When Strikeforce held its final event on January 12, 2013, the MMA world asked: Who would officially make the leap to the UFC?
Better yet, could a Strikeforce competitor prove a dominant force inside the Octagon? Would the Strikeforce talent pool spawn the same surprises that the WEC merger produced?
We haven’t had much time to formulate accurate answers to those questions yet, but we’ve seen some surprising work from a handful of Strikeforce standouts thus far. At this point, it’s too early to predict future UFC champions who once campaigned as Strikeforce regulars, but the potential certainly looks to be there.
Look at Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, for instance. He will challenge Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title at UFC 160. Will he enter that bout as a favorite? No, absolutely not. But the fact that he’s challenging the best in the world says quite a bit.
These Strikeforce imports are no scrubs!
UFC Record: 2-1
Antonio Silva already has a trio of UFC bouts under his belt. Although he was thoroughly smashed in his promotional debut by Cain Velasquez at UFC 146, he has rebounded nicely.
In October 2012, Silva thwarted the momentum of then-unbeaten heavyweight prospect, Travis Browne, by stopping him with a vicious barrage of strikes in under four minutes. Silva returned in February and shocked the world when he knocked out the heavily favored former Strikeforce champion, Alistair Overeem.
Silva will have a chance at redemption when he meets Velasquez for the second time on May 25—one day shy of a year from their first collision.
UFC Record: 1-0
Tyron Woodley held gold in Strikeforce and looked to be in full control over the welterweight division. That changed when he met Nate Marquardt at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Kennedy.
Marquardt put Woodley against the cage and uncorked a beautiful combination that left Woodley an unconscious heap.
Apparently, Woodley wanted to erase that memory in a bad, bad way.
He made his UFC debut at UFC 156 against seasoned veteran Jay Hieron. Many (including me) believed Hieron’s experience and wrestling pedigree would be too much for Woodley, but that simply wasn’t the case.
Woodley came out swinging in violent and uncharacteristically savage fashion. He caught Hieron early with a massive right hand and closed the show with some impressive ground-and-pound.
The bout lasted just 36 seconds.
Woodley will next trek to the Octagon to meet another former Strikeforce standout, Jake Shields. They’ll tangle at UFC 161.
UFC Record: 1-0
Bobby Green might be the least appreciated Strikeforce import, but he may prove to be one of the promotion’s standout imports.
Green did what only one other lightweight has ever managed: He abused and submitted the durable but cautious Jacob Volkmann. It was a sight to behold, as Green’s pressure proved to be too much for Volkmann to handle. He succumbed to defeat with just 35 seconds remaining in their 155-pound tilt at UFC 156.
UFC Record: 5-3
We all know Robbie Lawler is no stranger to the Octagon. He first made his name by bashing heads for the promotion some 10-plus years ago.
Well, Lawler is back. He made his official return at UFC 157, where he was welcomed by the always dangerous and perennial top-10 welterweight, Josh Koscheck.
Most pundits marked Koscheck as the easy winner, but Lawler showed up prepared. His drop from middleweight back to welterweight seemed to refresh his career.
It took Lawler less than four minutes to force a TKO stoppage.
UFC Record: 1-0
Ronda Rousey is a spectacle. She’s attractive, outspoken and lethal inside the cage.
Rousey carved her way through Strikeforce, disposing of four consecutive foes and capturing a title in the process. She has been on an absolute tear, and that momentum carried right over into the UFC on February 23, when she made her official debut against tough-as-nails Liz Carmouche.
Carmouche was game and even threatened a submission of her own, but Rousey would not be denied.
She finished the fight before the start of Round 2 and picked up her seventh professional victory…for her seventh win by her dreaded armbar finish.
UFC Record: 1-0
Anyone who has watched a few Strikeforce cards knows that Jordan Mein is the real deal. The kid is not a joke.
He earned two victories against a single defeat in Strikeforce, and it looks as though he’s prepared to continue his winning ways in the UFC.
Mein met the notoriously tough Dan Miller at UFC 158. Things went perfectly for Mein, who landed a series of staggering shots and did what no professional fighter has ever done.
He finished Miller.
The end came inside of the first round. Mein showed cage savvy and fight awareness, hurting Miller and picking his shots to force a warranted intervention from referee Marc-Andre Cote.
Now that’s how you make a statement in your UFC debut!
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