What's Next for Top 'UFC Bound' Strikeforce Stars?
Four more days, and we can all finally move past this Strikeforce thing and go about the business of seeing the best guys in the world fight each other.
Four more days, and we won't have to deal with this charade between Zuffa and Showtime. You know, the one where they pretend to still like each other while also insisting that Strikeforce will be around for the long haul? Yeah, that's going by the wayside, and none too soon.
Sure, Bellator might insist that they have some of the best fighters in the world, but we all know that's not true, at least right now. They actually only have one of the very best; his name is Eddie Alvarez, and he'd sure like to be in the UFC right now, but Bjorn Rebney is simultaneously going back on his word and suing a man he says he still considers to be a friend. Because good friends sue other good friends all the time.
But I'll get into the Rebney/Alvarez/UFC stuff a little later, once I've had time to stop thinking about how ridiculous the whole thing is. For now, let's talk Strikeforce. More importantly, let's talk about what's going to happen with all of these big-time Strikeforce guys once they get into the UFC fold.
I'll miss Strikeforce as much as the next guy; covering their live events has been a particular highlight of my career, especially when crazy things like the Nashville brawl unfolded. The UFC product has always been very regimented and professional, but with Strikeforce, it wasn't like that. It oftentimes felt like the Old West, or what I imagine the Old West would feel like without guns, horses and death.
I say all of this to say that I will miss Strikeforce very much, but I'm also glad that it's gasping its final breath on Saturday night. It's been painful for everyone involved, the least of which includes the fighters I'll mention in the following slides. It's time for them to move on, to slide over into the same roster as their peers and to finally have the chance to be recognized among the best.
And with that, let's take a look at what might be next for some of the Strikeforce stars who are moving over to the UFC in just a few days.
With all apologies to Gilbert Melendez—who likely will be the first of the new Strikeforce stars to earn a title shot in his new division, and justifiably so—the guy that the fans are truly interested in is Daniel Cormier.
A lot of that comes as a byproduct of the fact that Cormier is a heavyweight, and fans like the big boys. But Cormier has also been the biggest Strikeforce success story of the last few years, by virtue of winning the last great Strikeforce idea in the heavyweight grand prix, and fans are excited to see how he does in the UFC.
It's likely we'll see Cormier go one and done at heavyweight, because a move to light heavyweight for a fight with Jon Jones seems all but certain. But first, Cormier will face Frank Mir, likely on April 20 at the UFC's next Fox event in San Jose. A win over Mir, and Cormier gets the next shot at Jones after he finishes his business with Chael Sonnen.
Cormier faces Frank Mir on April 20
Gilbert Melendez has waited a long time to ply his trade in the UFC, and he's finally going to get his chance. He'll also get his chance to prove that he's the best lightweight in the world, as his first bout in the UFC will likely come against champion Benson Henderson in a title unification bout.
Henderson wants it. Melendez wants it. The UFC wants it. The only question is whether it'll be on free television or not. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that you'll see Henderson vs. Melendez in the main event of UFC on Fox 7 on 4/20 in San Jose.
Melendez faces Benson Henderson
I have to say, it'll be good to see Nate Marquardt back in the UFC, especially considering that his release from the promotion in the first place came under dubious circumstances.
Marquardt left as a middling middleweight, but he returns as the Strikeforce welterweight champion, provided he wins on Saturday night, of course. Which doesn't mean he earns an immediate title shot, because he'll need to win one or two before he gets around to that.
I'd like to see Marquardt face the winner of the UFC 158 bout between Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit. If Marquardt beats either of those fighters, he's earned his shot at St-Pierre, and despite the pair being good friends and teammates, Marquardt has stated that he'll fight his friend for the belt. I like that.
Marquardt faces the winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Carlos Condit
Rockhold is another Strikeforce champion who hasn't quite earned his shot at the UFC crown. But he's close, and he deserves a top contender.
My ideal fight would be Rockhold taking on Michael Bisping, but Bisping's already booked a fight with Vitor Belfort and will earn a title shot of his own if he wins. So Rockhold needs someone else, but someone else that provides plenty of value.
Chris Weidman is that guy.
Weidman is out with a torn labrum, but he'll be back in time to welcome Rockhold to the organization. The winner of Rockhold/Weidman would be set up nicely for a title shot at Silva later in the year. It all dovetails perfectly and makes a ton of sense.
Rockhold faces Chris Weidman
Jacare has to beat UFC veteran Ed Herman on Saturday night, but let's assume he's going to do that, mostly because he is going to do exactly that.
He's one of the more intriguing middleweights to move over to the UFC roster, and I've got an intriguing first UFC bout lined up for the deadly grappler: Costa Philippou. It's a fight Jacare should win, but the beautiful thing about it is that there are no guarantees. Philippou is a game opponent, and he's a top ten middleweight after his win over Tim Boetsch at UFC 155, and he'll make for a tough out for Jacare.
But that's why it's so awesome.
Souza faces Costa Philippou