Eyebrows raised around the MMA world when it was announced that former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir would be crossing over to Strikeforce to fight Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier. While the whinier section of the MMA fanbase are quick to say that this is somehow a step down for Mir, this is actually a winning scenario for all concerned, especially fans.
With the tournament win, Cormier is riding a freight train of momentum, capped off by a victory over the man that many put among the top competitors in the heavyweight division worldwide, former UFC champion and Pride star Josh Barnett. But a commitment in his Strikeforce contract, the infamous “plus one” clause, keeps Cormier tied to the Showtime network for one more fight. With the rest of Strikeforce’s heavyweight division already under the UFC banner, options for Cormier were limited.
There was a rematch with Barnett, who also has the “plus one” clause. But with Cormier scoring a convincing victory, there was no reason to set up a rematch and potentially nullify what Cormier had accomplished. That left bringing in someone from the outside, either the independent circuit or the UFC. Tim Sylvia’s name kept coming up (often from Sylvia himself), and while it was rumoured that there was a deal in place ultimately it did not come to fruition.
With the cupboard of potential outside opponents bare, Zuffa decided to bite the bullet and send one of their bigger names down to Strikeforce to face Cormier. Mir was last seen in the UFC receiving a title shot against champion Junior dos Santos. He isn’t a lower-rung heavyweight or someone facing a potential cut. He is one of Zuffa’s biggest heavyweight names and his accomplishments in that division rival the best.
So why send Mir to Strikeforce? There are a few reasons. The first being that Cormier deserves a fight against someone of Mir’s calibre. The tournament win and victory over Barnett proved that Cormier’s name belong in the discussion of the sport’s top heavyweights. To feed him a lower-tier opponent just to wait out a contract is both a waste and insult to Cormier’s talent.
Secondly, despite the apparent rift between Zuffa and Showtime, Strikeforce is still a Zuffa property. It behooves them to ensure that Strikeforce is a viable property for as long as they continue to run shows under the Strikeforce banner. Once they made the decision to send a UFC talent to Strikeforce, it wouldn’t serve anyone’s interests to send someone from the bottom of the UFC’s heavyweight division to fight the top of Strikeforce’s.
With Mir at the helm, the Cormier fight will be the most hyped offering of Strikeforce’s events barring perhaps a Ronda Rousey fight. Being on a premium cable outlet, there will be a whole lot of eyeballs tuning in to see Frank Mir, and thus Cormier.
A Cormier win gives him that much more momentum heading into the UFC, having dispatched two former heavyweight champions consecutively. If Cormier loses, he lost to the last heavyweight title contender, which is far from a career-killer. If Mir wins, he is able to re-establish himself as a player in the division and gives him an opportunity to say he truly will fight “anyone, anywhere”. A Mir loss doesn’t damage his reputation any more than a loss to any other top-level heavyweight would.
Both fighters are guaranteed to be in the UFC after the fight, what this bout amounts to is a pay-per-view level fight being offered on cable TV. This is a fight that could be a genuine UFC main event or co-headliner and it’s being offered up to fans without them having to pay a fifty dollar plus price tag, it truly is a UFC fight under the Strikeforce banner. Only the most nattering nabob of negativity could find something wrong with that.