Switching gears: How Scott Coker should approach the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament


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The mixed martial arts community found out earlier this week the second batch of fights in the opening round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix have been pushed back to June 18 in Dallas.

The previously scheduled fight card for April 9 will instead be replaced by a championship double-header featuring Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz and Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez defending their belts against Paul Daley and Tatsuya Kawajiri, respectively.

The explanation from Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker was that he "ran out of time and couldn't find a venue that would suit the needs of all involved."

That means the semifinals won't get underway until late 2011 and possibly even 2012 depending on scheduling and injuries, indicating the tournament could still be taking place a year or two from when it started.

Can it really be considered a legitimate grand prix within that time frame? Or just a glorified pre-arrangement of marquee fights?

As a fan, I have some ideas about a new direction for the promotion and its tournament.

Check it out:


Scrap the grand prix altogether and turn Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem into a Strikeforce heavyweight title fight as soon as possible.

This will do two things. First, it puts more interest into that fight and takes away the negative reactions from the postponement of the tournament. Alistair Overeem will be defending his belt against a legitimate contender in a five round affair in what will be the biggest heavyweight title fight in the promotion's history.

It will also make the division a little easier to handle from this point on. Fighters will not need to look for other fights in the interim. Antonio Silva's manager has already stated he will ask for permission for his fighter to fight elsewhere as he awaits the second round.

Secondly, it keeps the heavyweights right where they should be. Werdum beat Fedor last year which in almost everyone's eyes made him the top contender -- if not the best heavyweight in all of Strikeforce. "Vai Cavalo" inside the Grand Prix format could have beaten Overeem and not have won the title, and if fate were to see Werdum win the entire tournament he would again be pitted against Overeem (already having two victories over the champion).

Rubber matches are less intriguing when one fighter has won both previous match-ups.

It also makes it so Overeem doesn't lose as champion of Strikeforce. We all know that in the Grand Prix format if Overeem were to lose, he would still be heavyweight champion and would very likely have to face the fighter that defeated him after the Grand Prix was over.

There was also the possibility that he would win it all, thus leaving no immediate challenger for the heavyweight belt.

Schedule Antonio Silva vs Sergei Kharitonov to determine the division's number one contender.

Ride the hot streak that both fighters are on. Strikeforce struck gold when Antonio Silva dismantled and destroyed Fedor Emelianenko because they now have a hungry heavyweight ready to break into the world rankings and in doing so, help make a claim that Strikeforce has the strongest heavyweight division in all of MMA.

Why shelve him until the end of the year or allow him to take his fire into another promotion?

Same can be said about Kharitonov who is coming off a vicious knockout victory over Andrei Arlovski. It will be very important that Strikeforce keeps him in shape and active while limiting his curiosity in venturing back to Japan and K-1.

So why not match these two up?

Both are very talented competitors and after their last showings should be right in line for the top dog in the heavyweight division. Not only could this make for an exciting match-up but it would put the best two fighters in a legitimate contender fight.

Build up Shane Del Rosario by allowing him to fight Valentijn Overeem.

We've seen the rise of Del Rosario in slow progression, but we are the hardcores! Not too many people in the casual side actually know who this guy is. Let him fight a gritty veteran on a main card again. Putting Shane in a fight against a proven heavyweight will allow Strikeforce to really gauge where he is without throwing him to the wolves opposite the top guys in the division.

This will also be a chance for a young prospect to turn into a future contender.


And finally, put an end to Fedor's Strikeforce run if M1 continues to play hardball. If not, match him up against Josh Barnett.

First of all, who isn't sick and tired of hearing the term "re-negotiate" after every single Fedor fight? It's even happened after Fedor's second consecutive loss? How does M1 have any leverage in bargaining with Strikeforce after two straight losses?

It shouldn't, and Scott Coker needs to be the boss and hold strong.

Coker should let them know they will fight under his terms or walk. Go to a declining Japanese market that is becoming more and more notorious for not paying fighters or just go promote in Russia.

Or hell, try your hand playing hardball with UFC President Dana White (again).

If he decides to fight, then stop fiddling around like Affliction and Pride did and just sign him up to fight Josh Barnett. Do it in Japan if you have a card planned there and allow the two legends of Pride to finally fight.

Barnett has his chance to truly cement his place in the rankings after being banished for his third positive steroid test. Plus, it will allow Fedor to bounce back with a win or realize his time is up with a loss.

The fight itself should secure plenty buzz around the hardcore MMA fanbase as well as the huge Japanese market that has long adored Fedor.

What do you think Maniac's? Have your own ideas? Think my ideas are horrible or spot on?

Sound off!

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