By Matthew Degonzaque, DoghouseBoxing (Feb 23, 2009)
How's it going fight fans? In the news feed this week we are going to talk about all of the latest major MMA news. The most obvious of course is the news that the Strikeforce promotion has purchased the assets of the defunct EliteXC promotion and all of the incentives that come with the deal. We'll also talk about who is going to headline Strikeforce's 4/11 card and possible undercard fights, Ken Shamrock and Tank Abbott's return to winning side of things and link at the bottom that shows you my predictions for this past Saturday's UFC 95 card.
Strikeforce acquires EliteXC
If you're an MMA fan then you've probably read about the deal that Strikeforce has acquired the assets of dead EliteXC promotion, specifically the fighter contracts and has followed in the promotion's footsteps and made television deals with Showtime and CBS to continue airing programming on their networks. Let's take a look at some of the details that came with the major announcement:
-Strikeforce aims to promote five live "championship-level" events and five up-and-comer spotlight events on Showtime in 2009. Showtime plans the full 16-fight schedule in 2010. Any CBS events scheduled will be separate from this number. Showtime would not comment further regarding proposed CBS events.
-Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson is among the 21 or so athletes that have already been contacted. Ferguson's attorney was reached on Monday, said Coker, and told the promotion wants to get the fighter back in the cage "as soon as possible." Coker said talks of a fight between Ferguson and former K-1 star Bob Sapp is still in the hypothetical stage.
-EliteXC champions will be offered the opportunity to fight for Strikeforce titles (i.e. Josh Thomson vs. KJ Noons, Cung Le vs. Robbie Lawler), hopefully within the year.
-Strikeforce is open to co-promotion efforts, like its past collaborations with EliteXC in 2008. "When organizations get together that have compelling matchups that are relevant and work out in the end for both parties and the fighters, I feel like, 'Why wouldn't we?' said Coker (Sherdog.com)
Unlike most MMA promotions, Strikeforce is a promotion that played it smart and started off building its brand and creating a home base in California before branching out. They also didn't overspend and put themselves in a huge hole like Affliction and EliteXC.
When Strikeforce debuted their 1st show was headlined by Frank Shamrock vs. Cesar Gracie in San Jose, California. Since then they have pretty much used San Jose as their home base and drawn several huge shows by combining the drawing power of the likes of Shamrock, and Cung Le, established UFC veterans like Vitor Belfort, Renato Sobral, Bobby Southworth, Tank Abbott, Paul Buentello and Joe Riggs and showcasing exciting up and comers like Tyson Griffin, Clay Guida, Nate Diaz, Josh Thompson and Gilbert Melendez.
Problems that plagued EliteXC and now Affliction are both promotions have come right out and tried to establish a dominant position in MMA by overspending on fighters, trying to become a PPV player and accumulating massive amounts of debt. Affliction came right in and started handing out 6 and 7 figure purses to attract fighters and have absolutely nothing to show for it. They lost $4 million dollars on their first show and had to delay their 2nd for 3 months after it was originally supposed to happen. Both of their PPV's likely did terrible numbers and it's questionable as to when their next show is. EliteXC put the success of their promotion behind a fighter who wasn't ready for the top level (Kimbo Slice), held shows in non fight towns drawing horrible houses as a result and also purchased several smaller promotions (King of the Cage, ICON sport, Cage Rage) that were in debt by the millions. Due to all of that, EliteXC was $55 million in debt after not even two years in business.
Strikeforce has also pulled off a huge coup by picking up the television deals with the same networks that were airing EliteXC, Showtime and CBS. Showtime has already agreed to have 12 live events in 2009. That includes 6 "big cards" featuring big draws and elite fighters like Cung Le, Frank Shamrock, Renato Sobral, Kimbo Slice and Alistair Overeem (if he doesn't sign with the UFC). In addition to the Showtime deal, they will also get 4 live cards on CBS. In addition to Showtime and CBS, Strikeforce will also keep its television deal with NBC. So that is three different networks that Strikeforce will be featured on, Showtime, CBS and NBC! Zuffa can't even say that as their UFC television cards are shown on Spike TV and WEC is shown on Versus.
Strikeforce is also open to working with other promotions which is a good sign. They worked with EliteXC in the past for the Shamrock-Baroni and Shamrock-Le fights and did good business. While I doubt the UFC will be willing to work with Strikeforce, I could see DREAM, Affliction and even K1 Heroes possibly is willing to do business with Strikeforce. Even without co-promotion aiding them Strikeforce has just firmly established itself as the #2 MMA promotion in America, behind the UFC.
But Strikeforce owner Scott Coker wasn't done and also announced the main event for their April 11th card…
Frank Shamrock vs. Nick Diaz to headline Strikeforce's April 11th card
Less than a week after closing the purchase of several fighter contracts from ProElite, Inc. and signing a separate broadcast agreement with Showtime and CBS, Strikeforce is already hard at work putting together its first Showtime offering. A headline bout between Strikeforce mainstay Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie-trained Nick Diaz is set for the April 11 event.
The event will take place in San Jose, Calif. Strikeforce and Shamrock's home base so it is no surprise that Shamrock will headline the card. He has been a consistent draw in San Jose, his bout against Cesar Gracie drawing a then-record crowd of 18,265 on March 10, 2006.
After a three-year layoff, including the bout with Gracie, Shamrock is 2-2 in his return to actively fighting. All four of those bouts have been under the Strikeforce banner or for EliteXC in association with Strikeforce. Following a rocky relationship with the UFC, Diaz has put together a 4-1 record not including a "no contest" ruling in his bout with Takanori Gomi but has been garnering as much attention for his life outside of the cage as in it.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker and Shamrock, during a conference call with the media later on Tuesday, confirmed the bout between Shamrock and Diaz, at a catch weight of 179 pounds (mmaweekly.com).
This is a smart main event for Strikeforce's first 2009 event. Frank Shamrock (23-9-2) is probably one of the biggest names that are not fighting the UFC. Frank has a lot of charisma and has an entertaining fighting style that has made him a legitimate attraction. Plus, Frank Shamrock is a bona fide MMA legend who boasts victories over Tito Ortiz, Bas Rutten and Jeremy Horn.
Diaz (18-7) is a very outspoken fighter and is either loved or hated in the MMA community, depending on who you talk to. He was a top 10 fighter at 170lbs during his time in the UFC and has an impressive win over Robbie Lawler. He has spent time at 155lbs lately but the weight loss has been too much for him and will be moving back up. The fight also has an interesting revenge angle being that Frank Shamrock knocked out Diaz's mentor, Cesar Gracie, in 21 seconds three years ago. Diaz will be looking to avenge his mentor no doubt.
Both fighters have very similar skills and the more I think about this the more I think this could become a very competitive fight. In the past few years Frank's stand up has I improved to the point where he was able to destroy Phil Baroni on their feet and was competitive with Cung Le before his arm was broken off of a kick. Diaz has always had underrated boxing and knockout power. Both men are black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but Frank is definitely the more accomplished grappler as he has submitted 13 of his opponents to only 5 from Diaz. I think weight could make the difference in this fight because, despite Diaz height advantage, he is a natural 170lb fighter and moving up to 179 might be too big of a step for him. Frank is fairly comfortable at 185 and extra 6 pounds really drains him then I think he will have the advantage. I'll take Shamrock by decision at this point, but I could change my mind before the fight goes down.
So far the only confirmed under card fight is Benji Radach (19-4) vs. Scott Smith (14-5). Jake Shields (22-4-1) will also defend his 170lbs championship against Joe Riggs (29-10) is also expected to happen. Josh Thompson is also a possibility to defend his 155lb title on the undercard.
Ken Shamrock and Abbott prepare for Showdown
In case you didn't hear it, and you probably didn't, Ken Shamrock and Tank Abbott fought in separate bouts this weekend on a card entitled The Valentine's Eve Massacre which took place last Friday before Valentine's Day. Ken Shamrock was in action against Ross Clifton, a 380lb journeyman who sported a 6-8 record, and Abbott fought Mike Bourke who had an 8-11-1 record. Both Shamrock and Abbott pulled off decisive victories with Shamrock winning by armbar in 1 minute and Abbott winning by knockout in 29 seconds.
The card, which was streamed live and free by Sherdog, was plagued with problems leading up to the event. It was originally supposed to have 13 fights on the card but problems filing out medical paper work resulted in four of the bouts, including Tank Abbott's being cancelled. To make matters worse, no one told Abbott and he showed up for the weigh ins only to be told that his fight was cancelled a week ago. The promoters worked with the commission and managed to get Tank's fight back on the card.
The card was also plagued by production problems as the sound routinely went out on the feed and the promoters didn't properly schedule the card and had used raffles and dull interviews with the fighters who couldn't get on the card to fill air time. Most of this was booed by the fans in attendance and it all resulted in a difficult to watch show.
But never the less the card served its purpose, which was to find the two most unremarkable fighters out in MMA so Ken Shamrock (27-13-2) and Tank Abbott (10-14) can get wins over them to end their respective losing streaks and set up a showdown between the two MMA legends for sometime in the coming months. The wins were needed as Shamrock hadn't won a fight in almost 5 years and Abbott had only picked up one victory in the past decade himself.
While at one point this fight could've been a major PPV showdown, possibly up to around 4-5 years ago, Shamrock and Abbott's career have gone so far downhill that they have are fighting on sideshow MMA cards. But it's probably better that they are fighting at this level, against journeymen and tomato cans, where they can at least be moderately successful as opposed to competing in promotions like UFC, Pride, EliteXC and Strikeforce were both men suffered multiple one sided defeats.
While no longer meaningful on any grand scale, Shamrock vs. Abbott will still be a fight that MMA fans will check out to due to the followings that both men have. Fans can at least expect some entertaining pre fight trash talk between the two men as well. I'm not sure exactly when the fight is supposed to come off, but it has been eluded to happen within the next couple of months.
UFC 95 predictions.
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