Strikeforce: Matchmaking for the Entire Fight Card

Sean SmithAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2013

Strikeforce: Matchmaking for the Entire Fight Card

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    Strikeforce is no more.

    After Saturday's event featuring a welterweight title fight between Tarec Saffiedine and Nate Marquardt, the promotion has closed its doors for good.

    As a result, many of the competitors from Strikeforce's final event could be making their way to the Octagon in the near future.

    Let's take a look at who could be next for all of the fighters from Saturday's fight card. 

Mike Bravo vs. Francisco Trinaldo-C.J. Keith Loser

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    Mike Bravo was one of several fighters to make their Strikeforce debut at the promotion's final event.

    Though he lost to Estevan Payan, there's a good chance Bravo will be given one chance to prove himself inside the Octagon, as Zuffa usually gives its newcomers a couple shots at picking up a win.

    Against the loser of an upcoming fight between Francisco Trinaldo and C.J. Keith, Bravo would be facing an opponent who will have lost two straight fights. So, that potential bout would essentially be a loser-leaves-town matchup.

Estevan Payan vs. Abel Trujillo

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    With wins under the Strikeforce and Bellator banners, Estevan Payan's win over Mike Bravo should make him a solid addition to the UFC's lightweight roster.

    For his first UFC appearance, Payan will likely meet a fellow newcomer or an opponent who hasn't won more than a fight or two inside the Octagon.

    A bout with Abel Trujillo would make sense for Payan.

Adriano Martins vs. Mike Wilkinson

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    After beating Jorge Gurgel on Saturday, Adriano Martins has won 11 of his past 12 fights. Still, Martins has not proved himself against elite competition, so he'd provide a good test for a former TUF contestant like Mike Wilkinson.

    With his loss to Martins, Gurgel may have missed out on a chance to return to the Octagon. The 35-year-old has lost four of his past five and only appears to be declining.

Anthony Smith vs. C.B. Dollaway-Daniel Sarafian Loser

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    Anthony Smith's loss to Roger Gracie on Saturday brought a three-fight winning streak to an end. Despite the defeat, the 24-year-old has shown enough promise during his time with Strikeforce to warrant a fight inside the Octagon.

    If he is given a chance to compete under the UFC banner, Smith's first bout should be against the loser of an upcoming fight between The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil standout Daniel Sarafian and C.B. Dolloway.

Roger Gracie vs. Andrew Craig-Ronny Markes Winner

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    Roger Gracie picked up his second straight win by defeating Anthony Smith at Strikeforce's final event, but his striking is progressing slowly. Obviously, Gracie is one of the most dangerous grapplers in the middleweight division, but he'll have trouble against top 185-pound UFC fighters with decent takedown defense.

    The UFC should be hesitant to book Gracie for a fight with a contender right away. Instead, he should meet the winner of a scheduled bout between Andrew Craig and Ronny Markes.

Kurt Holobaugh vs. Colin Fletcher

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    Though he lost to Pat Healy on Saturday, Kurt Holobaugh looked the part of a fighter who belongs on the UFC roster by fighting through submission attempts and giving his opponent all he could handle early on.

    A bout between Holobaugh and The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes runner-up Colin Fletcher would probably be entertaining and competitive.

Pat Healy vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov-Thiago Tavares Winner

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    At one point, Pat Healy was booked to fight against Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title.

    It might not seem fair that Healy will now have to work his way back to a fight with an opponent of that caliber, but he simply hasn't done enough to warrant a bout with a 155-pound contender now that he'll be fighting for a promotion that has plenty of them.

    That being said, Healy should get a fight that could catapult him to that level quickly. A matchup against the winner of a fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Thiago Tavares would give Healy the opportunity to prove he's a legitimate title threat.

Tim Kennedy vs. Rich Franklin

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    Usually, the UFC matches fighters who are coming off of a win with opponents who are coming off of a victory. However, when it comes to MMA legends like Rich Franklin, that rule doesn't always apply.

    Franklin is looking for one last notable opponent against whom he has a reasonable chance to win. Tim Kennedy has the perfect mix of name value and talent to fit that description.  

K.J. Noons vs. Yves Edwards

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    K.J. Noons came out on the wrong side of a controversial decision against Ryan Couture on Saturday, but UFC president Dana White felt he won, so we will likely see Noons inside the Octagon during 2013.

    Ryan is tough but KJ Noons got robbed!!!

    — Dana White (@danawhite) January 13, 2013

    Since he has suffered losses in four of his past five fights, Noons will probably have to take a step backward in competition, which could mean a rematch of a June 2008 fight that saw him knock out Yves Edwards.

    Edwards has to fight Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 156 in February. Though, whether he wins or loses, Edwards should be next for Noons.

Ryan Couture vs. Ramsey Nijem

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    Helped by the fact that his father is one of the best fighters in MMA history, Ryan Couture has quickly become a recognizable face in the lightweight division. However, Couture still has plenty of improvements to make before he can be considered a potential contender.

    Similarly, Ramsey Nijem has gained plenty of popularity through his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter despite his unrefined striking technique. 

    A bout between Couture and Nijem would give the winner a big boost and would hopefully give the competitors a chance to show off some advancements in their skill level.

Ed Herman vs. Trevor Smith

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    Ed Herman's willingness to take a fight under the Strikeforce banner backfired in the form of a first-round submission loss to Ronaldo Souza. With two straight poor performances, Herman probably won't be fighting a big name again in his next outing.

    Since Trevor Smith was surprisingly competitive through the first two rounds of his bout with Tim Kennedy on Saturday, the large 185-pound grappler could see another opportunity to fight a well-known opponent come his way. 

    A bout with Smith would give Herman a reasonable chance of avoiding another loss, while it would also force him to focus on improving his takedown defense.

Ronaldo Souza vs. Jake Shields

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    When Jake Shields vacated the Strikeforce middleweight title to join the UFC roster, Ronaldo Souza was the fighter who took over as king of Strikeforce's 185-pound division.

    Not only would a matchup between Shields and Souza give a good indication of which middleweight would have been champion had the former stuck around with Strikeforce, it would also be a matchup that could force Shields into a more exciting fight than he often finds himself in.

Gegard Mousasi vs. Forrest Griffin

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    Gegard Mousasi has said he's interested in a fight with the likes of Alexander Gustafsson (via MMAWeekly.com). That's cool and all, but we're talking about a fighter who fought to a draw with Keith Jardine less than two years ago, and Gustafsson is coming off of a win over Mauricio Rua.

    A motivated Mousasi may turn into a serious light heavyweight contender, but he'll have to work his way up. If Mousasi wants a big name, he'll have to wait for Forrest Griffin to return from his knee injury.

    As for Mike Kyle, Mousasi's opponent on Saturday, he hinted at retirement on his way back to the locker room.

    Mike Kyle just walked by me seconds after losing to Gegard Mousasi and said, "It's not in me anymore. That was my last one."

    — Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 13, 2013

Josh Barnett vs. Ben Rothwell-Gabriel Gonzaga Winner

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    In answering questions regarding his potential return to the UFC roster, Josh Barnett has been cryptic.

    Should Barnett make his way back to the Octagon in 2013, bouts with MMA veterans would be the most intriguing for the long-time fighter. A fight against the winner of a bout between Ben Rothwell and Gabriel Gonzaga would be a good way to figure out where Barnett stands in today's heavyweight division.

Dion Staring vs. Nandor Guelmino

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    As expected, Dion Staring and Nandor Guelmino were no match for opponents Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett, respectively, on Saturday. That being said, they each took their beating and deserve some type of reward.

    The UFC should have Staring and Guelmino face off inside the Octagon with a contract extension on the line.

Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir

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    It's about time someone spoke their mind in a post-fight interview. Following his win over Dion Staring, Daniel Cormier used some airtime on the Showtime broadcast to ask for an April bout with Frank Mir and added that he would kick Jon Jones' a** in the fall. 

    Considering he had already been booked for a fight with Mir, Cormier's demands are reasonable. Give him the fight at UFC on Fox 7 and let's see how the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion handles himself against the best in the world.

Nate Marquardt vs. Jon Fitch-Demian Maia Loser

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    Nate Marquardt's loss to Tarec Saffiedine in the final Strikeforce bout ever was a deflating one, but the former UFC contender will still likely return to the Octagon for his next appearance.

    Given his name recognition, Marquardt will also probably get a fight with a well-known opponent despite Saturday's defeat. 

    A matchup against the loser of a bout between Jon Fitch and Demian Maia, which could mean a rematch of an August 2009 fight with Maia, would be interesting.

Tarec Saffiedine vs. Mike Pierce

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    Tarec Saffiedine finished his Strikeforce career strong, leg kicking his way to the welterweight title with a win over Nate Marquardt.

    Though he has a belt around his waist, the relatively unknown Saffiedine isn't going to be getting any immediate title shots. Instead, he should test himself against resident 170-pound gatekeeper Mike Pierce to see how close he really is to being competitive with elite UFC welterweights.