Ben Fowlkes
Monday November 9th, 2009

On Saturday night, Strikeforce made its CBS debut with the world's top-ranked heavyweight in the main event. And while there weren't many surprises in the cage -- every odds-on favorite on the televised card pulled out a victory -- there's still plenty we can take away from this prime-time affair.

Brett Rogers cut the champ's nose, battered him with a couple of hard rights and, to the surprise of many, did more than simply survive when the fight hit the mat. That this is being touted as a form of success for a fighter who went on to lose via second-round TKO is proof that Emelianenko is a victim of his own dominance. Expectations for him are so high it's almost impossible to completely fulfill them, even in victory. His defense has some holes, but we knew this. Andrei Arlovski showed us that much before he -- like Rogers -- went down to a monstrous right hand. Just because he didn't walk through Rogers doesn't mean that he was exposed, however. Fedor may not win every second of every round, and he's bound to eat some punches from time to time, but until he loses a fight, he has to be considered the best heavyweight on the planet.

It was probably hard for "The Grim" to wake up Sunday morning and not feel depressed about being knocked senseless in front of millions, but there are plenty of positives for him to take away from this fight. We knew he could hit, and Fedor's face in the post-fight press conference indicated as much. But what's more impressive was how he fared on the ground. His takedown defense still needs work, particularly out of the clinch, but he did a good job of staying out of submissions and getting back to his feet. If he can do that against a guy like Fedor, he could be a serious problem for just about any other heavyweight on Strikeforce's roster.

With his decision victory over a game Jason "Mayhem" Miller, we saw the same Shields we've grown to expect. He shows up with a very specific game plan and he doesn't deviate from it one bit. The trouble is, that game plan doesn't make for the most exciting fights. Even when other fighters try to push the pace, Shields has a gift for slowing it down to a methodical grind. That's never going to be the kind of style that fills arenas, though Shields doesn't seem to care. However, at a time when Strikeforce is struggling to find main event-worthy fighters, Shields' style could become an issue. If he stays at middleweight -- and if Cung Le continues to be a scheduling nightmare -- finding opponents who fans care to see Shields fight will be tough. Signing Dan Henderson is the best solution available, though not necessarily the cheapest.

Mousasi did exactly what everyone expected him to, which is also a reason why the fight was so forgettable: He dominated. Mousasi needs a challenge. His talent and his potential are undeniable, but they're going to waste right now. Unfortunately, most top 10 light heavyweights are locked in to UFC contracts right now. There's Mousasi, and then there's Dan Henderson, who's really more suited to middleweight. He can't go up to heavyweight without being blocked by his buddy Fedor, and Mousasi insists that he absolutely can't make the cut to 185 pounds anymore. That leaves him all alone atop Strikeforce's light heavyweight division, where he's bound to get very lonely, if not downright bored.

CBS went into the Strikeforce broadcast hoping to get a piece of the 18-49-year-old male demographic that it doesn't typically see on a Saturday night. While the network is said to be pleased with the results, MMA's greatest heavyweight still couldn't outdraw reruns of Law & Order: SVU or America's Most Wanted. What does this tell us? Either that the sport as a whole is still far from the mainstream, or that a large chunk of American TV viewers are determined to do their part to spot dangerous fugitives. At least for the moment, it doesn't seem to matter whether Kimbo Slice or Fedor Emelianenko is in the main event -- they still can't compete with John Walsh's gravitas. Is that cause for concern? Only if you believe that something has to be popular to be worthwhile. MMA isn't for everyone, and that's fine. Hopefully CBS considers this a good enough return on a meager investment (they didn't exactly put everything else on hold to promote this sucker) to keep at it in 2010.

GALLERY: Best shots from Strikeforce

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