The Impact of The Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament

Many mixed martial arts fans are excited about the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament.  The tournament features 8 fighters in the field, many of who are among the best heavyweights in the world.  Fighters such as former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Silva and Brett Rogers.  It is hard to argue that field is not one of the best tournament fields ever set up in the sport on North American soil.  Pat Miletich has hailed this tournament as the biggest event in North American mixed Martial Arts since TUF 1.  While I am impressed with the tournament field, I am not convinced that the impact is going to be a wide spread as many expect.

Some people have already declared that the winner of this 8-man tournament will be the best heavyweight in the world.  I disagree again.  Let me explain.

While many fans may be aware of the Strikeforce tournament, Strikeforce still (like it or not) does not have the same draw as the UFC name.  In fact, many people have no clue what Strikeforce is or that this tournament will take place.  While I expect Saturday’s opening round to do decent ratings most of the fighters in this tournament are not stars in America.  Guys like Emelianenko, Barnett and Overeem are much more well-known in Japan than in America.

Don’t get me wrong this field of eight is solid.  There are intriguing match-ups.  There will be a growing buzz as the tournament progresses.  I would love to see Fedor vs. Werdum II or Fedor vs. Overeem.  Heck, I’d love to see Fedor vs. Barnett finally happen.  However, the imapct will not be earth shattering.  Ratings will be steady.  The hardcore fans will salivate.  Meanwhile, the casual fan will not even know what is taking place.

Furthermore, I do not see any way that the winner of this tournament can be viewed as the best in the world.  Currently, I have Emelianenko, Overeem, Werdum, Silva, and Barnett all in my top 15 in the world in their weight class.  However, I do not have any of them as number 1.  That spot currently belongs to UFC champion Cain Velasquez.  Also, I think that within the top 5 you have to include former UFC champion Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos.  Meaning that within the top seven in the world four of them are in the UFC.  The winner of this tournament may have to go through an impressive roster of fighters, but they cannot just leapfrog other guys.  Cain Velasquez cannot be unseeded unless he loses.  And what if Werdum wins the tournament? He holds a career loss to Junior Dos Santos.  even with Werdum’s win over Fedor I would struggle to rank him above Dos Santos unless Dos Santos incurs a loss.  Also, I think the level of competition the UFC guys face regularly is better than the body of work that any guy in this tournament will face this year.  The UFC does not label their match makings as “tournament”, however, it is quite impressive when you consider in 2010 Velasquez beat Lesnar and Nogueira.

The ranking of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament winner will depend on who wins the tournament, who the defeat and how they look in victory.  There are still a lot of variables that come into play in this tournament.  There are potential injuries, potential upsets, potential commission problems (see Barnett), etc.  I will be utterly shocked if this tournament goes on without hiccup.

I also feel like the tournament bracket is lopsided.  One side of the bracket has the four best fighters.  That may be great for the quarter-finals and the semi-finals, but it sets up for a letdown in the finals.  It should have been set up so Fedor vs. Overeem was the final.

The Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament is a win for the fans, however, it is not the greatest thing to happen to the sport.  In fact, your average UFC card puts on more compelling fights than the whole tournament will.

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