Power Ranking Strikeforce Fighters' UFC Potential

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2012

Power Ranking Strikeforce Fighters' UFC Potential

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    It's been recently rumored that Showtime is ready to cut ties with Strikeforce as soon as next month.

    Usually this would be bad news.  However, in the eyes of the fastest growing mixed martial arts promoter in the world, it's a sigh of relief.

    For a while the UFC has been fixated on some of Strikeforce's most talented fighters, including lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier.

    Due to contract obligations relating to Showtime's authoritative stance on letting top fighters leave the promotion, these athletes have been unable to make the transition unlike former Strikeforce greats Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Nick Diaz.

    With that said, on the heels of a potential contract breakdown, it looks like the UFC's brother company is finally coming to an end.  That means every name is up for grabs.

    Here's how Strikeforce's top fighters stand in regard to their individual UFC potential.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Couture

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    Ryan Couture deserves an honorable mention for obvious reasons.

    As a 30-year-old chasing his father's historic mixed martial arts legacy, Couture is just scratching the surface of his future potential.

    He's 5-1 through six professional fights, including two submissions and one TKO victory.

    As a lightweight, it may take him some time to make a relevant splash in a jam-packed UFC division. But with Randy Couture's blood coursing through his veins, nothing is impossible.

10. KJ Noons

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    KJ Noons makes this list for one reason: he beat Nick Diaz back in 2007.

    Now even though that fight took place nearly five years ago, it still showcases Noon's overall capabilities inside a cage.

    As an elite striker who combines world-class kickboxing with Kenpo Karate, the 29-year-old may eventually have trouble with the UFC lightweight division's core group of wrestlers.

    However, with world-class preparation and a somewhat youthful body behind him, Noon should have no trouble making an immediate UFC impact.

9. Lorenz Larkin

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    Lorenz Larkin is undefeated at 13-0-1(NC) for a reason.

    The dude is an absolute beast.

    As a 26-year-old top prospect, Larkin is seemingly one fight away from evolving into an elite star.

    He was scheduled to take on Strikeforce middleweight titleholder Luke Rockhold in November, but the champ recently pulled out due to injury.

    Regardless, whether Larkin fights a replacement or simply takes this time to think about his UFC future, the powerful middleweight should become a household name by the end of 2013.

8. Tim Kennedy

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    Many people are writing Tim Kennedy off as a top contender after his recent loss to Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold back in July.

    Honestly, it's not fair.

    Before that defeat Kennedy had only lost to Ronaldo Souza and Jason Miller, who was then in his prime, since 2001.  That's pretty impressive.

    The bottom line is that the Army Staff Sergeant has world-class submissions that are capable of stopping nearly any UFC middleweight in their tracks.

    Except you know who.

7. Rafael Cavalcante

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    If this list was based on experience then Rafael "Fejiao" Cavalcante would be the obvious No. 1 choice.

    But that's not the case.  This list is comprised around future potential.

    Cavalcante may still have gas left in the tank, but he simply won't be able to contend within an exponentially evolving UFC light heavyweight division for much longer.

    Therefore, his time to transition to the UFC is right now.

    Unfortunately, Cavalcante has to fulfill his one-year suspension due to failing a post-fight drug test before showcasing his skills against the best in the world.

6. Ronaldo Souza

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    Right now Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is ready to compete in the UFC middleweight division.

    As a matter of fact, considering Souza possesses two black belts and power in his hands, he may be an instant top contender.

    Since dropping his first professional bout in 2003, the 32-year-old has only lost to two guys: Gegard Mousasi and Luke Rockhold.

    That type of success is only meant for the UFC and has a good chance of being measured if the two sides can work out a respectable contract.

5. Nate Marquardt

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    Nate Marquardt was once considered one of the best middleweights in the world.

    The guy was literally one victory away in 2010 from getting another shot at Anderson Silva's UFC championship.  Unfortunately, he was unable to get past Chael Sonnen.

    Imagine how much that would have changed history.

    Regardless, Marquardt is still in his prime and still capable of taking on the best fighters in the world.

    This time, it's going to be as a welterweight.

4. Luke Rockhold

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    Luke Rockhold is a quintessential athlete.

    He possesses great wrestling, great kickboxing and excellent submissions.  He's been able to to utilize those skills to produce a 10-1 professional record, finishing eight of those bouts in the process.

    In hindsight, Rockhold would be the No. 1 guy on this list. 

    However, considering he'd be a middleweight champion coming over to the UFC, he'd be consequently matched up against Anderson Silva.

    Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, that doesn't bode well for his future potential.

    Sometimes it sucks to be in the same weight class as the greatest fighter of all time.

3. Gilbert Melendez

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    The UFC has had its sights set on Gilbert Melendez for literally years.

    It's been a tough road trying to pick him free from Showtime's stranglehold, but those complications could finally be coming to an end.

    Melendez has made a name for himself as the best lightweight fighter in the world not in the UFC.  He has done so on the back of winning nine career Strikeforce title fights.

    He possesses excellent wrestling skills, solid boxing and world-class grappling due in part to training with both Nick and Nate Diaz.

    If this potential collapse actually comes to fruition, Melendez should be the first name the UFC swipes off the open market.

2. Gegard Mousasi

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    Out of all the fighters in the world currently without a UFC or Strikeforce title, Gegard Mousasi may be the best of the whole crop.

    At 27 years of age, Mousasi has already compiled a professional record of 32-3-2, including 18 knockouts and 10 submissions.

    He has defeated Hector Lombard, Ronaldo Souza, Mark Hunt and Renato Sobral throughout his Pride, Dream and Strikeforce careers.  He has never been knocked out and he's capable of fighting as a middleweight, light heavyweight or heavyweight.

    Bottom line, the guy is a perfect fit for the UFC.  And regardless of which division he decides to step foot in, he'd be an instant title contender.

1. Daniel Cormier

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    Widely considered the No. 2 heavyweight fighter on the planet, Strikeforce champion Daniel Cormier is ready to take the UFC by storm.

    As an elite wrestler who possesses serious one-punch knockout power, Cormier poses a threat to any current UFC heavyweight.

    It's nearly impossible to contain his takedowns while trying to defend his decapitating strikes.  It's the reason why Cormier's professional record stands unscathed at 10-0 and it's the reason why he'll instantly contend for the UFC title when he packs his Strikeforce bags.

    It's yet to be determined if Cormier possesses the key ingredients to defeat Junior dos Santos, but it'd be one hell of a brawl.

    For more UFC/Strikeforce news and coverage,

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