I shouldn't pretend I find this card tonight hugely packed with significance. This column is predicated on events staging fights where the outcomes determine quite a bit for those involved as well as the divisions they're in. While I certainly would not want to diminish the personal significance fighters feel or experience, I would be disingenuous to state this fight card has any sizeable measure of significance outside of the main and co-main events (and Miesha Tate's mysteriously buried preliminary fight). Beyond that, none of the fighters on this card are in relevant enough positions for me to meaningfully weigh stakes that have impacts beyond their own win/loss ledger.
I'm not suggesting one way or the other whether you should watch tonight's event. Ronda Rousey's ascension is can't-miss material personally speaking, but between Strikeforce's hugely depleted roster and Showtime's insistence on keeping the operation alive, neither party has a ton of material (relative to previous shows) to give audiences a huge incentive to take this all in.
That said, tet's take a closer look at the main and co-main event fighters on tonight's Showtime main card to see what's at stake.
At stake: momentum. Rousey is on the verge of being a huge star in mixed martial arts. Complaints of overexposure are probably somewhat true, but who else was going to promote this card? Besides, the rest of the entities promoting her - Conan O'Brien, ESPN The Magazine - had genuine interest in her.
The reality is that none of this goes away with one loss, but it certainly makes the climb a bit more difficult. Rousey needs to capitalize on the intense interest in her. Outside of Jon Jones, Rousey is the next big star in the sport, but like Jones, she has to beat the list of contenders put in front of her. Ideally, she needs to beat them in the same way Jones easily dispatched with his foes. If she can do that, the sky is the limit.
For Kaufman, she earned this bout because of the win streak she put together. She'll never be as popular a commodity as Rousey, but that's not the issue. Kaufman has a chance to become a two-time women's bantamweight champion. She has a chance to take some of Rousey's shine and place it on her. This is her opportunity to make an indelible imprint on women's MMA.
At stake: another chance at gold. I don't think Brunson's chances at victory are particularly strong, but he is a capable position wrestler and obviously a fairly sensational athlete. That's probably not enough to get by Jacare, but let's assume it is for a moment. A Brunson vs. Rockhold fight wouldn't set the world on fire, but the animosity between the two wouldn't be the worst of worlds either. There is a little something to sell there for Strikeforce.
Obviously the big ticket, though, is a rematch with Jacare. The first fight was incredibly exciting to say nothing of how competitive a rematch would be. Souza has to get by Brunson - which is perfectly capable of doing - to get to that point. Lacking focus or not fighting up to his potential, however, would be disastrous. He wouldn't simply lose out on a title rematch, but he would've lost out after being defeated by opposition that puts him fairly far back in the Strikeforce middleweight queue.
...and then there's the rest of the card:
Miesha Tate can arguably earn herself a rematch with Rousey if she blows past Julie Kedzie, which is certainly possible. Ovince St. Preux doesn't prove much beating T.J. Cook, but a win might help erase the sting of losing to Gegard Mousasi in the way he did. Lumumba Sayers doesn't just need a win over Anthony Smith; it'd be good for his career to see a fight go past the first round. Tarec Saffiedine does actually risk losing a lot should he fall short against Roger Bowling, but a win doesn't appreciably move the needle in the right direction.