Ahh … ding dong Strikeforce is gone. I can’t believe I spent the night covering the main card as opposed to watching the 49ers-Packers game. Being a Bears fan, and still ticked the Packers couldn’t beat the Vikings in Week 17 to let us into the playoffs, there was something sad about missing the ability to see Aaron Rodgers and company get destroyed on national television. And it felt like the MMA version of the old WWF Saturday Morning television shows; this was a series of one-sided ass-kickings with a competitive main event. The question comes now, as Strikeforce is put down like a zombie on “The Walking Dead,” is who stays and who goes.
Now normally on “Five for Fighting” I take the five most intriguing winners, and losers, and figure out where they go next. Without a promotion remaining let’s play matchmaker and poach the fighters from this card most likely to make the transition into the UFC.
Roger Gracie vs. Buddy Roberts – Roger Gracie is not going to change as a fighter. He’ll be competent standing and one deadly son of a gun on the ground. He’s also from the first family of fighting, as well, so odds are he’ll get a couple of fights in the UFC if he doesn’t get blown out of the water in his first fight there. Roberts makes perfect sense in that he’s got potential but he was thrown into the deep end of the pool much sooner than he should’ve. Tom Watson could be another pick as well; Gracie will get another shot on the undercard of a Brazil card where he can be a local hero.
Pat Healy vs. the winner of Diego Sanchez vs. Takanori Gomi – Healy’s ceiling is starting to come into play as a lightweight; he’s another version of Mark Bocek. Bocek versus either of these guys could make sense so slotting in Healy won’t be that much of a shocker.
Tim Kennedy vs. the winner of Chris Camozzi vs. Nick Ring – I’m torn on Kennedy. At times he looks like a Top 10 fighter, without a doubt, and at other times he looks like a guy who’s a slight step ahead of Ed Herman. He’s also a super nice guy and made for one of the best episodes of “Deadliest Warrior” when he appeared on it. I think the UFC lets him dip his toes into the water on the shallow end first. Ring or Camozzi would make for a fun undercard fight and give us an immediate sense of where the Army Ranger will wind up in the hierarchy of the UFC middleweight division.
Ryan Couture vs. Norman Parke – Yeah I think Randy’s kid will get a shot in the company as it feels like a guarantee in a way. Worst case scenario it’s a talking point as they become the first father/son combination to log time in the Octagon as someone on the undercard gets to make a name by putting a beating on Randy’s kid (which will be his unofficial nickname, you watch). Couture has a lot to prove as he’s capable of being a solid lightweight but he’s not a brilliant or terrifically talented fighter by any means. He won’t be a legend like his father but getting a number of fights in the UFC isn’t a bad career accomplishment. And I think he gets Parke, the first TUF: UK vs. Australia winner. For both fighters it’s a tough but winnable fight.
KJ Noons vs. Joe Lauzon – Noons is rarely dull, even if he’s a borderline guy to be in the UFC especially in the lightweight division. You know who usually blows those guys out of the water? Joe Lauzon. Lauzon is the lightweight who basically sorts the wheat from the chaff in the division; guys on their way up to the upper echelon have a rough time with him and he usually beats everyone else. Noons has shown the ability to be entertaining and Lauzon/Jamie Varner was on the main card of a Fox show once upon a time, stealing the show in a fight of the year candidate. Noons/Lauzon would be entertaining and Noons could get more than a cup of coffee in the UFC with a solid showing. I think if he has a barnburner with Lauzon he gets two-three fights total; Noons just never pulls the trigger despite having so much talent. He is the same guy who’s beaten down Yves Edwards in no time back when that meant significantly more than it does now.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Brian Stann – It doesn’t get any better for Jacare as he did the one thing he had to do: destroy the gatekeeper to the elite in the UFC. Souza looked like an elite fighter, a Top Five fighter, taking on someone nominally ranked between 11-15 or so. Stann is fighting Wanderlei at LHW because Silva isn’t going down there anymore and Stann will be coming back shortly thereafter. Make this a feature fight on a card and you’ll have a great matchup. Mark Munoz would be a fun matchup in this spot as well as someone like Cung Le. Souza is such a unique style matchup that there’s a TON of matchups to make with him.
Ed Herman vs. Alan Belcher – Both guys happen to be in the same awkward spot now in the UFC middleweight division. Herman was on the way to becoming a contender before two losses derailed him. Belcher kept barking like he was the best in the world and wound up getting his doors blown off by Yushin Okami. So what do you do with them? Put them in the cage and see how game they are.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Alexander Gustafsson – Mousasi blew Mike Kyle out of the water and looks like he could do something in the UFC. Gustafsson beat Shogun Rua but didn’t do it in the sort of soul-snatching manner we all thought would happen. It was a beating but Shogun didn’t go gently into the good night, either. I felt the same way about “The Mauler” as I did about Chris Weidman after he steamrolled Mark Munoz this summer; good but not ready. He needs more seasoning, like a steak that looks ready but the meat thermometer says it’s not quite all the way done yet.
Josh Barnett vs. Roy Nelson – While I don’t think Barnett will actually sign onto the UFC, as he feels like a candidate to beat up on pre-diabetic bouncers in Bellator’s heavyweight division while pretending to fight in TNA on Spike TV more than fighting the best in the world in the UFC. Throw in his potential problems getting licensed in a state with an actual athletic commission who gives a crap and he might end up being more hassle than he’s worth. If Dana White and company are going to bite a bullet and bring back the three time steroid cheat there are plenty of great matchups for him. I think Barnett doesn’t take what’ll amount to a lowball offer from Zuffa, of course, but let’s say they come to terms. Roy Nelson could be a fun first matchup. Nelson’s got that big right and some of the best grappling in the division. Barnett has a tough chin and some of the best grappling in the division.
Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir – Cormier called him out for April and I think he gets it. Cormier is a star in the making and right now his teammate hold the heavyweight title. Cormier has said he wants Mir, and then Jon Jones, and I think Mir might be the one he gets first. If Overeem beats Cain for the title potentially Cormier/Overeem could be slated instead of Cormier/Jones. The only concern is the weight cut, of course, and whether or not he can make 205. If you want to make him a star than putting him in with Mir will do the trick; Frank has this awesome habit of losing in spectacular, star-making fashion and doing so on Fox would make Cormier into someone that casual fans will want to pay to see next.
Nate Marquardt vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama – Sexyama can’t catch a break in his UFC career and I think he gets Marquardt in his debut. After three brutal fights to open his middleweight career, and then Jake Shields at welterweight, the Japanese product has gotten a murderer’s row of opponents. And it isn’t going to get any easier, either, as he was scheduled to take on Thiago Alves before he got injured. Thus the sexiest Japanese man of them all will probably get thrown to the wolves … again.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Thiago Alves – Tarec isn’t going to get someone in the Top Five but a big time win over someone like Marquardt gives him a tough opening fight. Alves meets all that criteria.