Luke Rockhold pulls out of fight at "Strikeforce: Champions" with injury

By David McKinney

Can a card with no champions really be called “Champions”?

Former No. 2 MMA promotion Strikeforce may have to ask themselves that if things keep going the same way, as the lineup for the organization’s Jan. 12 swansong event, Strikeforce: Champions, took another hit when middleweight champion Luke Rockhold was forced off of the event with a wrist injury. He will no longer be able to compete in his bout against unbeaten prospect Lorenz Larkin, according to a report from The MMA Corner.

The organization is now left to look for replacements for two of its top contenders, as lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez was also forced off of the card with an injury last week. He was slated to take on Pat Healy in a rescheduled 155-pound bout, but apparently won’t be ready in time for the January card.

So the question becomes whether Strikeforce will even have a final event, especially with the lack of star power that this card suddenly has. Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier is still on the card, as is welterweight champion Nate Marquardt in a title defense against Tarec Saffiedine. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Zuffa pull the plug in favor of bringing some of these guys onto the UFC roster sooner rather than later. That way, both Zuffa and Showtime can get on with their lives.

Showtime has been rumored to have a few ideas for new MMA programming, including the likelihood of either signing an existing organization or starting their own similar to their boxing franchise.

While UFC president Dana White said that he was disappointed with how the Strikeforce situation turned out; it’s hard to imagine that Zuffa ever really had any plans in the card for the franchise other than killing its top competition. Strikeforce had a pretty good run and was eventually a strong enough competitor to the UFC to earn a buyout, and maybe that’s all any promotion can hope for.

The MMA landscape is now basically the UFC and Bellator, with Bellator not really a huge competitor to the UFC as the business models are different. Plus, the Viacom ownership of the tournament-based league gives them viability into the foreseeable future. Strikeforce’s death will create less brand confusion, an important key for a sport still trying to gain a more permanent foothold in the mainstream.

But will Strikeforce’s last show actually happen? At this point, I’d bet the house on no.

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