Relegated to the co-main event on a Challengers show, Sarah Kaufman had no choice but to make a big statement in order to improve her standing on the Strikeforce/Showtime hierarchy.
Friday, she did just that.
Kaufman emphatically knocked out Roxanne Modafferi with a head-smashing slam, retaining her Strikeforce women's welterweight championship at "Strikeforce Challengers 9" in Everett, Wash., and earning her way onto a big Strikeforce show in the future.
It's clear earning a spot on a big show was first-and-foremost on Kaufman's mind during her post-fight interview, as one of the first things out of her mouth was how she now deserves to be on the big show.
And she absolutely does. She deserved it even before this win just for being a world champion if nothing else. Now, she's notched her most impressive win against the No. 1 contender.
The ball's in Strikeforce's court now. Will they continue to enrage Kaufman and spit on their own championship by relegating her to Challengers show? Or will they do the prudent thing? The answer seems simple, but simple often is not simple when talking about Strikeforce.
With Marloes Coenen being named the title's new No. 1 contender, it does seem Kaufman and her championship are on their way to a main Strikeforce show in the near future. That, combined with a potential rematch with Miesha Tate (or Meisha Tate if you believe the broadcast's graphics) if Tate wins next month's 135-pound tournament, should be enough to keep Kaufman on main cards for good.
The fight's presentation, though, was hardly worthy of a world championship fight. Kaufman and Modafferi were introduced like any other non-main event fighter on the show. No introductions in the cage, no pomp and pageantry. Just further insulting behavior toward the women's division and the 135-pound title.
But none of that should take away from the performance Kaufman put on in this fight. Kaufman took the fight over in the second round before turning Modafferi's overzealous armbar attempt into a power bomb that even potential Strikeforce signee Dave Batista would be proud of. Kaufman put strikes on Modafferi, hurting her at one point in the second round and then cemeted her place in MMA highlight reels with that slam.
So now Kaufman has the biggest win of her career in the most impressive fashion possible. It was a great night for Sarah Kaufman, who showed she belongs on the big show.
But here's a question for Strikeforce and Showtime: If a tree falls in the forest and no one's there to hear it, does it make a sound?