by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
As Strikeforce prepares for its first solo production on Showtime, the competition will not only be fierce inside the cage, but also on the airwaves.
Long has there been counter programming made by networks to try to draw attention away from a specific broadcast. In the case of Saturday night’s Strikeforce, airing at 10 p.m. ET/PT, there will be a multitude of opposition airing against them.
It’s no surprise that Spike TV will line up Ultimate Fighting Championship coverage on the same night. Both the network and the UFC have had a long history of trying to draw viewers away from their direct competition, and will do so this time with the replay of UFC 94: St. Pierre vs. Penn 2.
Normally a replay of an event over three months old may not draw much attention, but due to the ongoing drama of what’s been labeled “grease-gate,” it is understandable that fans who both did and didn’t get to see the live pay-per-view broadcast will want to check out the show and judge for themselves the happenings of the show’s main event.
ESPN Deportes will also be airing MMA on Saturday night in the second installment of its Bellator FC series. Tape-delayed from Friday’s event at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the show is set to feature first round action from the promotion’s featherweight, lightweight and welterweight tournaments.
On a separate front, two channels who also produce an amount of MMA coverage in Versus and HDNet will surprisingly be going with non-MMA shows.
Versus intends to air the pro bull riding circuit, while HDNet will go with the first episode of its new wrestling series featuring the Ring of Honor production.
Perhaps the biggest opposition on Saturday night will come from the nemesis of MMA and Showtime, as HBO plans to blanket their evening with boxing coverage.
Starting with the debut airing of the HBO documentary Thrilla in Manila about the famed Muhammad Ali vs. George Frazier 3 bout that took place on Oct. 1, 1975, in the Philippines, HBO will then shift to the latest installment of its “24/7″ reality series featuring the upcoming May 2 bout between two top pound-for-pound boxers in Manny Pacquiao and Ricky “Hitman” Hatton.
Finally, HBO will air its own live coverage of the middleweight clash between top-ranked fighters Paul Williams and Ronald “Winky” Wright on its World Championship Boxing imprint.
So, not only will Strikeforce’s April 11 debut on Showtime be a test of whether or not it can fulfill the programming gap left by the demise of EliteXC, but it will also prove whether or not the promotion can stand up in the ratings department against stiff competition as well.