Gilbert Melendez and the Strikeforce Fighters That the UFC Should Sign

John Heinis@HeinisHardNewsSenior Analyst IOctober 5, 2011

Gilbert Melendez and the Strikeforce Fighters That the UFC Should Sign

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    Ever since UFC President Dana White told the fans that Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez would be heading to the UFC "as soon as possible," everyone has been gushing over the possible super fights that could result. 

    White has also expressed interest in reacquiring the services of BJJ specialist Fabricio Werdum. Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finalist Daniel Cormier said he is waiting on his call from the UFC as well.  

    What Strikeforce fighters need to be brought into the premiere Zuffa organization for the good of the sport? 

    Here's five fighters that need to make their way into the Octagon by early 2012 at the latest.  

Gilbert Melendez

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    First things first: imagine the UFC's 155-pound division with "El Nino" there.  Melendez vs. Melvin Guillard.  Melendez vs. Gray Maynard.  Melendez vs. Frankie Edgar.  Melendez vs. Clay Guida in a rematch of a 2006 Strikeforce bout.

    The possibilities are practically endless.  El Nino is very well rounded with crisp, aggressive boxing, solid takedown defense.  Cesar Gracie isn't exactly a slouch for a jiu jitsu coach either.  

    Melendez is currently enjoying a five fight win streak, including avenging a loss to Josh Thompson in that time frame. 

    Jorge Masvidal was expected to challenge Melendez for his Strikeforce title on December 17, but with White's recent comments, that fight may or may not happen as planned.    

    If it was cancelled for Melendez to enter the UFC, no one besides Masvidal would be complaining.  

Daniel Cormier

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    Strikeforce heavyweight Daniel Cormier, a two-time Olympic-level freestyle wrestler, is 9-0 in his MMA career.  However, few were ready to give him credit as a full-time fighter until he dismantled Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in September. 

    Cormier hurt Silva early with some powerful punches and Bigfoot never had a chance to showcase his elite BJJ skills.  Cormier kept the fight standing and eventually ended the fight in impressive TKO fashion. 

    Wrestlers with serious knockout power tend to turn heads in MMA circles.  Just ask UFC welterweight Jake Ellenberger example. 

    Cormier showed the he is a serious contender, so it is time to pit the American Kickboxing Academy standout against elite competition on a regular basis.  

Josh Barnett

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    If Cormier gets a spot on the UFC roster, it would not be within reason to see "The War Master" receive his second chance with the world's premiere fight organization.  

    Barnett has won eight in a row and has looked impressive during the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, even if Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov aren't exactly elite fighters at 265 pounds.  

    If one can look past Barnett's various issues with steroids, it is tough to deny that he is a truly elite grappler heavyweight grappler with at least adequate striking to boot.  

    While his issues with Dana White have been well documented, if Strikeforce does indeed become a defunct organization soon, "The War Master" could very well be on the receiving end of a UFC contract.

Antonio Silva

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    While Bigfoot was embarrassed by Daniel Cormier in his last outing, let's not forget what he did to Fedor Emelianenko in his fight before that. 

    Cormier is for real, so a loss there doesn't mean Antonio Silva can't hang with the best heavyweight fighters in the world. 

    Silva has a very impressive ground game for a big man, with great takedowns and submissions.  He also packs a ton of power in his hands.  

    Who wouldn't still be interested in seeing Bigfoot fight someone like Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin? 

    There are plenty of appealing fights available for Silva within the UFC.  

Ovince St. Preux

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    Easily the most obscure name on this list, Ovince St. Preux, a former defensive end/linebacker for the University of Tennessee, St. Preux's transition to MMA got off to a rocky start. 

    Just 3-4 in his first seven fights, it looked like a career as a full-time fighter may not be for St. Preux.  

    However, he has since proved all his critics wrong by not losing since September of 2009 and rattling off eight wins in a row since then. 

    St. Preux, 28, is likely in his athletic prime, so now would be the perfect time to pit him against some tougher competition in the UFC light heavyweight division.  

Tyron Woodley

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    The former two-time Division I All-American wrestler has shown a solid submission game as an MMA fighter.  He has not been afraid to stand and train with his opponents on several occasions.  

    Don't get it twisted, anyone who has watched Woodley's recent fights knows that he is not afraid to "lay and pray" his way to victory if necessary, something that will always draw the ire of fans. But Woodley is still 9-0 as a mixed martial artist.  

    Coming off the biggest win of his career against Paul Daley at the Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson card, "T-Wood" was rumored to have a rematch with Tarec Saffiedine for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title for his next fight.  

    However, with that fight yet to get off the ground, now seems like as good a time as any to see how Woodley fairs in a UFC welterweight division that is stacked with high caliber wrestlers.  

Gegard Mousasi

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    While some fans are still not sold on "The Dreamcatcher," Mousasi is 31-3-2 with 28 finishes in his professional mixed martial arts career. 

    The Dream light heavyweight champion was inevitably going to be criticized for his majority draw against Keith Jardine in April and his April 2010 loss to Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal.

    Still, Mousasi still has quality wins over the likes of Hector Lombard, Melvin Manhoef, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Renato Sobral.  

    The bottom line is that Mousasi has showcased the ability to end a fight at any given second and that makes him a great addition to the UFC light heavyweight division.  

Rafael Cavalcante

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    The Black House fighter is 4-2 in Strikeforce and although his two losses were disappointing ones, Rafael Cavalcante's uncanny knockout ability still makes him a hot commodity. 

    The UFC is rarely one to pass on aggressive, heavy-handed strikers and since many fans and analysts alike consider Cavalcante at the bottom of the light heavyweight top 10, it makes sense that Dana White would sign the Brazilian to prove his worth. 

    A number of fight hands would also be interested in seeing Cavalcante get a rematch with Dan Henderson inside the Octagon.  

    Cavalcante knocked down Hendo in their Strikeforce light heavyweight title affair but he eventually succumbed to a dreaded "H-Bomb." 

Muhammed Lawal

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    "King Mo" possesses some of the best mic skills among current professional MMA fighters.  Ask Chael Sonnen if that helps from a marketability perspective.  

    Luckily, Lawal isn't all personality, as he is 8-1 in his fight career including six knockout victories.  

    A Division II national champion wrestler King Mo also clearly loves to throw some leather at his opponents as well.  

    Lawler is a wrestler who refuses to lay and pray his way to victory and he always has something interesting to say.

    Given that he has also shown the ability to win, the only question is why King Mo hasn't had a UFC fight yet?  

Tim Kennedy

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    Tim Kennedy has won six of his past seven fights, with the only loss be a tighly contested Strikeforce middleweight title fight between then champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. 

    With a record of 14-3 and back to back wins over Melvin Manhoef and Robbie Lawler, the Green Beret has already catapulted himself back into title contention. 

    Although he is generally viewed as a wrestler/grappler, Kennedy has 12 finishes in his career.  Another reason he's a great fit on the UFC roster is the fact that he has went on the record stating his hatred for British bad guy Michael Bisping. 

    That fight alone would be so easy to market it's ridiculous, and Kennedy's toughness and overall skill set make him an intriguing match up for a number of fighters in the UFC's 185-pound division.