MMA: Who Enters the UFC Following the Final Strikeforce Fight Card?

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIJanuary 13, 2013

Jan 12, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Gegard Mousasi after his defeat of Mike Kyle (not shown) in their Strikeforce MMA Light Heavyweight bout at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The lights are off. The doors are closed. The fat lady is backing her car out of the driveway and wondering what people thought about the song she just sang.

Now that Strikeforce has turned off the Open sign, it's time for the UFC to take a long, hard look at the roster and decide which fighters deserve a contract.

On the promotion's final card, an unspoken rule permeated the atmosphere: "If you win, you'll move into the UFC. If you lose, better luck elsewhere."

Whether that is ultimately going to be the case has yet to be seen, but Bleacher Report MMA is on the scene to help with the guesswork. Here, we will take a look at the fighters who competed on Saturday night and decide who is worthy of a UFC contract.

Despite the stigma that Strikeforce fighters aren't as talented as stars in the UFC, most of the competitors on Saturday night proved their mettle. Only a few stars showed that they are not worthy of Zuffa contracts, as the in-cage action was either thrilling or competitive for most of the evening.

Here is a look at the Strikeforce fighters who are worthy of moving into the Octagon. Each of the winners earned their place, as did a pair of losers.

The Winners

Estevan Payan

Payan kicked off the show with a second-round win over Mike Bravo. Payan has not lost any of his last eight fights, which includes two wins under the Strikeforce banner. Even though the UFC welterweight division is pretty stacked, the momentum Payan has warrants a fight in the organization.

Adriano Martins

Martins competed in the only other unaired bout when he defeated The Ultimate Fighter notable Jorge Gurgel via unanimous decision. The win marked the 11th for Martins in his last 12 fights, with the sole loss coming by way of majority decision. He will make an excellent addition to the UFC lightweight roster.

Roger Gracie

Notable jiu-jitsu practitioner Roger Gracie looked pretty pitiful in the standup portion of his fight against Anthony Smith; however, once the action hit the ground, it didn't take long for Gracie to choke his way into the UFC with a second-round submission.

Pat Healy

Many were concerned that Healy might end up on the wrong end of an upset on Saturday simply due to the cruel nature of the sport. After all, he went from title contender to being on the preliminary card fighting to save his job in one fell swoop. Six straight wins will give him nice momentum to start his UFC career.

Tim Kennedy

Kennedy was pressured constantly by Trevor Smith, although the Army Ranger didn't let it break his will. In the third round, Kennedy scored a guillotine choke that will move him into the Octagon. Would it be friendly fire if he meets fellow military man Brian Stann in the UFC?

Ryan Couture

The son of Randy Couture seemingly picked up his father's ability to draw a terrible decision win out of the judges. Despite being undeserving of the victory he earned on Saturday, Couture showed tremendous heart and a creative attack that will make him a welcome addition to the lightweight division.

Ronaldo Souza

"Jacare" has long been touted as one of the best middleweights on the planet despite being stuck in Strikeforce. After manhandling UFC veteran Ed Herman, there is no question that those thoughts are not misguided. 

Gegard Mousasi

The former Strikeforce champion has broken free from his oppressive relationship with M-1 Global and should compete in the UFC sooner rather than later after ravaging Team AKA's Mike Kyle. Kyle has only one win in his past four fights and shouldn't prove so lucky.

Josh Barnett

Say what you will about Barnett's colored past, but he is one of the best fighters competing in the heavyweight division. If we can forgive the transgressions of Chael Sonnen and Sean Sherk after they served their punishments, Barnett shouldn't be treated more harshly.

Daniel Cormier

As this list progresses, the names on it become clearer and clearer. Daniel Cormier may not have been in the main event, but he was the most popular star on the card. After the fight, Cormier announced that he has already signed his UFC contract and challenged Frank Mir for an April 20 fight at UFC on Fox 7.

Tarec Saffiedine

Heading into Saturday's event, I really didn't expect Saffiedine to make it onto this list. However, by using a crippling supply of leg kicks, he was able to slow down Nate Marquardt for five rounds to earn a unanimous-decision victory.

The Losers

KJ Noons

There is no question in my mind that KJ Noons was absolutely robbed by the judges on Saturday night. Thankfully for the former Elite XC champion, Dana White agrees. 

Nate Marquardt

Last but not least on this list is Nate Marquardt. The Tristar fighter didn't look good on Saturday. He refused to check leg kicks that hobbled him, and he was outworked by a fighter with considerably less experience. 

Instead, Marquardt will move into the UFC based on his name value and history with the organization. It's not as if Dana White will allow competitors like World Series of Fighting or Bellator to pick up a quality star who was recently a world champion.

In the end, a night of mostly predictable outcomes will lead to a series of mostly predictable signings with the UFC. Some stars were able to earn a contract that they otherwise wouldn't have gained, while others are finally free to compete with the best fighters in the world.

Are these the only fighters from Saturday night who will end up getting signed by the UFC?

Who knows?

Anthony Smith looked pretty good before getting taken down, and Mike Kyle has powerful friends at AKA, so they could be brought over too.

Who are you most excited to see in the UFC? What fights are you looking forward to in 2013 now that Strikeforce's biggest stars are coming over?

Tell us in the comments below.


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