Strikeforce hosted the semifinal round of the heavyweight grand prix in Cincinnati on Saturday night and fight fans were treated with an exciting night of action.
The event was headlined by Josh Barnett (31-5) and Sergei Kharitonov (18-5) to determine who would advance to the finals.
Kharitonov was no match for the far superior Barnett and with the victory, Barnett advances to the final round of the tournament and extends his win streak to nine that dates back to 2008.
Former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier (9-0) stepped in on short notice against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (16-3).
A huge four-punch combination by Cormier dropped Silva, and two devastating hammer fists later, the AKA-trained heavyweight finished the fight.
Barnett and Cormier were both impressive in claiming first-round victories and now face each other in the finals later this winter.
With that being said, we take a look at the fighters who don't have their next fight set and determine the matchups that should be booked next.
So, if you'd like to hear why Strikeforce should be folded and merged to the UFC, read E. Spencer Kyte's column on Heavy.com.
Pat Healy (26-16) returned to action for the second time in 30 days and overcame multiple illegal kicks to the face from opponent Maximo Blanco to pick up his third win of 2011.
Blanco's illegal kicks left Healy bloody in the opening round, but once an opportunity presented itself Healy took the fight to the ground and put his submission game on full display.
The victory places Healy on an impressive three-fight win streak that includes wins over Lyle Beerbohm and Eric Wisely.
Healy has reaped the benefits of training with UFC 137 co-headliner B.J. Penn in his past three fights and will likely continue his work with Penn.
His lone loss in the organization came at the hands of Josh Thomson (18-4) in mid-2010, and Thomson has seen mixed results since then.
He was last seen being defeated by Tatsuya Kawajiri this past December in Japan and has yet to compete in 2011.
Thomson is Strikeforce's former lightweight champion and has competed three times in the UFC back in 2003-2004.
A rematch for Thomson would provide the opportunity for him to get his career back on track and prove that his best days are still ahead.
As for Healy, it would give him the chance to prove that he's taken a big step in his career, ready to face higher-ranked competition.
Thomson and Healy are two of Strikeforce's most talented lightweights, so why not introduce them to UFC fans now and sell the rivalry to spice things up.
Lawal (8-1) returned to the cage for the first time in more than a year and looked better than ever.
The former collegiate wrestler chose to keep the fight standing where he proved to be superior.
"King Mo" landed a devastating right hand that quickly sent Gracie to the canvas and follow-up punches sealed the deal.
Post-fight, Lawal made his desire to rematch Cavalcante known and while Cavalcante was successful in a preliminary bout earlier in the fight, Strikeforce is fading fast.
As I'm sure you'll read today from multiple outlets, the organization should merge with the UFC sooner rather than later.
With that being said, Lawal's skillset and personality would make him an instant star in the sport's premier organization. A rematch with Cavalcante wouldn't make sense, but a debut fight opposite Vladimir Matyushenko does fit the bill.
Matyushenko (26-5) has won back-to-back fights courtesy of first round knockouts and his most recent victory against Jason Brilz took merely 20 seconds.
Matyushenko has 10 fights in the organization and has competed on televised main cards, so he'd bring both experience to test Lawal and much more name value than Cavalcante would.
With Lawal and Matyushenko both earning knockout wins in their most recent fights, it would be an entertaining matchup for fight fans.
Silva (16-3) was expected to overwhelm opponent Daniel Cormier with his experience and size advantage, but the former Olympic wrestler had other plans.
Cormier dropped Silva with a four-punch combination and followed with additional punches that saw Silva's three-fight win streak snapped.
At 6'4" and 265 pounds, Silva is a massive heavyweight that the casual fans don't need to know much about in order to watch the fight.
Throw in victories over Fedor Emelianenko and former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in a promo, and fans will tune in to see who this gigantic knockout artist is.
68 percent of Silva's victories have come by knockout, so pairing him against Schaub could be a risky proposition for the young heavyweight.
But Silva has been knocked out on two occasions in his career, so Schaub's athleticism and power could very well add him to the list.
Schaub (8-2) was knocked out by a revitalized "Big Nog" this past month and with Silva also just suffering a defeat, both men would be highly motivated to return to the win column.
Both men are 6'4" and combined weigh well over 500 pounds and with victories over Mirko "Cro Cop," Gabriel Gonzaga, Emelianenko and Arlovski, it's a very sellable fight.
After a 19-month layoff, Rockhold (8-1) stunned the world by dethroning Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza in a well-deserved victory.
Rockhold's aggression in the championship rounds likely sealed the deal in him capturing the middleweight championship.
Souza, who is a talented jiu-jitsu black belt couldn't implement his game and when the action did the mat, Rockhold returned to his feet before any real damage was done.
Rockhold's victory makes it seven in a row for the American Kickboxing Academy-trained fighter and places him in the top 10 of the division.
Souza was ranked No. 4 in the world coming into Saturday night's fight, so Rockhold is riding a wave of momentum.
Mark Munoz and Chris Leben headline UFC 138 in November, and the winner will likely be on the doorstep of a title shot.
With Chael Sonnen returning to competition against heavy-handed Brian Stann next month at UFC 136, the winner should expect to face Anderson Silva in early 2012.
So, the loser of Munoz and Leben would be the perfect opponent for Rockhold to make his debut.
Heading into the fight, the smart money is on Munoz to defeat Leben.
And let's be honest—if I'm correct, would you rather see Rockhold vs. Leben or watch Rockhold's spotlight quickly dim in Strikeforce?
Alistair Overeem will make his UFC debut against Brock Lesnar as Strikeforce's most recent heavyweight champion, and Rockhold could make his organizational debut as Strikeforce's final middleweight title holder.
Needless to say, Rockhold's a marketable fighter and when healthy, he's as tough as they come.
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