Strikeforce Recap: Shields Disrespected, “Mayhem” Ensues
On Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee, Strikeforce and CBS looked to capture the attention of both casual and hardcore MMA fans with a loaded card featuring three championship fights and the debut of future hall of famer Dan Henderson. What should have been a night promoting the company as one that can compete with the UFC ended up being a night that gave UFC President Dana White, and perhaps the sport itself, a black eye.
The evening started off well as Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal shocked the world as he grinded out a five round unanimous decision victory over Gegard Mousasi to earn the Light Heavyweight championship in only his seventh professional fight. Later, Gilbert Melendez proved his case as one of the top 155-pounders in the world as he handily defeated Shinya Aoki and retained his Lightweight title. While both fights showcased some of the company’s top talent, the main event would prove to be the night’s undoing.
The main event featured a clash between Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields and former UFC and Pride champion Dan Henderson. By the way the fight was built up, one would think that Strikeforce hired a hitman to assassinate their champion. That’s the level of disrespect they showed for Shields, as every marketing attempt by Strikeforce revolved around Henderson. Apparently, Shields didn’t get the memo as he upended Henderson in a masterful performance that raised the proverbial middle finger to his detractors while giving him leverage as he heads into free-agent status. But that wasn’t the talk of the night—we’ll get to that later.
Shields wasn’t only disrespected by the company he represents as their champion, the media also gave him little chance against the bigger, hard hitting Henderson. Despite the considerable size advantage—Henderson has fought as high as 205 while Shields is moonlighting at 185—and a huge first round that saw Hendo rock Shields with his patented right hand, Henderson found himself as a disciple of a wrestling and jiujitsu clinic courtesy of Shields.
When Shields ate Henderson’s right-hand bomb, it looked as if the fight would meet an immediate end. But the resilient Shields hung on for dear life—literally—and managed to escape the first round with his senses still intact. What took place after the first frame was vintage Shields. Rather than stand and trade, the champion would put his wrestling and jiujitsu skills to work on the two-time Olympian and dominate the rest of the fight with strong takedowns and constant mounts on the former UFC standout. Shields looked to put his opponent away with punches, and simply outclassed him for the duration of the fight. The scores read in favor of Shields, with 49-46, 49-45 and 48-45. The champion retained his title.
Yes, Jake Shields put together a brilliant performance. And that can’t bode well for a company who spent more energy promoting the arrival of Henderson than stating their affinity for the champion. At the very least, the event should have been built up as a superfight, rather than a one-sided affair.
Strikeforce, how can you disrespect your champion by not giving him top billing on your marquee as you head into a huge card broadcast on national television? It is almost unfathomable to think this is what they thought of Jake Shields. Dana White was very vocal in his praise of Shields, as well as in his distaste for Strikeforce’s deplorable handling of the buildup. Could this mean White may seek to sign Shields to the UFC and present some true pound-for-pound opposition for top 3 fighter Georges St. Pierre? White’s respect for Shields could also mean he will do his best to drive up the price for Shields and ensure he gets the financial security he deserves if he chooses to resign from Strikeforce.
But this was merely a footnote to what ended up being a gut punch for the company. Following Shields shocking domination, Jason “Mayhem” Miller entered the cage and promptly interrupted the champion’s post-fight interview—and quite possibly his most splendid moment to date. The host of MTV’s “Bully Beatdown” was victorious on the evening’s preliminary card and promptly butted in to ask for a rematch of their 2009 bout. What followed was an ugly series of events that cast a dark shadow on the evening.
As soon as the words “What about my rematch, buddy?” spilled from Miller’s mouth, Shields would shove him away which prompted his teammates to swarm the intruder. Gilbert Melendez, who defended his 155 title by defeating Aoki earlier in the night, hopped between Shields and Miller as Nate and Nick Diaz took matters into their own hands and closed in on Mayhem. Nate kicked Miller in the ribs while his brother Nick punched Miller in his back. It was complete chaos and disorder inside the cage.
CBS broadcaster Gus Johnson did his best to calm the situation by saying “Gentleman, we’re on national television” but the damage was already done. Commentators Frank Shamrock could be heard saying, “This is ridiculous!” as fighters, security and team members from all camps sprawled across the cage. The network swiftly went to commercial in an effort to restore order, but for a sport fighting for relevancy, this is about as repulsive as it gets.
Shields has been blatantly disrespected twice—once by the company’s lack of faith and the other by “Mayhem” Miller. As a company looking to make tremendous strides against its greatest competitor, the UFC, one has to wonder how both of these situations bode for Strikeforce. In order to be taken seriously, Strikeforce cannot afford these kinds of meltdown, both on the mat or behind the scenes. Let’s hope they get it together, since they sport a solid amount of talent on their roster and could create a nice bit of competition for the UFC.