TUF 12 Finale & Strikeforce St.Louis – Post-Fight Analysis

Strikeforce: Henderson Vs Babalu 2 looked like being the better of the two big events last night on paper, and boy did it deliver the goods. Due to the number of quick finishes the whole show lasted under two hours but it delivered more thrills, spills and jaw-dropping moments during that time than just about any other fight card this year.

The TUF 12 Finale on the other hand was the opposite, with all five bouts going the distance, and with judging and referee decisions being bigger talking points than the fights themselves. The UFC will no doubt be relieved that this event will quickly be forgotten about when UFC 124 rolls out next week.

Dan Henderson showed that it would be foolish to count him out at the age of 40 as he crushed Babalu in a little under two minutes. To my mind Henderson never went away. Sure his performance in the later rounds of the Jake Shields fight was a low point, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he almost finished him in the first.

Henderson now appears committed to making a run at 205lbs and I certainly wouldn’t bet against him being the Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion in 2011.

– As for Renato Sobral, two tough first round KO’s in his last two fights at 205lbs suggests he should be plotting a hasty retreat back down to middleweight.

– Over in Las Vegas Jonathon Brookins did well to bounce back from a very poor first round performance to become the next Ultimate Fighter. I felt the fight showed the deficiencies in both fighters games though – Brookins striking, and in particular his striking defense is woeful and is still showing the same fundamental errors as he was six months ago on the show.

Meanwhile Michael Johnson’s striking looked a little better but once he was put on his back he was no longer a threat and just faded away in the later rounds. With the WEC’s 155lb stars about to fold into an already stacked UFC Lightweight division it’s going to be extremely challenging for either fighter to keep their heads above water.

– In a night of spectacular KO’s for Strikeforce Paul Daley’s left hook finish over Scott Smith was the king of the hill. What a perfect start to Daley’s career with the promotion, and after a couple of less than exciting performances for smaller promotions the UK fighters proved that he’s the man for the big occasion. One more win under his belt and a blockbuster title fight with Nick Diaz should be on the cards.

– As for Smith, he’s now in the uncomfortable position of having being KO’d in his last fights at both 170lbs and 185lbs. He’s still an exciting fighter and there’ll always be fights for him in Strikeforce, but you get the feeling that the years of punishment and hard-fought battles are catching up with him now.

Robbie Lawler’s highlight reel continues to grow after starching Matt Lindland. I liked his aggressive start to the fight, he’s absolutely lethal when he’s in that kind of a mood and packs as powerful a punch as anybody at 185lbs.

I had predicted a devastating KO for Lawler in my pre-fight predictions so I wasn’t overly shocked by it. I just don’t have any faith in Lindland’s stand-up or chin, and honestly I think it’s long overdue for him to hang up his gloves.

Stephan Bonnar was perhaps the UFC’s best hope of producing an exciting finish, but he threw a curve ball and opted to grapple with Igor Pokrajac instead. It was a solid enough performance and helped him get fully back on track with two wins under his belt.

Demain Maia’s control of Kendall Grove on the ground was impressive, but I was longing for the days when the Brazilian used to tie everyone up in knots and finish in spectacular fashion. There’s less mystique about him now, and his stand-up leaves a lot to be desired.

Rick Story and Johny Hendricks are both very good fighters who pretty much canceled each other out on the night due to their similar skill-sets. They’ll both continue to be a handful for everyone else at 170lbs.

– All credit to late replacement Mike Kyle for putting in a heck of a fight for Strikeforce against Antonio Silva who was well over 40lbs heavier than him on the night. Rocking Silva in the first was a big moment for him, and though he ended up being overpowered in the second round he only enhanced his reputation here and can return to 205lbs with his head held high.

Ovince St.Preux also did well, giving Benji Radach all sorts of problems on the feet and on the ground. Really this one should have been stopped a lot sooner as Radach absorbed way to many blows to the head. OSP is still a work in progress but he’s had a terrific 2010 and he’s definitely one to watch in the coming year.

– And so to Leonard Garcia Vs Nam Phan. I thought Garcia was particularly erratic in this fight, embarrassingly so at times. Phan was more technical, but a little hesitant, particularly in the third where I think he could really have capitalized if he had thrown caution to the wind as Garcia was running on empty.

The result didn’t shock me as much as it apparently did others, I’ve seen Garcia awarded to many split decisions in recent years to expect any less. Judges consistently seem to be suckered in by his aggressive style.

– Final thought: It’s probably inevitable given the amount of events the two promotions plan to roll out in 2011 but I hope we don’t have too many head-to-head night’s like this going forward.

I’ll need to see the viewing figures to be sure but I have a feeling a lot of people probably just tuned into the TUF 12 Finale and missed out on a terrific Strikeforce event as a result which is a great shame as it was the kind of show that would have won the promotion a lot of new fans.


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