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Showtime Hits With UFC-Strikeforce Purchase, Misses With In-Cage Action

Gegard Mousasi and Keith Jardine battled to a draw at Diaz vs. Daley.Saturday night's Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley card was the first major event on Showtime since the UFC purchased Strikeforce, and it was a good opportunity to see how Showtime would handle its MMA broadcasts now that the premium cable channel is in business with a promotion that had previously been a rival.

Overall, I thought Showtime did a solid job of handling the UFC's purchase of Strikeforce. But once it was time for the fighters to step into the cage, the coverage of Saturday night's biggest controversy -- the Gegard Mousasi vs. Keith Jardine draw -- left something to be desired.

Let's start with the good: Showtime handled the UFC's purchase of Strikeforce appropriately by tackling it at the outset. It's a major story that deserved the upfront treatment it got.

Mauro Ranallo interviewed Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker and asked him the right questions, and although I would have liked to see Ranallo interview both Coker and UFC President Dana White (who was also in attendance), Ranallo got Coker to talk about the same thing MMA fans want to talk about: Big fights between Strikeforce fighters and UFC fighters, like a clash of heavyweight champions Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez.

Ranallo could have pressed Coker for more specifics on when we can expect to see Strikeforce vs. UFC fights, and whether there are contractual issues that could make it tough for those fights to take place. I also thought it was odd that Showtime was asking fans to answer via text messages whether they want to see UFC vs. Strikeforce fights, as if it wasn't obvious that that's exactly what the fans want -- 96 percent answered yes. But in general, I respect Showtime for tackling the biggest news story first.

The biggest problem with the Showtime broadcast was the handling of the Mousasi-Jardine draw. Mousasi's illegal kick to Jardine's face was pivotal, and Showtime should have shown the replay several times, from multiple angles, and addressed how Mousasi's point deduction led to the draw.

But immediately following the kick, instead of going over a replay, Gus Johnson asked Frank Shamrock and Ranallo, "Can you give us an idea of the new rules now that this promotion is under new management?" That was a bad question to ask under any circumstances (there's only one new rule, which is that elbows and forearms to the head on the ground are now allowed), but a particularly bad question to ask at that precise moment because it implied that Mousasi's kick was illegal because the UFC has changed the rules in Strikeforce. In reality, kicks to the head of a grounded opponent have long been banned in both Strikeforce and the UFC.

When the result (one judge scoring it 29-27 for Mousasi and two judges scoring it 28-28) was announced, Showtime's broadcast should have gone back to the point deduction from the illegal kick and discussed how significant that was. Instead, we heard Ranallo, with outrage in his voice, saying, "With all due respect to Keith Jardine, there was no way he won this fight." But no one was suggesting that Jardine won the fight. The question is whether Jardine won one round, which, along with the point deduction, was enough to earn a draw. None of the commentators ever even approached the subject of whether Jardine deserved to win one round, which is all he needed to do to earn a draw with a point deduction.

The viewers also should have been given better technical analysis during the Mousasi-Jardine fight. Mousasi's biggest flaw -- his lack of takedown defense -- is just as clearly evident now as it was in his loss to King Mo Lawal a year ago, and I would have liked to hear Shamrock, as the expert analyst, provide a more thorough explanation of why such a talented fighter hasn't been able to improve such a glaring weakness.

And while Mousasi and Jardine stood and exchanged strikes, Ranallo said, "Both guys are decent kickboxers." In reality, Mousasi is a great -- not "decent" -- kickboxer who has defeated high-level K-1 opposition. On the other hand, describing Jardine's awkward style of kickboxing as "decent" is being overly generous.

So while the proper handling of the UFC-Strikeforce acquisition was the high point in the broadcast, those issues during the Jardine-Mousasi fight were the low point. A mixed bag came in the way the Showtime announcers talked about how Strikeforce's fighters fit within the UFC-dominated MMA world.

Johnson did a good job of handling his in-cage interviews following Gilbert Melendez's impressive victories: He got Melendez to talk about unifying the Strikeforce lightweight title with the UFC lightweight title, which is something fans want to see, and he also spoke with Melendez's cornerman Jake Shields, asking Shields about his upcoming fight with UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Unfortunately, Johnson later made a ridiculous suggestion that a good UFC-Strikeforce crossover fight would be Anderson Silva vs. Cung Le. That fight would not be competitive.

Most people expect that as soon as the Strikeforce-Showtime contract runs out, Zuffa will no longer do business with Showtime. I'm personally hoping that Showtime stays in the MMA business, because Showtime has the ability to offer an independent perspective on the action outside the cage. I'd just like to see Showtime improve its analysis of the action inside the cage.

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