by Jason Kelly
Strikeforce has ventured through 2010 encountering highs and lows as any company does and finished off strong with a knock out infused card at the end of the year. As 2011 approaches, Strikeforce recognizes that they need to take the next step considering they have a bigger fan base now. Those plans include tournaments, cross promotion fights, the return of a champion, and exploring their options as fights unfold. There are three things Strikeforce needs to give the fans in 2011 in order to elevate their stock to the next level.
Alistair Overeem vs. Fedor Emelianenko
Alistair Overeem is Strikeforce’s heavyweight champion, but “Reem” fought only one time in 2010 and it was against an opponent who was nowhere near the level of fighter that Overeem is. Alistair’s opponent was Brett Rogers, a man who lost to Fedor in his bout previous to fighting ‘Reem”. Why did Fedor not fight Overeem? We really do not know. What we do know is, in 2011 this fight is the single most important fight Strikeforce needs to put on. Fedor’s persona lost some mystique and sense of intrigue after the fight he lost to Fabricio Werdum, nonetheless Fedor is still a man who did not lose for ten years and when he finally did, he was submitted by one of the best jiu jitsu fighters in the world.
Overeem flattened Rogers, he also won the K-1 Grand Prix, and he has developed his physique into something that resembles similarities to a sculpted statue. The two men experienced quite different endeavors in 2010 but, they need to fight. Overeem has done everything short of beg for this fight, fans are practically screaming for this fight, and the fight is the best heavyweight fight that Strikeforce can make. Whether it is Strikeforce trying to cater to Fedor or Fedor’s management, whether or not the timing has been an issue, whatever the reason is that this fight has not happened, the reason needs to change. Overeem has indicated that he will be returning to Strikeforce in late spring of 2011 and Fedor is rumored to fight in February. If Fedor wins that fight and “Reem” is healthy and ready for a spring return, then all the planets should line up and Strikeforce can deliver this fight. If not, a lot of people will give up on this fight and; lose a little faith Strikeforce.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Eddie Alvarez in a co-promotion fight
Gilbert Melendez is the lightweight champion in Strikeforce; Eddie Alvarez is the Bellator lightweight champion. The thing they have in common is that both are finding it hard to find credible opponents in their respective leagues. Melendez does not have a vault of talent testing opponents in Strikeforce, aside from Josh Thomson, Melendez’s options are limited. Eddie Alvarez is one of the best guys you never heard of. Alvarez has never been in any mainstream viewer’s vocabulary even though; Alvarez should be on everyone’s top 10 lightweight lists. Alvarez had his biggest profile fight recently against Roger Huerta, and Alvarez dominated the extremely popular Huerta with a first round knockout. Strikeforce and Bellator are both in need of opponents for their champions and they have rumored conversations of cross promoting. If these two promotions can come to terms and enlighten the fans with this fight it would be monumental. It could be dubbed as the fight which involves the two best lightweights that are not in the UFC, it would also shed light on how good each one of those guys are. Neither one has ever fought someone with the profile nor with the credentials of a BJ Penn or Kenny Florian. This would be a legit super-fight between two champions, as well as Strikeforce and Bellator do not have the depth in their lightweight divisions to consistently test their champions.
Strikeforce has to realize that they are in a fan-oriented business and fans need to find what they are watching and hearing is both entertaining and appealing. There is no polite manner to articulate this, so I will just come out and say it; Gus Johnson needs to go. I am not trying to put anyone out of work besides; boxing has plenty of work for Gus. The Strikeforce booth should be consumed with the seriousness of Pat Miletich, the familiarity of Mauro Ranallo, and the best man outside the cage in MMA; Stephen Quadros. Those three have the ability to entertain a crowd, drop knowledge on the casual fans, and they each deserve the duties due to their plethora of MMA knowledge and experience in and around the cage. The only person who could make it any better is Bas Rutten, but that is just my wishful thinking.
Strikeforce has the opportunity to make the correct moves and make their foot prints in the sand of MMA. This can be a year for Strikeforce to implement their protocols and identity, the suggestions I have given are minuscule business ideas that make a gigantic difference to the fans and increase Strikeforce’s relevance. We can anticipate these scenarios’s will play out but, in the end it is on Strikeforce.