avenged it later in his career. Against Rogers, he faces a grave, undefeated puncher. They both knocked out former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in their last bouts. It took Emelianenko three minutes and 14 seconds in January and Rogers just 22 seconds in June. Emelianenko uncharacteristically back peddled in the bout and thus seemed vulnerable for the first time since 2003, when Kazuyuki Fajita wobbled the sambo champion.
It’s possible to hurt Emelianenko, even knock him out, but his impeccable arsenal renders that unlikely. Rogers’ strike-first, think-later style isn’t beneficial against Emelianenko. If the Minnesotan wants to have his Rocky moment, challenging Emelianenko in the cage’s unfamiliar angles with his heavy hands is his best bet. That requires the 6’5, 265-pound to stay as light on his feet as the 6’, 230-pound Emelianenko.
While Rogers knows to avoid the ground, the clinch is one spot he needs to avoid. It’s a trap. It appears beneficial because he can employ his size to wear down Emelianenko against the unfamiliar fence; however, it likely leads to a throw and subsequent groundwork. With Rogers only seeing the second round in two of 10 fights and Emelianenko finishing his last seven opponents, CBS should be able to rejoice in a decisive ending to their main event.
After 13 months without MMA programming, one of America’s major networks attempts to lure back a younger crowd that typically eludes them. If Emelianenko pays out, Strikeforce and CBS will have the Ace of Spades in their deck. If not, CBS’ initial promotional strategy takes a minor setback and a new star – Rogers – is born. Whatever the case, Strikeforce is a much more stable ship than EliteXC so Strikeforce should have another go-round regardless.
The Shields Streak
Jake Shields hasn’t lost since 2004. He’s earned twelve consecutive victories, defeating five champions over two weight classes in the process, earning him a win-streak in mixed martial arts second only to Emelianenko. That win streak and Strikeforce’s middleweight title, recently vacated by Cung Le, are at stake for Shields against Jason “Mayhem” Miller.
Miller’s MTV reality show Bully Beatdown has already endeared him to larger audiences. A win against one of the sport’s best would remind fans that his is a fighter first and foremost. In addition, wearing gold would open up more crossover opportunities since everyone loves a champion. Shields is in the sport for the fights, though. Capturing a title in a higher weight class endows the natural welterweight with a stronger case he should be fighting UFC 170-pound king Georges St. Pierre.
With Miller having excellent ground skills (he wasn’t submitted by world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu star Ronaldo Souza) and both displaying limited stand-up, this fight breaks down to championship conditioning in the 25-minute bout. Shields needs to employ ground and pound ala his bout with Renato Verissimo to open up submissions if they are there, while Miller should follow his stand-up strategy that found him success against Souza in their first outing.
Mousasi on the Move
Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi was supposed to meet Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the semi-finals of Dream’s Super Hulk tournament in October before dropping out with injury. Sokoudjou gets his chance against the tournament favorite in a non-title tilt gone state side.
It’s a risk for Mousasi to fight such an explosive striker in a non-title bout. Should he lose, he doesn’t lose his belt but the mystique he built over a Dream middleweight tournament win and steamrolling Renato Sobral in August would be severely diminished. If he wins, he eliminates one of the few challengers to his belt. A ground fight favors Mousasi’s ground and pound over the judoka whose inexperience and poor conditioning have tarnished the Team Quest logo he sports on his shorts.
Brazilian Big Men Seeking Title, Fedor
Recent Strikeforce signing and former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva squares off against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Abu Dhabi Combat Club world champion Fabricio Werdum. Werdum has striking skills but is best served leaving them at home as he’s been rocked in his last two bouts including one technical knockout loss.
Silva’s giant hands are unforgiving and his American Top Team-shaped ground game is scary considering his size. However, Werdum’s grappling is some of the best in the sport and Silva has demonstrated little endurance. Werdum’s takedowns leave something to be desired so Silva has a sprawl and brawl path clearly laid out. It’s a matter of whether or not he can succeed against the sport’s higher-level heavyweights.
A clear contender fight in Strikeforce’s fledgling division, it’s unclear whether the winner gets to fight uncrowned king Emelianenko or inactive Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem.
Women’s Right to Fight Cyborg
Marloes Coenen was supposed to get her chance for revenge in a title eliminator versus Erin Toughill. Instead, she gets her chance for revenge against Roxanne Modafferi. Their last bout was a split decision. For two strikers, excelling in the stand-up needs to tie into an overall game specifically cardio over the new environment of the cage and major fighting platform. A decisive performance can sidestep Toughill and straight into a title bout with female lightweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos.