Top Ten Strikeforce Fighters Who Could Compete in the UFC
Ten Strikeforce Fighters Who Could Compete in the UFC
The MMA world could soon receive another shakeup.
When UFC parent company Zuffa purchased Strikeforce in 2011, many figured that the days were numbered for the California-based organization. But surprising the organization has been kept around for nearly two years, even if just to prove the superiority of MMA kingpin UFC.
Many of the organization's top stars have already made the jump to the UFC, including Nick Diaz, Alistair Overeem, and the entire heavyweight division other than Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier.
Although Strikeforce will have one last swansong event in January, the organization's stars are likely to eventually begin populating the UFC roster to add depth. With the UFC planning yet another ambitious schedule in 2013, there could be as many as 20-25 fighters who are offered spots in the top organization in the world.
Even more Strikeforce stars have begun to make the crossover prior to the last Strikeforce event, including Ronda Rousey (who could make a case as the fighter of the year, regardless of gender) and former women's champion Miesha Tate.
Strikeforce is not totally devoid of stars, but which fighters have the opportunity to make the biggest impact in the UFC? Check out the slide show to see who I believe are the most likely, and follow me on Twitter @MMAMcKinney to discuss this and other MMA topics.
10. Rafael Cavalcante
Although he is currently serving a one-year suspension after failing a drug test following his 33-second victory over Mike Kyle in May, “Feijao” could be a contender in the weak light heavyweight division inside the UFC, especially if Jon Jones makes good on his promise to eventually move up to heavyweight. He is still just 31 years old, and with 10 of his 11 wins by knockout, he’ll be a welcome addition to an increasingly stagnant 205-pound class. His only two losses since joining Strikeforce were to Kyle (which he avenged), and Dan Henderson, a fighter who is on the verge of a UFC title shot. As long as he can stay clean, Feijao could make some noise in the UFC.
9. Josh Thomson
You might call him Mr. Strikeforce, and after competing in the California-based organization 13 times, I don’t think he would disagree. While legitimate title contention would almost certainly be out of question for the 34-year-old in the UFC’s deepest division, it’s hard to imagine “The Punk” being involved in a boring fight. He actually competed in the UFC way back in 2004 when the lightweight division was in its infancy, and he was cut after a memorable knockout loss to Yves Edwards at UFC 49. Thomson likely still has some gas left in the tank, and he could be used as a gatekeeper to test up-and-coming 155-pounders.
8. Tim Kennedy
Kennedy is a fan favorite, and he’s exactly the type of great role model outside of the cage that the UFC should focus on promoting. His only stoppage loss was a TKO due to a cut in his MMA debut, and he has earned 12 stoppage wins in 14 career victories. With an increasingly weak 185-pound division and an aging champion who is likely to begin focusing on super fights, Kennedy could add depth at middleweight. There’s also the fact that his only two losses since 2007 were in Strikeforce title fights.
7. Ronaldo Souza
As a former title holder in Strikeforce’s deepest division who is in the prime of his career, “Jacare” is an obvious choice to make the jump to the UFC once Strikeforce is disbanded. With the added fact that he’s a Brazilian, Souza could also be featured in the UFC’s cards in the country.
6. Gegard Mousasi
“The Dreamcatcher” has been eerily quiet since picking up a one-sided decision victory over Ovince St. Preux at “Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal” last December, but he’s still just 27 and has yet to enter the prime of his MMA career. A former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, the biggest question mark in Mousasi’s career has been his desire to be a top fighter. He has also held both the light heavyweight and middleweight titles in DREAM, so there is a possibility that he could eschew the UFC for the chance to fight for the revived Japanese organization.
5. Tyron Woodley
Six months ago, Woodley was perhaps the top welterweight prospect in all of MMA. Then he ran into the buzz saw that is Nate Marquardt, and suffered the first loss of his career: a fourth round knockout that snapped his unbeaten streak and dropped him way down the 170-pound rankings. The 170-pound division is one of the deepest in the UFC, but Woodley has the elite wrestling that will keep him in any fight. Plus you add in the fact that he’s rounded out his game with good striking and solid submissions and the 30-year-old could have a career revival in the UFC.
4. Nate Marquardt
“The Great” is one of just two fighters on this list who have been there and done that in terms of the UFC, but his breakup from the world’s top organization was as ugly as it gets as he was cut after not being allowed to compete at UFC on Versus 4 due to him not receiving medical clearance. But after more than a year out of fighting, Marquardt signed with Zuffa-owned Strikeforce and promptly won the vacant welterweight title in perhaps the best performance of his career in his organizational debut. Whether or not Marquardt would be welcomed back into the UFC with open arms remains in question, but he could rule the 170-pound class if he gets another shot in the UFC.
3. Luke Rockhold
He’s probably one of the most underrated fighters in all of MMA, but the Strikeforce middleweight champion has been Mr. Steady and hasn’t lost since 2007. He’s racked up eight stoppage wins including victories over Tim Kennedy, Keith Jardine, and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, and chances are he’d be thrown right into the mix with the top five contenders in the UFC. A win over unbeaten prospect Lorenz Larkin would go a long way to solidify his place as one of the top middleweights in the game.
2. Glbert Melendez
The importance of “El Nino” to Strikeforce was never more evident than when the organization was forced to cancel an entire card in September when he pulled out with an injury. Consistently ranked as one of the top three lightweights in all of MMA since winning the interim Strikeforce title in 2009, his trilogy with Josh Thomson has been one of the best in the history of the sport. He’ll likely be immediately thrown into the pool of top contenders upon entering the UFC.
1. Daniel Cormier
Fans have seen Cormier grow up as a fighter right in front of them in the Strikeforce organization, as the former Olympian made his debut at Strikeforce Challengers 3 in 2009. Eventually, he entered the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix as an alternate for Alistair Overeem, and the long shot became a favorite after a brutal first round knockout over Antonio Silva propelled him into the finals, where he defeated Josh Barnett to become the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion. There has already been trash talk between Cormier and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and that fight could happen if Cormier makes a planned drop to 205 pounds in 2013. Otherwise, he’ll likely be a contender at heavyweight even if he decides not to make the cut.