Strikeforce takes hit, stays on its feet

Alistair Overeem won the Strikeforce heavyweight title on

Alistair Overeem won the Strikeforce heavyweight title on Nov. 16, 2007, and has yet to defend it. His first Strikeforce match is May 15, 2010, a non-title defense against Brett Rogers. (Credit: Strikeforce)

Peep this rundown of things that looked promising for Strikeforce a few months ago but have now gone somewhat awry.

Dan Henderson, a two-time Olympian and the only man to hold two belts at the same time in Japan's Pride fighting league, left UFC and signed with Strikeforce. He was manhandled in his first bout, a title fight, to Jake Shields, who then left Strikeforce and signed with the UFC.

Fedor Emelianenko, the world's top heavyweight with a 10-year win streak, debuted with Strikeforce last November and won, drawing more than 5 million viewers on CBS. He lost his next fight in June by submission to Fabricio Werdum, who is now out for a few months with an elbow injury.

Alistair Overeem returned to America to defend his Strikeforce heavyweight title for the first time in more than two years last May and won in dominating fashion. His next fight? The K-1 Grand Prix, a kickboxing event, in Japan from October-December.

Just when it looked like traffic was clearing up, boom, another construction site closes the two right lanes.

"Fedor losing, it's not a bad thing," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. "Sooner or later, he was going to lose. Everybody loses in mixed martial arts. It's not like 'Oh my God, Mike Tyson finally got his first defeat, the world is crumbling.' Mixed martial arts, one wrong move and it's over."

The same can be said about some MMA promotions. EliteXC folded its operations after Kimbo Slice got knocked out in 14 seconds on national television by Seth Petruzelli. Affliction ended its fight promotion after Josh Barnett tested positive for steroids before his fight against Fedor.

Strikeforce, to be clear, is nowhere near such actions. With the backing of Showtime and CBS, Strikeforce is healthy as ever and remains a legitimate competitor to UFC and WEC.

Strikeforce just needs a few breaks.

Overeem choosing to fight in the Grand Prix next isn't one of them, but it could prove beneficial. Strikeforce can use that time to build up its heavyweight division. Fedor needs to win another fight before getting a title shot. Same for Antonio "Big Foot" Silva. Werdum needs to heal his elbow before he fights Overeem.

"With Fedor losing, now it stirs the pot," Coker said. "Now there's a lot more options, a lot more matchups."

In the meantime, Overeem can keep his skills sharp.

"He wants to be known as the greatest striker in MMA, and he felt if he won the K-1, which is a stand-up tournament, that he would be," Coker said. "This was his dream, his goal for a long time to win this tournament, so we said go ahead and we'll support you."

In an era where "parity" has become the great buzz word of sports, fans still understand and appreciate "champion." Strikeforce needs established champions, fighters who defend their belts successfully several times, not ones who win it one night and lose it the next. It's a championship belt, the thing they've worked hardest for, not a fake ID to be passed back and forth in line at a college party.

Gegard Mousasi defended his Strikeforce light heavyweight title for the first time last April and lost it to King Mo Lawal. Lawal lost it to Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante last weekend in his first defense.

"It would be fantastic, but the platform is there but really it's up to the fighters to go out and prove that they're the best that day. So, let the better man win. But in mixed martial arts, you just never know, man."

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UFC

@LaMonicaMark

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