Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson, What's Next for the Winners and Losers?
Following another pleasantly strong Strikeforce card that featured several upsets, the time now comes to decide what will be next for the winners and the losers.
Nearly every fighter featured on the card was a champion, has fought for a title, or is paving their way to top contender status, therefore causing a lot of shifts in several divisions.
Are Tarec Saffiedine and Tyron Woodley top contenders? Should Scott Smith and Fedor Emelianenko fight for Strikeforce again? Who should Dan Henderson fight next? Let's take a look.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Scott Smith
I was pretty big on Tarec Saffiedine heading into his bout with Scott Smith and my feelings were reaffirmed as the Belgian fighter from Team Quest handed his opponent a beating for three rounds.
While Saffiedine didn't finish, Smith has a rather strong chin and is known for his ability to absorb punishment. Saffiedine outstruck Smith 142-21 over the course of their fifteen minutes in the cage according to FightMetric.
While Smith was completely outclassed, Saffiedine continued to fight smart even late into the bout, never giving Smith the opportunity for another come-from-behind knockout.
For Saffiedine, the best approach would be to continue to build him up slowly, although that isn't usually Strikeforce's M.O.—they originally matched him up with Paul Daley for this event. His last loss to Tyron Woodley showed that his wrestling could use some improvement and the Scott Smith fight didn't really test that very much.
On the other hand, Scott Smith has taken quite a fall. Even the fights that he has won, he's gotten beaten up. Smith has made a career of absorbing punishment and that's never a good idea. Smith has now lost three in a row and aside from his knockout power—which we haven't seen since his drop to welterweight—he has weak striking and a non-existent ground game.
Unless there is a huge change in the way "Hands of Steel" handles his training camp and his fights, he will continue to fail at the upper echelon of the sport and once the inevitable merger with the UFC occurs, he'll be out of job.
At this point, Smith isn't anywhere near contender status. The best thing for Strikeforce to do is to give him an easy fight—someone he could potentially knock out—and just try to put on exciting fights.
Tyron Woodley vs. Paul Daley
Tyron Woodley took a big step up in competition in his bout with Paul Daley. His wrestling credentials were impressive, but he was supposed to look foolish on the feet with the British slugger.
Woodley, for the first time on the main card of a major event, really impressed, showing improved striking and an ability to negate the lethal hands of "Semtex." Woodley consistently had Daley pinned up against the cage, working to defend the takedown, or fighting off of his back, limiting the stand-up exchanges. There wasn't much of a chance for Daley to land the same kind of shot that put Scott Smith to sleep.
For Woodley, a win over Daley will propel him in the rankings, even if it wasn't a dominant one. It proves that he belongs at the top of the division and ensures his employment under the Zuffa banner. There's not much high-level competition left in the Strikeforce welterweight division.
For Paul Daley, I don't think this fight was that bad for him. It's known that his wrestling is an issue, but he did fairly well defending the takedown and even managed to roll for an omoplata and a triangle—something no one would have imaged a couple of fights back.
Daley seems determined to improve his wrestling and therefore seems destined to maintain his status as a top welterweight. Remember, this is the same guy that knocked out Martin Kampmann, Dustin Hazelett, Scott Smith, and Yuya Shirai in the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, however, he has issues with Dana White and the UFC due to his swing at Josh Koscheck following their bout. A return to the UFC would be great for their welterweight division, but it's still uncertain if it's going to happen.
Tim Kennedy vs. Robbie Lawler
In a bout featuring two former No. 1 contenders, Tim Kennedy outgrappled Robbie Lawler en route to a unanimous decision victory. It was Kennedy's second win since his loss to "Jacare" Souza, making him 5-1 under the Strikeforce banner.
Kennedy came in with a smart, albeit obvious game plan—avoid the heavy hands of Robbie Lawler and get the fight to the ground. It was Kennedy's first win by decision in over eight years and only the second of his career, as he typically finds a way to stop his opponents. Still, Kennedy was able to strike effectively from the guard and pass—even mounting Lawler at one point.
From here, it seems that Kennedy is the only credible middleweight contender that Strikeforce has to offer and therefore will likely fight the winner of "Jacare" versus Luke Rockhold, unless he takes a lesser opponent in the mean time.
For Robbie Lawler, this is another step backward and essentially proves that he isn't likely to challenge for a belt again. Lawler has gone just 2-4 with Strikeforce, frequently displaying his limited abilities on the ground.
Despite his stunning knockout wins over Melvin Manhoef and Matt Lindland, Lawler clearly needs to improve his grappling ability to stay amongst the top in the division. It seems to make sense that Lawler would fight the loser of "Jacare" and Rockhold.
Miesha Tate vs. Marloes Coenen
In an entertaining display of back-and-forth technical grappling, Miesha Tate ultimately submitted Marloes Coenen in the fourth round of their Bantamweight Championship fight.
Although both fighters are confident on the ground, it was Tate's ability to consistently get takedowns and maintain top control that won her the fight. Coenen was able to take her back in the second round, but Tate was consistently in dominant positions in every other round.
The arm triangle that Tate was able to finish the fight with marked the first time Coenen had ever been submitted in her MMA career.
The next fight for Tate seems pretty clear-cut. Sarah Kaufman's sole loss came to Marloes Coenen and she has since gone on to win her last two bouts. Kaufman is also the last person to defeat Tate, making her a very credible threat to the title.
Marloes Coenen, despite the loss, is still one of the top pound-for-pound female fighters in the world and should still be given top competition to get back into title contention. Unfortunately, the Strikeforce women's roster is quite limited.
Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko
In the main event of the evening two legends in Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson put on one of the most interesting, highly anticipated fights in Strikeforce's history and while it ended in the first round, it didn't disappoint.
After an extremely fast-paced slugfest, Fedor had Hendo backpedaling, eventually dropping him. While going in for the kill, Henderson was able to grab a single leg, pull Fedor into a deep half-guard, and begin taking the back, leaving him exposed for an uppercut that dropped "The Last Emperor" and ended his night.
Dan Henderson picked up his sixth win in seven fights—his last four ending via knockout. At 40 years old, Hendo still seems to have the ability to hang with the best in the world.
Although his contract has come to an end, ideally, his next fight would be a defense of his Strikeforce light heavyweight championship. Gegard Mousasi would likely make for the best matchup, but the winner of Roger Gracie and King Mo Lawal would also be a worthwhile fight.
The big question is the next move for former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Fedor Emelianenko. Following his vicious knockout of Brett Rogers, Fedor has fallen quite a bit, losing three in a row—all stoppages. Many are calling for his retirement, although Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker would still like to see his return.
Fedor has proved that he is no longer a force at heavyweight and if he continues to fight, it should not be in that division. Coming into this bout at 223 pounds, Emelianenko could have easily cut to 205, especially since he has a good deal of excess body fat.