This Saturday Strikeforce comes to its long overdue end as a mixed martial arts promotion. With its previous two scheduled events getting cancelled because of injuries (more so due to lack of star power on the cards themselves, but injuries being the direct reason), this is the 'stacked card' we were promised. There are a lot of factors that played into how this card took shape, from executive dealings, to fighters politicking, and a some others we will attempt to pick through here, along with predictions of who will and won't advance to fight in the UFC.
It is somewhat surprising that Nate Marquardt is one fight away from a return to the UFC. Fighting your way back to the big show isn't uncommon, but what is uncommon is doing so after being black listed by Dana White. Hence I provide you with this youtube video
which should provide some context into the nature of Nate The Great's departure from the UFC.
(As a side note, it's important to ask yourself if Dana would have blasted Marquardt this heavily had this news come out post-fight, rather than pre-fight, preventing the fight from happening.)
With a win over Tarec Saffiedine on Saturday, in his first and only welterweight title defense, Marquardt is poised to actually make that UFC welterweight debut that never came about due to the failed medicals caused by his high testosterone levels. Will he be welcomed back if he were to be upset by Saffiedine? Would Saffiedine be thrown into the deep waters of the UFC 170 lbs division with said upset? Will the loser, whomever he may be, end up in the octagon?
Prognostication: If Nate Marquardt wins, he get's the 'one fight away' treatment where he'll be matched up with a top 6 or so welterweight, with a title show looming beyond that. Should the upset occur, I can't see Tarec Saffiedine getting thrown into the deep water at welterweight and surviving, leaving him to wade the waters of the middle of the pack, or sink and end up fighting elsewhere.
2011 Heavyweight Grand Prix Winner Daniel Cormier and runner-up Josh Barnett are also on the card in Oklahoma City, facing Dion Staring and Nandor Guelmino respectively. The logical next move for the winner of a heavyweight tournament in an organization with no heavyweight division outside of that tournament, which happens to share owners with the UFC, would be to fight in the UFC itself, but that would deny the good folks at Showtime one last night to get some butts in seats and some eyes on their channel. So here we are with Daniel Cormier, a fighter who is arguably one of the top three heavyweights in the world, facing Dion Staring.
Who is Dion Staring, you ask? Well he is on a six fight win streak, and has a professional record of 28-7. Not bad, on the surface. Staring's most recent win was over a man with two wins and 13 losses. The man he beat prior to that has a pro record of 24 wins and 19 losses.
Prognostication: I'm not even going to entertain the idea of Staring winning this fight, so after Daniel Cormier wins and is able to escape Strikeforce, he will move into the UFC to most likely challenge Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title in mid-2013. Just for the sake of typing it, I also would say that Cormier would still enter the UFC on a loss.
Jumping quickly into the Barnett vs Nandor Guelmino fight, which is another instance of the aforementioned motivations of the Showtime executives to capitalize on the build-up of the 2011 Grand Prix. I could easily envision neither of these fighters making it into the octagon, however unfortunate it would be. Barnett in Strikeforce has seen a career resurgence, one of the few men in the organization to do so. It would be a shame to deny him at least one chance to prove himself in the octagon.
The Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle fight is perhaps one of two, if not the only fight on the card where both fighters may end up in the Octagon. Mousasi is one of the best 205ers outside the UFC, a journeyman who has fought in Strikeforce, Dream, Deep, Bodog, M-1, and Pride. It would take a victory for Mike Kyle to see a UFC cage, who only has onewin in his last three fights.
Prognostication: Mousasi defeats Kyle and finally gets to test his mettle against the best in the world, against someone like Phil Davis or Alex Gustafsson.
Ed Herman's UFC job ought to be safe, being the one fighter on the card to come from the UFC to Strikeforce for their final event. He faces 'Jacare' Souza in the opening fight of the main card on Saturday. This would be the other fight where they both may end up in the UFC. Jacare's only loss in his last six fights was against Luke Rockhold, who is(or was, depending on how you look at things) the Strikeforce middleweight champ. Surely the UFC wouldn't pay all the money for Hector Lombard and deny Jacare? Would they?
Prognostication: Jacare wins, does his happy alligator chomping thing in the cage, and moves to the UFC, maybe against someone like Lombard, or Yushin Okami. Ed Herman also find his way back into the octagon, hopefully.
The prelim card contains fights that can be described as nothing more than 'loser leaves town' matches. The idea being that the UFC would welcome the winner most certainly, and the loser can expect their walking papers. Here are some quick picks for who will in fact end up in the octagon: Pat Healy, Roger Gracie, Tim Kennedy, and KJ Noons. It's sad that throughout all the great fights and stars that have come out of Strikeforce, the prevailing memory will be of all the fighters who were UFC caliber that were stuck tredding water in the B-league. But the end is nigh, and the Strikeforce apocalypse comes to us on a free preview weekend, which will save plenty of us two phone calls to our cable companies.