The dust has settled in Oklahoma City and the hexagonal cage of Strikeforce is being disassembled for the final time, and likely being prepped for sale on eBay. In what was a highly entertaining night of fights, Strikeforce gave a final farewell to the fans and a showcase for several of their fighters. Although I usually give you a brief recap of the fight and what’s next for each of the main card fighters in these write ups, I think it’s probably more sensible to talk about the winners who will likely be moving into the UFC and potential first opponents for their bouts.
Lightweight Bout: Estevan Payan defeated Michael Bravo via TKO (Punches) at 4:01 of Round 2
Lightweight Bout: Adriano Martins defeated Jorge Gurgel via Unanimous Decision
Adriano Martins has long been one of the top Brazilian prospects at Lightweight and he’s absolutely massive for a Lightweight. He battered Jorge Gurgel as most people expected him to and will likely make the leap to the UFC’s Lightweight division. He could probably be a good addition to one of the UFC’s international cards in Brazil, possibly against a TUF: Brazil cast member. Renee Forte or Cristiano Marcello would be good choices.
Middleweight Bout: Roger Gracie defeated Anthony Smith via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke) at 3:16 of Round 2
Gracie is one of the top submission grapplers in the world. Although his striking and his overall MMA game isn’t really proven yet, he’s as dangerous as they come on the mat. Gracie will get a shot in the UFC, but he needs to prove that he can handle wrestlers or someone who won’t be easy to takedown. The UFC has a couple of Middleweight grinders like Riki Fukuda and Tom Lawlor who would be solid matches.
Lightweight Bout: Pat Healy defeated Kurt Holobaugh via Unanimous Decision
Healy basically got screwed on this card as he had a number of big name opponents pull out of this fight because of injuries. One of those opponents was Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez. Still Healy went in there and did what he does best and used solid wrestling and striking to grind a Unanimous Decision victory. He should get a decent fighter in his UFC debut. There are so many talented fighters in the UFC’s Lightweight division that it’s hard to pick one. The winner of the upcoming Bobby Green and Jacob Volkmann fight at UFC 156 is probably a good start.
Middleweight Bout: Tim Kennedy defeated Trevor Smith via Submission (Guillotine Choke) at 1:36 of Round 3
Kennedy is a highly entertaining fighter and a former member of the US Marines. We know how much the UFC loves Brian Stann because of his military past and Kennedy could end up being just as popular and marketable. The Middleweight division is a bit thin but he’s a solid talent who comes to fight, so the UFC will certainly look to give him a chance to have some success. Derek Brunson who just made his UFC debut with a win over Chris Leben would be a good choice to test Kennedy’s UFC readiness.
Lightweight Bout: Ryan Couture defeated KJ Noons via Split Decision
This one may have been a bit controversial, but the UFC can’t be unhappy about bringing the son of UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture into the promotion. He’s still a raw and somewhat unproven talent, but Couture is a grinder much in the same make of his father. He’s not likely to ever ascend to the upper echelon of UFC fighters, but he’s fun to watch. Bouts against fighters like Sam Stout or Anthony Njokuani might prove to be entertaining bouts and good tests of his capabilities as a fighter.
Catchweight (194 Pounds) Bout: Ronaldo Souza defeated Ed Herman via Submission (Kimura) at 4:38 of Round 1
Ronaldo Souza might be one of the Strikeforce fighters who has the biggest impact on the UFC. He’s a very tough and very talented fighter who continues to improve his overall MMA skillset. One of the best grapplers on the planet, his striking has been rapidly improving under the tutelage of the trainers at the Black House Gym. He’s probably going to need a big fight first and since I think one of the best possible match ups they could give him is a top contender. Someone like Hector Lombard would fit the bill almost perfectly. Or perhaps a rematch with Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold for a chance at a bout with Anderson Silva.
Light Heavyweight Bout: Gegard Mousasi defeated Mike Kyle via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:09 of Round 1
Gegard Mousasi is one of the most talented fighters in the Light Heavyweight division, although in my opinion he might be a bit undersized for the division. Still he’s a handful anywhere the fight goes with excellent kick boxing skills and a dangerous submission grappling acumen. He outworked Kyle on the ground and took advantage of his opponent’s weakness to earn a submission victory. Mousasi should receive some stiff competition almost immediately upon his entry to the UFC. A bout with Forrest Griffin might be a good way to introduce him to UFC fans. Or perhaps a bout with Shogun, despite him coming off of a loss, would be a good gauge of Mousasi’s place in the UFC.
Heavyweight Bout: Josh Barnett defeated Nandor Guelmino via Submission (Arm Triangle Choke) at 2:11 in Round 1
Much has been made of the bad blood between Zuffa and Josh Barnett. Despite him being a former UFC Heavyweight champion, many people wondered whether he would be welcomed back. My guess is that they will bring Barnett into the fold, he remains a likely Top 10 Heavyweight fighter and is highly marketable due to the pro-wrestling style nature of his interviews and interactions with fans and media. If he is indeed brought into the UFC there a number of suitable match ups for him including Antonio Rodrigo Nigeria or Shane Carwin.
Heavyweight Bout: Daniel Cormier defeated Dion Staring via TKO (Punches) at 4:02 of Round 2
Everyone knew Daniel Cormier was coming to the UFC, he probably would have come over even if he happened to lose by some fluke. He’s the reigning champion of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and one of the top Heavyweight fighters in the world. He laid out his plans for his trip to the UFC immediately in his post fight interview. He called out former UFC Champion Frank Mir for a bout at an upcoming UFC on Fox card. I wonder how much Showtime liked Fox being given a primetime plug on their network. He also outlined his desire for a future match up against UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones.
Welterweight Championship Bout: Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt via Unanimous Decision to win the Strikeforce Welterweight Title
This was another entertaining bout albeit it was a bit of a slow starter. It was also a bout that not many people thought that Saffiedine could win, myself included. Saffiedine used significantly improved wrestling and leg kicks backed by an excellent jab to outwork Marquardt across all five rounds. There is a bit of a logjam in the UFC’s Welterweight pecking order, so Saffiedine isn’t getting an immediate title shot, that’s almost certain. But he has done something to earn himself a top contender and the chance to work himself into the title picture. They will certainly be daunting match ups but he deserves the shot. Martin Kampmann is available but is coming off of a loss. The winner of the upcoming match between Demian Maia and Jon Fitch could work. Or perhaps the winner of the upcoming Carlos Condit – Rory MacDonald fight.
The Losers: The last thing to really touch on is to ask whether any of the losers will have a place in the UFC. According to a couple of fighters, many were told that the stakes were basically win and move to the UFC or lose and become unemployed. I have a hard time imagining that the UFC would be so shortsighted as to leave solid, talented fighters on the table because of politics or backstage promises.
Middleweight Anthony Smith looked decent before losing to Roger Gracie via Submission in the second round. With the UFC being thin at Middleweight, I could see Smith getting a one-bout contract with the UFC. If he wins there might be a place for him, if he loses it’s probably back to unemployment. A lower ranked Middleweight like Tim Credeur would be good. Or perhaps Trevor Smith who looked game before succumbing to a Tim Kennedy on the same card in a similar winner stays, loser leaves town UFC fight.
Ed Herman will obviously remain a UFC fighter as he will not be punished for doing the promotion a favor and stepping in as a late replacement for a fighter as dangerous as Jacare Souza. Mike Kyle is a former Heavyweight who now competes at Light Heavyweight and prefers to stand and bang. He’s never going to be a top contender but he’s got an exciting style and big time knockout power and he’s fairly marketable, so I would be surprised if he didn’t get a shot at a UFC bout.
Former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nate Marquardt might be an interesting case as well. He was released from his UFC contract a while ago for failing a pre-fight medical test because of high levels of testosterone. If he is welcomed back, there are a number of decent fights for him. Thiago Alves is a decent potential opponent. As would be Dan Hardy or James Head.