If you hadn't realized Strikeforce was in Portland, Ore., on Saturday, it's not your fault. The sadly -- though predictably -- low-rent and nearly forgotten sister promotion to the UFC returned with a solid lineup that deserved more attention than it received. Featuring two title fights following bouts peddling a spate of legitimate prospects, Zuffa matchmaker Sean Shelby had every reason to feel good about his efforts.
The same should not be said for Zuffa's promotional efforts, which were dismal. Whether or not it cares to maintain a relationship with Showtime, whether or not Strikeforce is a brand that is earmarked for bigger things down the road, Zuffa has a responsibility to fighters under its umbrella. Thus far, it has not lived up to that responsibility. Instead, fighters, including headliners Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy and Tyron Woodley, were motivated to complain about their predicament prior to the event. Prospect Lorenz Larkin was motivated to literally get on his knees and beg UFC president Dana White for performance bonuses that fighters on the UFC side benefit from.
Such is the state of Strikeforce in the middle of 2012.
Some observations from a card you should have but probably didn't see:
• Refereeing and judging continue to influence outcomes in fights, and not in a good way. Referee Dave Hagen injected himself into the welterweight title contest between Woodley and Nate Marquardt with a third-round standup that was unnecessary and, more to the point, played in the outcome of the fight. Judge Andy Dinger apparently is clueless based on his scoring of the Pat Healy-Mizuto Hirota contest, and the fact that he didn't see a 10-8 round for Roger Gracie against Keith Jardine. Same old tune ...
• The consensus is Healy (28-16) got away with one against Hirota, who put together an excellent effort. He should feel fortunate: The win might set up a title showdown few care to see (I don't) against Gilbert Melendez.
• Ryan Couture (5-1) looks more confident in the cage each time he fights. Randy Couture's 29-year-old son squeaked by Joe Duarte, but he's starting to look like a reasonably interesting lightweight prospect.
• Jason High (16-3) joined Marquardt as the only two fighters on the card to win by something other than decision. I mention it because he's now won seven straight and didn't get any love on fight night.