So here we are, with Strikeforce dead, looking at the potential impact that their biggest stars will have in the UFC, while trying to determine the promotion's true place in the mma history books. The final event was really a microcosm of the ups and downs that Strikeforce has faced throughout its 63 event journey. We had a card filled with uneven matchups, featuring truly world class athletes in the position of gaining almost nothing by their expected victories, but which also did what Strikeforce was surprisingly good at, which was showcasing homegrown talent. We also had a few very questionable occurrences involving judging and referreing, per usual in our darling sport. So let's sort through the biggest winners and losers from the last night of action in the Strikeforce cage.
Biggest Winner: Tarec Saffiedine.
Saffiedine now holds something no man will ever be able to foist away from him, the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship. Think about that for a second. Both Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz had to move on and defend their titles when the WEC was absorbed into the UFC, and Dan Henderson was given two title unification fights in a row for his Pride championships that he brought over. Not too often do fighters get to win a belt, and just keep it forever. Saffiedine is now a whole heck of a lot more likely to fight in the octagon now as well. Saffiedine fought a smart fight, constantly landing kicks to weaken Marquardt's base. He truly had a championship performance.
Most Dominant In Victory: Josh Barnett
Barnett stopped Nandor 'The Hun' in just two minutes and ten seconds. Barnett was a late arrival to fight week due to illness, and as he mentioned post-fight, he was impacted by the 'plague lords' during his fight camp. Being sick and not wanting the fight to go into deeper waters must be a real motivator, because Barnett went in there like a man possessed(perhaps by the aforementioned plague lords), taking down Nandor Guelmino after just twelve seconds of fighting. With cards like this, with a well known, top 10 heavyweight facing a relatively unknown, unranked opponent, it is tough to say of all the main card winners, aside from Saffiedine, who really had the toughest opposition. I'm giving this one to Barnett out of sheer determination, no matter how unworthy of an opponent Guelmino may have been.
Most Confused By What Tapping Means: Referee Don Turnage
With one minute left in the first round, Mousasi had a rear-naked choke sunk in and Mike Kyle tapped to it. The referee reflexively moves in closer to the action, seemingly to waive it off and get Mousasi to unsink that bad boy, and right before placing his hand on the fighter to signify the end, simply allows the action to continue a little longer. Maybe he thought that Kyle sort of recanted his tap, and wanted another chance. Maybe he thought that there is a certain number of official tap motions required. The plague lords may be the only ones who know why this eggregious error occured. Either way, Mousasi sunk it in again, and Kyle, most likely going thru a weird oxygen-lacking deja vu, tapped again.
Loser Most Deserving Of A UFC Contract: KJ Noons
The KJ Noons/ Ryan Couture fight was a great example of the conundrums that face judges. The question arose of what gets a higher value and what gets you a winning round. Is it damage, and accuracy? Or volume and activity? The Fightmetric stats show that Ryan Couture threw more strikes, but had a lower percentage of landed strikes. Couture was also the only fighter to attempt takedowns, landing none of his three tries. KJ was a little more conservative, but landed the harder shots. He did more damage. The old litmus test of a fighter's post-fight mug also favors KJ. I have my doubts about whether the Oklahoma judges were able to identify that the damage on Noons' foreheard was due to an accidental headbutt, and shouldn't have factored into their decision. Even UFC president Dana White was tweeting his disagreement with the decision, which lends itself to the idea that we might see both of these guys in the UFC.
This category doesn't really apply to many fighters on the card, but I couldn't look past the fact that Daniel Cormier declared his intention to kick the ass of a fighter thought to be one of the best ever. And unlike most other challengers to Jon Jones, this one is very, very plausible. Cormier has a wrestling pedigree unlike anyone Jon Jones has ever faced, and that has been a huge strength for the champion thus far. Jones almost has a sort of pre-fight certainty in his demeanor these days, I might too, if I had dispatched of so many legends the way he has. I don't see that same certainty occurring if we do see Cormier vs Jones take place.
A lot can be said, and has been a lot this past week, about the ups and downs of Strikeforce, and Saturday night was a great night for a lot of fighters, putting an exclamation point on the Strikeforce chapter of their careers, and providing the momentum and buzz needed to set most of them up for success in the UFC. With Jacare, and hopefully Tim Kennedy coming in at 185 lbs, and Mousasi and Cormier injecting new challenges into the 205 lbs division, the future is looking bright for the men who left Oklahoma City with a W.