One week from today Strikeforce will hold their final event before the company joins the ranks of the WEC and Pride FC. The Strikeforce fighters will either be absorbed into the UFC or they will be looking for work elsewhere. Though the promotion has been on a downwards spiral for sometime now, the once considered #2 MMA promotion in the US still has some top tier talent.
Some of that talent is already schedule to make the UFC debut / return. While others are fighting on the upcoming January 12th final fight card. Will the Strikeforce fighters impress like the WEC fighters did just a few years ago or will they crack under the hot lamp?
Regardless of how they do once they enter they Octagon, there are several fighters that MMA fans are clamoring over seeing them step in the UFC Octagon in 2013.
Ronda Rousey: Yes she is already in the UFC, technically, but the former Strikeforce bantamweight champion will not be making her UFC debut until February. Rousey single-handedly made Dana White do a 180 in regarding to women in the UFC and her first title defense will be against Liz Carmouche in the UFC 157 main event.
Daniel Cormier: The Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix winner fights in the final Strikeforce event but has already signed a multi-fight contract with the UFC. The undefeated fighter was supposed to fight Frank Mir before the former champ was injured and the two could still meet in Cormier’s first appearance inside the Octagon. The other path Cormier could take is moving down a weight class to light heavyweight since his teammate and friend Cain Velasquez just re-captured the heavyweight crown. Either way the fans are counting the days until he makes his debut.
Gilbert Melendez: The Strikeforce lightweight champion has long been considered the #2 fighter in the world within the division. Since ZUFFA acquired Strikeforce Melendez has been one of the most vocal fighters about wanted to fight inside the Octagon and the fans agree. The division is loaded at the top but Melendez versus Benson Henderson could be happen sooner rather than later.
Luke Rockhold: The Current Strikeforce middleweight champion was rumored to be on this weekend’s card against Lorenz Larkin but an injury prevented that. Injuries have plagued Rockhold throughout his Strikeforce career but that doesn’t take away from his level of talent. Rockhold hasn’t fought since July and a fight with Larkin is still in order but the AKA fighter won’t be far from the UFC title shot should he have a successful debut.
Gregard Mousasi: Fans have wanted to see Mousasi fight in the UFC for years. The former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion has fought between Dream and Strikeforce the last several years but did not fight at all in 2013. He’ll take on Mike Kyle this weekend after a 13 month layoff before possibly signing finally signing with the UFC.
Nate Marquardt: The former UFC middleweight contender left the promotion under not so great circumstances and didn’t fight of over a year. He returned to action and won the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title over Tyron Woodley. Marquardt will face Tarec Saffiedine in the main event on Saturday for his first title defense before most likely making the jump back to the UFC. Marquardt is a beast at the new weight class and the UFC welterweight division is stacked at the top with potential match ups.
Cristiane Justino (Santos): Cyborg didn’t fight in 2012 due to suspension and the fact that Strikeforce discontinued the 145 lbs. women’s division. Every fan wants to see her face Ronda Rousey but Cyborg has been unwilling / unable to move down to the 135 lbs. division. A fight between Rousey and Cyborg would easily be the biggest fight in women’s MMA.
Josh Barnett: The runner-up in the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix is taking on Nandor Guelmino this Saturday but what happens next is unclear. The fans might want him back in the UFC but whether or not Dana White wants him is the issue.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza: The former Strikeforce middleweight champion is getting an early taste of the UFC on Saturday when he fights Ed Herman. Jacare and his high-level submission game have only lost to Gegard Mousasi and Luke Rockhold in his career. With recent losses in the UFC middleweight division the Brazilian would jump right into the mix, should he get past Herman on Saturday.
Lorenzo Larkin: Larkin burst onto the MMA scene as an exciting light heavyweight before recently moving down to middleweight. Larkin had been set to fight for the Strikeforce middleweight title and Luke Rockhold on two separate occasions but he’ll have to wait to possibly get that fight inside the Octagon.
While many of the above mentioned Strikeforce fighters will in fact step into the Octagon in 2013, some of them might not, despite what the fans want.