State of the Strikeforce Welterweights

Nick Diaz is one of Strikeforce's most recognizable fighters, and he's the unquestioned star of the welterweight division. But does Strikeforce have anyone to challenge him at 170 pounds?

That's one of the big questions for Strikeforce in 2011. Some people think Diaz is one of the truly elite welterweights in all of MMA, while others think it's impossible to say that because he hasn't really been tested in Strikeforce. Actually, both might be right.

So can someone test Diaz in the next year? We take a look at the state of the Strikeforce welterweight division below.

The Champion: Nick Diaz, who beat Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis in January, then went over to Dream and submitted Hayoto Sakurai, then came back stateside and avenged his loss to KJ Noons. Diaz is now on an eight-fight winning streak.

Fight that will happen:
Scott Smith vs. Paul Daley, December 4: I'm not crazy about seeing Daley back on a big stage after the ugly cheap shot he took at Josh Koscheck in his last UFC fight. And I'm not crazy about seeing these two guys at welterweight when I have questions about whether either one of them can actually make 170 pounds. But this is the fight we've got, and with those two fairly large caveats, it should actually be a pretty entertaining about between two strikers who will stand in front of each other and throw bombs.

Fights that should happen:
Diaz vs. the Smith-Daley winner: There really aren't any good options to be a No. 1 contender for Diaz, but the Smith-Daley winner is the closest thing we have. A lot of fans are clamoring for Diaz to move up to middleweight and fight Mayhem Miller, but I'd rather see Diaz defend his welterweight belt against an opponent who's sure to make things exciting, and both Smith and Daley qualify on that front.

Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachiim Spiritwolf 2: I didn't like this fight when it was first booked for the November 19 Strikeforce Challengers card, but after it turned into a complete debacle, Strikeforce ought to make the best of a bad situation, put these two back in the cage and let them settle things.

Roger Bowling vs. Bobby Voelker 3: Yes, another rematch between two guys who have previously had a fight marred by an eye poke. Bowling beat Voelker in May in a fight that was cut short because Voelker accidentally poked Bowling in the eye, and then Voelker upset Bowling in the rematch. Give them a rubber match and figure out who's the better fighter.

Others in the mix:
Joe Riggs is a veteran who's been around forever and doesn't really seem like he ought to be a title contender, but his personal rivalry with Diaz (whom he fought once in the UFC and then later that night in a hospital room) would be easy for Strikeforce to sell.

Former NCAA wrestling All-American Tyron Woodley is now 7-0 in MMA, and his most recent fight was his most impressive, a first-round TKO win over Andre Galvao. I see big things for him in 2011, if Strikeforce can put him in big fights. Woodley's wrestling would make him a very tough match-up for Diaz.

Potential breakout fighter:
Tarec Saffiedine is only 24 years old and has shown a lot of promise in his MMA career, including two solid wins in Strikeforce this year. His most recent fight was a win over Brock Larson in Shark Fights, but Saffiedine ought to return to Strikeforce in 2011, and fans ought to be excited about that.

Predicted Strikeforce welterweight champion at end of 2011: Nick Diaz

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