Saturday is Strikeforce's best chance to shine

April 17, 2010

MMA fans were left with a terrible taste in their mouths after seeing Anderson Silva’s shenanigans at UFC 112. Silva’s unprofessional and embarrassing behavior overshadowed Frankie Edgar’s tremendous upset win over B.J. Penn to capture the lightweight title and had Dana White fuming at the podium, apologizing to his fans and vowing to make it up to them.

Strikeforce is miles behind the UFC, and White knows it, but is slowly building a program and has a chance to win a lot of fans over with a loaded show Saturday night on CBS. Jake Shields vs. Dan Henderson for Shields’ middleweight title is the main event. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal competes before his largest American audience and for Gegard Mousasi’s light-heavyweight strap. Gilbert Melendez defends the lightweight belt against Shinya Aoki.

Three great fights on free TV. Here’s hoping time allows CBS to air prelim bout Jason "Mayhem" Miller against Tim Stout.

“There’s no bigger platform and CBS was a huge part of my decision (to sign with Strikeforce),” said Henderson, the only fighter in history to simultaneously hold two different titles in two different weight classes during a conference call.

Henderson accomplished the milestone while competing for PRIDE. That means Shields, a winner of 13 straight including a squeaker against Miller, is facing the toughest challenge of his career.

“I know he has good power, but I’m not the easiest guy to hit and I certainly can take a punch,” Shields said. “I’m ready for it. I’ve worked hard on it. I know on paper he’s a better wrestler, but a lot of times it doesn’t always stack up that way when you get in the cage.”

Lawal made a name for himself in Japan after a decorated wrestling career at Oklahoma State, where he became a Division I all-American, NCAA National Collegiate Wrestling Champion and three-time U.S. Senior National Wrestling Champion. He’s undefeated in six MMA fights, but hasn’t yet faced anyone the caliber of Mousasi. King Mo may be a huge underdog, but that hasn’t prevented the affable persona from staying loose.

“Maybe I win by decision” he in his best “Kermit the Frog” voice, a jab towards the champion. “He has no personality. I’m having fun man. I’m not saying he has bad character or (he) is a bad guy. He’s cool. He’s a great champ but why can’t we just have fun up until the fight. I’m having fun training. I’m having fun talking. I have fun fighting. It’s all for fun man. People make a big deal about this but it’s a sport. It’s fun for me. Why can’t we just do what we want to do and prove ourselves in the cage?"

“I’m not known just yet but I think that will change April 17.”

Mousasi, apparently in no mood to kid around, simply said he’s in the best shape of his life having recently trained with UFC welterweight champion George St. Pierre.

“My conditioning is better. Everything is better” he said. “I improved a lot of aspect of my game. I will be at my strongest and my stamina is at its best ever. I worked on all of those things. Hopefully I can show it in the fight.”

Strikeforce is hoping for a show that’s more than simply good. Three main-event caliber fights on national television means they have to knock it out of the park to make their biggest statement to date that the group intends to become serious competitors to the UFC. Here’s hoping they do. I’ve said this time and again: Competition brings out the best in one another (think back to the WWF-WCW Monday Night Wars) and in the end the fans win.

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