Last night Strikeforce showcased two of their five champions in San Jose, CA. In addition to welterweight champion Nick Diaz and middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, Herschel Walker and Roger Gracie emerged victorious in their respective bouts.
Strikeforce doesn't have the depth that the UFC does and therefore will find it challenging to come up with respectable opponents for Diaz. Souza has a few options as the middleweight division is in a lot better shape than the welterweight division. As far Gracie is concerned his Jiu-Jitsu is crisp and he looked a lot more comfortable on his feet than he did in his last fight against Kevin Randleman. Walker is quite simply a freak of nature, but at 49 years old we can hardly expect him to compete for heavyweight title anytime soon.
Let's take a look at some possible opponents for all four of these fighters. It's always fun to play matchmaker and I encourage your comments and opinions.
Gracie's accomplishments in the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are well known and he showed last night that he can utilize his fantastic BJJ skills to submit a tough veteran in Trevor Prangley. He also looked a lot lighter on his feet which could be the effect of the drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight. He had also spent some time training with Georges St. Pierre in preparation for last night's fight.
The simple fact here is that Gracie has all of four career bouts. Gracie stated that he is looking to fight 3-4 times a year which means that he should be ready to go again sometime in May or June. He has proven that he can handle a fighter like Prangley, but is he ready for a fighter like Renato Sobral? The SF light heavyweight division is thin and unless they go out and bring in someone specifically for Gracie they may have no choice but to match him up against the former light heavyweight champion.
Scott Carson was in so far over his head last night, but you can't fault him for taking an opportunity to fight on Showtime after leading a non-descript career. Walker has shown that mixed martial arts is much more than a hobby to him and he takes his training very seriously. At 49-years-old he still possesses significant speed and raw power, but if he were to go up against anyone with decent grappling skills he could find himself in a lot of trouble.
It remains to be seen how often Walker will want to fight. Last night was almost one year to the day that he made his debut against Greg Nagy in Miami. The heavyweights that are on the Strikeforce roster are either too experienced or just too much for Walker to handle. That means Walker's next opponent will come from one of the regional promotions like Nagy and Carson did. There are far too many fighters to even begin to speculate who Strikeforce may bring in to face Walker next.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza:
Tim Kennedy will take on Jason "Mayhem" Miller in Columbus on March 5. The winner of that contest may wind up as the number one contender to Souza's belt. Kennedy feels as though he was short changed when he took on Souza in Houston last August. Their five round contest was entertaining and would certainly help Strikeforce sell the rematch. Getting passed Miller will be no easy task for Kennedy, but if he does Strikeforce should reward him with another shot at Jacare.
On the other hand if Miller were to defeat Kennedy then Strikeforce has a ready made feud between two fighters who genuinely do not like each other. In fact at last night's post-fight press conference Souza made it clear he has no desire to face Miller for a third time. Their first match-up saw Souza win via unanimous decision at Dream 4, the two met again at Dream 9 for the organizations middleweight title, but Miller landed an illegal soccer kick causing a fight ending cut. These two would have no problem selling another bout that's for sure.
Many not agree with me, but I feel as though Diaz is a big fish in a very small pond. The Strikeforce welterweight division is very thin as evidenced by Cyborg Santos being granted a title shot against Diaz last night. Strikeforce has a very hot prospect in Tyrone Woodley, but he is not ready to take on a fighter of Diaz's caliber. He needs some more seasoning before getting an opportunity like that. There is always a rubber match between Diaz and KJ Noons, the two met in a much anticipated rematch for Diaz's title back in October. The two men waged a stand-up war for 25 minutes in a highly entertaining bout.
The matchup that seems the most likely is Diaz taking on British striker Paul "Semtex" Daley. All that is necessary is for Daley to be successful against Yuya Shirai at BAMMA 5 on February 26. As long as Daley emerges victorious we should see the hard hitting Daley and Diaz trading strikes sometime in the next few months. Some might say Daley hasn't done enough to earn a shot, after all his lone fight for Strikeforce was against Scott Smith in December. It took Daley all of 2:09 to put Smith to sleep. A bout with Diaz would certainly b exciting to say the least.