Despite Gina Carano's Loss, Wins by Cyborg, Mousasi Lift Strikeforce

Gina Carano had the weight of a sport on her shoulders. Often referred to as "the face of women's MMA," Carano almost single-handedly carried the promotion leading up to Saturday night's Strikeforce event. But now, it's someone else's burden to carry, after Carano suffered a first-round TKO at the hands of Cris "Cyborg" Santos.

In some ways, it would seem like this is the worst possible outcome for Strikeforce with its poster girl losing, but there's another possibility here, that Cyborg's win adds another major drawing card to the company's improving roster.

Make no mistake: Carano is still a star, even in losing. She has such a magnetic personality and natural star power that the loss will not slow her down. Really, are you going to skip her next match?


Whenever she gets back in the cage, she remains a main attraction. She is still extremely marketable and will have no trouble drawing attention from the media. Sure, Strikeforce would be better off with Carano as the 145-pound women's champion, but with Cyborg's win coupled with Gegard Mousasi's dominant victory over Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Strikeforce was able to showcase a pair of fighters it can build around for the future.

Follow Mike ChiappettaCyborg is rapidly building a reputation as a must-watch fighter. "Aura" is something that cannot be faked, and Cyborg is quickly establishing one. The buzz around the match, after all, was not solely because of Carano. It was because there was real danger in the bout, and in fact, most favored Cyborg to win. She went into the bout as almost a 2-to-1 favorite. The main-event match had the electricity of any top-level MMA bout we've seen in the last 2-3 years.

Cyborg has people interested, and that's not going to go away quickly. Everyone loves a dominant champion, and that's her attraction. You watch her win, and you have to wonder, who's going to beat her?

The bigger problem for Strikeforce will be generating more stars to challenge the ones they're building.

For example, who will next face Cyborg? They could sign a rematch, but it would probably be best for Carano to get at least one more fight before squaring off with Cyborg again. After the bout, Scott Coker said he had no plans to put together an immediate rematch. Then again, Strikeforce's roster is so thin that you wonder who is likely to get the nod.

Most likely is Erin Toughill, who is 10-2 and has won four straight and nine of her last 10. Toughill is a very good fighter, but here's a problem: she's never fought in Strikeforce, and most of the casual MMA audience is unfamiliar with her.

Sarah Kaufman (10-0) is another possibility, but her last bout was at 135, a weight class below Cyborg's.

In the end, it's a good problem for Strikeforce to have in that now both Cyborg and Carano are stars, but it needs to build up some of the other female fighters quickly otherwise there will be nowhere to go other than Cyborg-Carano II and possibly even a trilogy. Fans everywhere are likely to follow Carano as she gets back on the horse and attempts to chase Cyborg down.



Strikeforce can also boast of Mousasi, who improved to 26-2-1 with his 13th straight -- and most high-profile -- win. At just 24 years old, Mousasi is one of the great young talents in the sport, equally adept standing and on the ground.

It is no secret that when Affliction folded, the UFC was very interested in Mousasi, but his pre-existing deal with Japan-based DREAM precluded him signing with the UFC. But Dana White's loss is Scott Coker's gain, as Mousasi is unquestionably one of the best prospects around.

Mousasi was extremely impressive. Looking like he just woke up from a nap, he shockingly steamrolled Sobral, hardly breaking a sweat or even elevating his heart rate in the process.

With CBS executives in the crowd, Strikeforce had an electric atmosphere that had to impress. When the dust clears, the organization established Cyborg as the top female fighter in the world, Mousasi as possibly the top young prospect in the sport and still has Carano as a draw. And that's even before mentioning others like Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz, Cung Le, Jake Shields and more. All things considered, Scott Coker and company have to consider it a successful night.

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Carano vs. Cyborg
Cris Cyborg punches Gina Carano in the face at the Strikeforce event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.
Esther Lin, Strikeforce
Esther Lin, Strikeforce

Carano vs. Cyborg

    Cris Cyborg punches Gina Carano in the face at the Strikeforce event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.

    Esther Lin, Strikeforce

    Gina Carano's leg gets caught by Cris Cyborg at the Strikeforce event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.

    Esther Lin, Strikeforce

    SAN JOSE, CA - AUGUST 15: Cris Cyborg (L) battles Gina Carano during their Middleweight Championship fight at Stikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg on August 15, 2009 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

    Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images

    Gina Carano punches Cris Cyborg in the face at the Strikeforce event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.

    Esther Lin, Strikeforce

    SAN JOSE, CA - AUGUST 15: Cris Cyborg (R) battles Gina Carano during their Middleweight Championship fight at Stikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg on August 15, 2009 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

    Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images

    Cris "Cyborg" Santos, of Brazil, top, punches Gina Carano in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts Female Middleweight Championship match on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Santos won by TKO in the first round to win the championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    SAN JOSE, CA - AUGUST 15: Cris Cyborg (Top) battles Gina Carano during their Middleweight Championship fight at Stikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg on August 15, 2009 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

    Jon Kopaloff, Getty Images

    Cris "Cyborg" Santos, of Brazil, celebrates after beating Gina Carano in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts Female Middleweight Championship match on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Santos won by TKO in the first round to win the championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)Cris "Cyborg" Santos, of Brazil, celebrates after beating Gina Carano in a Strikeforce mixed martial arts Female Middleweight Championship match on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, Calif. Santos won by TKO in the first round to win the championship. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    Jeff Chiu, AP

    Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory over Gina Carano to win the Strikeforce title on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.

    Esther Lin, Strikeforce

    Gegard Mousasi dominates the fight against Babalu Sobral, winning the fight in one minute at the Strikeforce event on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, in San Jose, California.

    Esther Lin, Strikeforce

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