Strikeforce is dead. After January 2013 we’ll be able to etch the final date into stone, as the once burgeoning second tier MMA promotion will have officially closed up shop. It’s been a slow death, one in which Zuffa first pilfered as much out of the company as they could before Showtime made them hold onto some talent for approximately a year. Now, with yesterday’s major story of Strikeforce being disbanded and Ronda Rousey being an official member of the UFC roster apparently, it’s time to get down to the brass tacks and figure out what stays and what goes from Strikeforce into Zuffa.
At this point it’s time to figure out their break apart value, as Gordon Gecko would say in “Wall Street,” as the most valuable assets from Strikeforce are gathered and the rest are discarded. In order to figure this all out we need to establish a couple of ground rules that Zuffa is most likely going to use once they shutter the doors.
Zuffa is overloaded with welterweight and lightweight fighters, thus being a middle of the road middleweight on up will get you a shot at the UFC’s roster better than being the same as a lightweight.
Ronda Rousey is a star. No one else is. Zuffa will be able to be in a position where all they have to do is find someone three months out for her in the world of women’s MMA; if you’re a female fighter you better have a call in to Invicta or Bellator right now.
Josh Barnett is probably an elite heavyweight. Will he be transitioned over? Probably not. He’s a three time steroid cheat, an unrepentant one at that, who has a full schedule of pro wrestling year round to deal with as well. Zuffa is going to have to show him the cash (doubtful) or let him work a wrestling schedule in Japan (doubtful) to get him into the UFC full time, as well. Rafael Cavalcante is currently suspended for a year, too, on the same choices. Anyone with problems with the commission will have a tougher choice of being a part of the UFC roster.
If you hold a Strikeforce title you’ll have a roster spot. Anyone with a Strikeforce title is generally an elite fighter in the division, most likely, so it makes sense. Odds are you won’t be seeing too many title changes on the January 13 card but right now it could be the ticket for an underdog to have a much higher profile shot at going over to the UFC when all is said and done.
So who goes over? I’ve broken it down into a handful of categories based on a reasonable guess.
No-Brainer - Daniel Cormier, Nate Marquardt, Luke Rockhold, Gilbert Melendez, Ronda Rousey
Anyone with a Strikeforce belt is going to be brought over, no doubt. So expect all the champions to have a guaranteed slot in the UFC and a probable high level fight to start out with. The UFC is also going to be in the Ronda Rousey business, not women’s MMA, thus expect her to be over there as well. The first four fighters listed are guys who have been legitimately elite fighters in the sport and are essential no-brainers.
When you look at these fighters the question becomes “Could they be on a main card of a pay per view?” All pass the eyeball test.
Probable - Josh Thomson, Tim Kennedy, Ronaldo Souza, Jorge Masvidal, Tyron Woodley, Jason High, Pat Healy
Strikeforce isn’t very deep but what they do have are a number of fighters who are arguably Top 25 in the world. Zuffa likes having tons of talent and with the sheer volume of cards they run the odds would say that you’d bring in their second tier of fighters and start them on undercards, etc. Is there a long term future for these guys? Yes. You could argue that this second tier of fighters could be potential Top 10 guys in the near future.
When you look at these fighters the question becomes “Could they be on an undercard of a promotion, fighting their way onto the main portion?” All pass that eyeball test.
Questionable – Josh Barnett, Lorenz Larkin, Roger Gracie, Gegard Mousasi, Gian Villante, Jorge Santiago, Tarec Saffiedine
Barnett would be a lock, based off his value as a top tier fighter, but joining the UFC would mean he gives up his commitments in Japan as a wrestler and be able to get licensed outside of states with lenient guidelines for multiple time steroid users. I’m not sure if he’d want to do that. Mousasi is also injured and I can’t imagine he’d get the same lucrative deal in the UFC that has in Strikeforce. Santiago still needs to prove himself at welterweight and Gracie/Villante are projects that need seasoning. Saffiedine with a win over Marquardt would have a better shot but he and Santiago are in a numbers game at welterweight.
When you look at these fighters the question becomes “Is there something there that could make them above a Facebook prelim at any point in the next two years?” All pass that eyeball test.
Slim Chance – Everyone else
Women’s MMA right now is Invicta FC and a couple of high profile Strikeforce fights opposite a handful of Bellator cards per year. There just aren’t enough talented fighters to bring in a full on women’s division with Rousey as its champion. Look for the entire division to head over to Invicta to get fights, as a handful of fighters from Strikeforce’s women’s division have already made appearances. The rest of the male fighters will command a better and more active fight card outside the UFC until they really show they can be UFC caliber fighters.
When you look at everyone else the question becomes “Is there a chance they could be more than just a guy who fills in on short notice on an undercard fight?” Everyone else on the roster is in that shaky category of whether or not they could be talented enough to be in the big show.