Two tales of the weekend: Alistair Overeem flew into the States, suffered repeated questions about his impossible physique, assaulted an American citizen, then flew back to Holland, settling into a role as a legitimate threat to Fedor Emelianenko's status as the best heavyweight.
In North Carolina, several fighters arrived prepared to fight but left emotionally drained with nothing to show for it.
There is always a winner and a loser. It's not always decided in the ring.
Strikeforce prevailed Saturday, with Overeem's presold reputation as a destroyer on full display against a curdling Brett Rogers. The man who gave Emelianenko a rough first round in '09 had virtually nothing for Overeem -- not even the hyped right hand that promised to at least keep Overeem honest. Now, only two obstacles remain in Strikeforce assembling their best chance at a high-profile heavyweight match: Emelianenko getting past Fabricio Werdum and Strikeforce getting past Emelianenko's notoriously difficult management.
Both are problems, but nothing compared to what might have been the most spectacular meltdown of a burgeoning promotion to date. Shine Fights spent most of Friday and Saturday in court answering charges that its contract with eccentric boxer Ricardo Mayorga violated Mayorga's promotional agreement with Don King. Shine's game from the beginning was to stick its head in the sand and presume that King would somehow roll over for its stunt casting of Mayorga as an MMA fighter. (Mayorga had filed suit against King last year, but dropped it without explanation. That should've been the first clue.) It ended the only way it was going to, with Mayorga sitting on the sidelines and Shine trying to assign blame to the North Carolina boxing authority and King.
In fact, the show's cancellation is 100 percent a result of its building an event around the toothpick-supported premise of Mayorga's breaching a valid contract. We're a long way from the ninjitsu experts of the 1990s, but this business will always be home to amateurs.
Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com
Roger Gracie's ground game might be top notch but his striking still needs work.
Next for Overeem: Probably risking his hypothetical shot at Emelianenko with gift-packaged fights in Japan.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Andrei Arlovski, left, is still picking up the pieces after losing to Fedor Emelianenko in '09.
Q: Who played who in the Shine/Mayorga meltdown?
A: From day one -- when Mayorga claimed no contract with Shine was in place even as Shine swore the opposite -- the idea of using a Don King-owned boxer in an MMA fight was very expensive wishful thinking.
At the time of the signing, Mayorga was upset King hadn't offered him the agreed-upon number of fights (three per year). Suddenly, he's interested in MMA. Was it because he had a genuine curiosity, or because he wanted to stomp his foot to get King's attention?
Mayorga, even in his semi-retired state, is a high-profile boxer who has advisers -- and no counsel would ever tell him it's in his best interests to be choked out by a veteran fighter in Din Thomas. (If he wound up fighting, getting mounted might have been enough to get him tapping.) Shine's blazing incompetence cost a lot of fighters a lot of lost time and income. That level of aggressive stupidity shouldn't earn it any second chances.
Q: Are we fully sold on Overeem?
A: Inflated to proportions that would make Mattel proud, Overeem made Rogers look like a child Saturday, tossing him around and punishing him on the mat. But Rogers' reputation comes primarily from knocking out Arlovski, a fighter who continues to fade; Overeem's new body hasn't seen a second round in MMA yet. If he can maintain a cardio output for three or five rounds, he'll remain dangerous. If not, he'll wilt just like anyone else.
Q: What happened to Arlovski?
A: Arlovski had a few key minutes in the winter of 2009 when he looked like he was going to dethrone Emelianenko. One unfortunate flying-knee attempt later, he was getting a chalk outline.
The post-Fedor experience has not been kind to Arlovski: He took a late-notice fight with Brett Rogers and paid the price. Saturday, he was outboxed by a faster, bigger man in Antonio Silva in a three-round loss that held no bright spots. Arlovski commands a high asking price in the sport, but his results are no longer worth the investment. If he cannot find confidence in a rematch with Rogers or against someone else, his own personal recession is coming.
Q: Is Overeem-Emelianenko big enough for pay-per-view?
A: Fedor Emelianenko drew a rumored 100,000 households for each of his Affliction pay-TV experiences against Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, impressive by non-UFC standards. While it would appear Overeem is more marketable than either, he lacks the UFC exposure that made both of those men familiar faces to the omnipresent "casual fan." Strikeforce may still want to capitalize on the interest of the bout by making it a premium attraction, but its relationship with CBS would benefit mightily with the ratings appeal of the fight.
What do you do?
What Strikeforce lacks is the harmonious deal the UFC has struck with Spike: using a channel as pay-per-view barker programming. The best of both possible worlds would be to secure a two-hour CBS slot from 8-10 p.m. to broadcast a premium under
card with an inexpensive, high-profile main event -- any combination of Kimbo Slice, Herschel Walker or Jose Canseco would do. You'd use as much of that time as possible to hype the 10 p.m. start of the Emelianenko/Overeem pay-per-view. It's synergy rather than a lopsided transaction.
CBS could balk -- it's not in the Strikeforce business. But it should be. And partnerships involve concessions.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Alistair Overeem will be put through the ringer before he's allowed anywhere near Fedor.
• Shine Fights CEO Devin Price is already making the mea culpa rounds, telling MMAJunkie.com that he feels "badly for the fighters" and that "it's not fair the commission to have denied them that opportunity" following his event's cancellation Saturday. I'm surprised Junkie could reach him, considering the poor cell phone reception found in other dimensions. He's threatening to run another Shine show over the summer.
• Junkie also snagged a quote from M-1's Evgeni Kogan on the desired Emelianenko-Overeem bout, saying the only holdup would be Werdum on June 26. Encouraging, but there's no reason for M-1 to play hardball until it sits down to negotiate the fight.
• Strikeforce drew a respectable 8,000-plus in St. Louis.
• Lost in the weekend's Shine disaster/Strikeforce event was a battle between aging attractions Gary Goodridge and Pedro Rizzo in Washington, D.C. Goodridge, 44, failed to answer the second-round bell after damaging his MCL. It might have been his last bout.
• Overeem continued to field questions in the week leading up to his fight about steroids. The only way to rest that accusation is to have him submit to a random blood test prior to the Emelianenko fight. In that respect, M-1 is probably going to take their cues from Floyd Mayweather. Let's hope it ends differently.