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Boxing-Style Matchmaking Backfires for Strikeforce

As Strikeforce and Showtime attempt to promote former WWE star Bobby Lashley as a legitimate MMA fighter, they've made a key misstep: Trying to use boxing-style matchmaking in MMA.

When boxing promoters think they have a fighter with star potential, they try to give him some easy opponents early in his career to pad his record, and they wait until he's won a lot of easy fights before they put him in the ring with an opponent who represents a real challenge. That's not typically the way matchmaking has worked in MMA, but that's exactly what Showtime and Strikeforce tried with Lashley, when they decided that his Strikeforce debut would come against a guy named Yohan Banks on January 30 in Miami.

Banks has dabbled in both boxing and MMA, building an MMA record of 2-1 and a boxing record of 2-3-3. The main reason Strikeforce and Showtime thought he'd be a good opponent for Lashley is that they thought he'd be an easy opponent for Lashley: They wanted to give Lashley a fight they were sure he'd win, padding his record to promote him for bigger fights down the road.

But that strategy has backfired, as the Florida State Boxing Commission told MMA Junkie that it won't sanction Lashley vs. Banks because the commission "determined that the bout was not competitive."

And now Strikeforce and Showtime are just two weeks away from Lashley's debut, and they still don't have an opponent for him. Maybe Strikeforce and Showtime can act fast and find a competitive opponent for Lashley. Or maybe they're going to end up losing one of the fighters who was supposed to be a big draw on their Miami show, because boxing-style matchmaking backfired.