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Strikeforce Fighters Take Things Out of the Judges' Hands

Jacare Souza submits Robbie Lawler at the recent Diaz vs. Cyborg event.One of the comments UFC President Dana White likes to make when there's a close, contentious decision is that fighters shouldn't leave the fights in the hands of the judges: Finish the fight, and you don't have to worry about whether the judges are going to rob you.

But if fighters are listening to White, it may not be the fighters in his own promotion. Because it's the fighters in Strikeforce who have been finishing fights recently.

That point was hammered home on Saturday night, when Strikeforce had a very good night of fights on Showtime, with all four fights being finished, all in fairly entertaining fashion. There were no dull or contentious decisions to be found, and that's a credit to Strikeforce's matchmaking.

Here's how the televised fights in Strikeforce have ended over the last three months:
Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg had three fights finished by submission and one by TKO.
Strikeforce Challengers 13 had three decisions, a TKO and a submission
Strikeforce Henderson vs. Babalu had four (T)KOs and a decision
Strikeforce Challengers 12 had a submission, a TKO, a no contest and two decisions

And here's how the televised fights in the UFC have ended over the last three months:
UFC Fight for the Troops 2 had three TKOs and two decisions
UFC 125 had three (T)KOs, one submission and four decisions
UFC 124 had two decisions, two (T)KOs and one submission
The Ultimate Fighter Finale had five decisions
UFC 123 had three decisions, three submissions and one KO
UFC 122 had four decisions and one submission

(I'm counting only fights that were part of the televised main cards, either on Showtime in the case of Strikeforce or pay-per-view, Spike or Ion in the case of the UFC.)

So in the last three months, if you've watched all the fights on the Strikeforce televised cards you've seen seven (T)KOs, five submissions and six decisions. If you've watched all the UFC fight cards you've seen nine (T)KOs, six submissions and 20 decisions. To put it another way, 57 percent of UFC fights have gone to a decision, while only 33 percent of Strikeforce fights have gone to a decision.

What does all that mean? After the night of Dec. 4, when Strikeforce had a four-knockout thriller simultaneously with the UFC's five-decision snoozer, White said that's because Strikeforce books mismatches. There may be some truth to that, but I also think it has a lot to do with Strikeforce specifically matching their fighters up to produce fireworks, while the UFC matches up fighters based more or less on where they rank within their divisions.

From a pure sporting perspective, the UFC's approach to matchmaking is the right one: This is supposed to be a sport first and entertainment second, and when you're trying to determine which fighter is the best, you have to put them in the cage together, even if you're going to end up with a fairly dull decision. One of the advantages that Strikeforce has over the UFC is that as the sport's No. 2 promotion, Strikeforce doesn't necessarily need to construct its matchmaking from a pure sporting perspective. Strikeforce is allowed to have a little more fun with its matchups

So while I've been a critic of the matchmaking in Strikeforce, I have to say that they've done a good job of putting together fights that even Dana White would have to admit have turned out to be entertaining.

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