So as the dust has finally settled and we all realize that the invincible Fedor Emelianenko is human, we now find ourselves asking what's next. After what could only be described as the biggest upset in recent MMA history, Fabricio Werdum has taken center stage as the proverbial mythbuster, solving the mystery that was 'The Last Emperor'. Many talking points have come since this monumental bout but one has seemed to shock me. The fact that so many are talking about an immediate rematch between the two top heavyweights in the near future. My only response to that is....why? Did I miss something in that 69 seconds of action? Did Big John McCarthy somehow stop the fight too early? Did Fedor Emelianenko simply tap Werdum's thigh because he wanted to let him know he was doing a good job? Did Fabricio Werdum cheat? If the answer to all of those questions is NO then that should be the answer to those asking for a second match up between the two. This would not only set up a horrible precedence in Strikeforce but one that would devalue Strikeforce's entire business model as a true combat sports organization.
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SBN coverage of Strikeforce and M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Werdum
While many of us give Dana White a hard time, when it comes to titles and potential challengers, he sticks to his word (for the most part). Case and point, Gabriel Gonzaga was the sacrificial lamb for then highly touted Mirko Cro Cop as they had specifically mapped out a future title bout between the Croatian and then champion Randy Couture. Gonzaga obviously didn't read the memo and proceeded to punt Mirko's head into some lucky Manchester fan's lap. The same can be said for the UFC 88 main event between Chuck Liddell and Rashad Evans where Evans was sent to be 'just another victim' but ended up tucking Chuck into bed nicely. So, while the UFC and Dana did not get the match ups they had wanted, they stuck by the fact that these were title eliminators and the winner would be awarded a title shot and thus both were.
On Saturday, Mauro Ranallo, Gus Johnson, and Frank Shamrock hammered home that the winner of this fight would face the Strikeforce heavyweight champion Allistair Overeem, even bringing the behemoth on camera for an interview. The fight happened and Fabricio Werdum was the man that had his arm raised in victory. If Scott Coker and his team at Strikeforce decide to invoke a rematch instead of moving forward with the now present Werdum/Overeem 2 (yes it would be a rematch from Pride) it would basically make the title and the division void. From a business standpoint, it does make sense. Fedor Emelianenko is probably ten times the commodity that Fabricio Werdum is, even after being bested by the Brazillian. However, this isn't World Wrestling Entertainment. This is a sport. There are no predetermined winners in combat sports. As much as Coker and co. would have loved to be able to market a potential mega-fight between their heavyweight champion Overeem and the invincible Emelianenko, it is now a moot point. Fedor lost. Fabricio won. No matter how they try to spin it and create a storyline for a rematch between the two before the winner gets a title shot will make no sense and will certainly be viewed by most as a complete and utter joke. If Strikeforce wants to be a premier organization showcasing the finest in Mixed Martial Arts, they must set and keep a standard. Just look at Bellator. As much as they probably wanted Roger Huerta to reign supreme in their lightweight tournament, it did not happen, and instead of making excuses for their acquisition they simply praised the victor and kept everything in motion.
The upcoming months for Strikeforce will indeed be interesting and newsworthy. How do they rebound from their biggest acquisition and probably only asset that put them in a place to even come close to competing with Zuffa and the UFC losing in convincing fashion? Will Coker and crew learn from this and go forward with their 'big' fights instead of attempting to slow build towards them? How will this effect Fedor Emelianenko's marketability and most importantly, will fans clamor to see him fight again now that the mystique is gone? Or has Fedor become another elite fighter and not THE elite fighter? I hope we get our answers sooner than later.