UFC vs Strikeforce: First matches to make in 2013 for inbound champions

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

Who will Strikeforce champions Ronda Rousey, Luke Rockhold, Nate Marquardt and Gilbert Melendez meet when they are integrated into the UFC early next year? Assuming they all retain their belts in January, Patrick Stumberg has a few good ideas that could make for some fun, meaningful fights.

When the news of Strikeforce's imminent demise broke, the average mixed martial arts (MMA) fan's thought process likely went something like this:

"Man, that's lame. Do I want pizza, chicken, or tacos tonight? Why do we park in driveways and drive in parkways?"

And then, once the hazy fog cleared:

"Wait a minute ... That means the champs are coming to the UFC. Awesome!"

The obvious question, of course, is who these champions, most of whom will be putting their titles on the line in January (see the final "stacked" fight card here) should face when they enter (or return to) the biggest stage in the sport, Ultimate Fighting Championship).

Here are my fantasy match-making picks:

Luke Rockhold vs. Larkin winner against Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares winner

Anderson Silva and his (mis)adventures in other weight classes have left the Middleweight division in what could charitably be described as an absolute clusterf**k. The two main contenders, Michael Bisping and Chris Weidman, are already booked, and considering Silva's pursuit of a "super" fight with welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, they will likely have to fight each other before getting a title shot, assuming they beat Vitor Belfort and Tim Boetsch, respectively.

Unless, of course, UFC President Dana White takes up "The Count" on his interim title offer.

The top part of the division has cannibalized itself to the point where the only other logical options are people coming off of losses: Brian Stann, Mark Munoz or Hector Lombard. While all three would make intriguing choices, the fact that Bjorn Rebney was trying to organize a Lombard vs. Jacare fight back when the latter held the title gives the Cuban an interesting storyline with which the UFC could work.

The only problem there is that Lombard has to get by Rousimar Palhares in December, which is no mean feat. If he loses, however, throwing "Tree Stump" against the Strikeforce champion could create its own intrigue: "Is the UFC really so superior that this guy can beat both their champions? Can Strikeforce prove its worth by succeeding where Bellator's best failed?"

In either case, you have both good backstory and the potential for hectic fights, since all four of these gentlemen can produce some crazy highlights when they're at their best.

Nate Marquardt vs. Tarec Saffiedine winner against Jon Fitch

If all this kerfuffle about Silva vs. GSP not happening, I would most likely recommend an immediate title shot. And while these two don't have truly great wins at 170 pounds, the welterweight elite are in a bit of a bind at the moment. Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann are about to fight, Nick Diaz is suspended and Josh Koscheck is apparently waiting to welcome hiim back.

Once again, that leaves three guys to welcome the champ: Jon Fitch, Jake Ellenberger and Mike Pierce. Honestly, I'd rather the two fight each other -- Ellenberger needs another quality performance and Pierce can have a chance to finally break his streak of close decision losses to top-tier wrestlers. If Carlos Condit defeats St. Pierre at UFC 154, give the shot to the Strikeforce champ. If not, have him fight Fitch and get the shot if he wins.

And if Fitch wins? GSP will be busy with Silva, leaving Dana free to keep throwing "number-one contender" fights at Fitch until he loses.

Gilbert Melendez vs. Pat Healy winner against Gray Maynard vs. Joe Lauzon winner

Again, this is a case where the winner should probably get an immediate title shot, but is stymied by poor timing: namely, Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone on UFC on FOX 6, which will, in my opinion, produce a more deserving contender.

Setting the winners of these bouts against each other makes sense, but that leaves division champion Ben Henderson -- or Nate Diaz if he can dethrone "Bendo" -- on the shelf for far too long for my taste. With Frankie Edgar going down to Featherweight, the winner of the Maynard/Lauzon bout seems the best option. A fight between the winners of these two bouts would produce an undisputed number-one contender.

Ronda Rousey vs. Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino

Come on, did you really think it would be anyone else? This is the be-all, end-all fight of women's MMA. The only possible reason they could have for not putting it on right off the bat is to give Rousey and Cyborg tune-up fights in the UFC proper to show the masses what they're capable of.

And before you bring up Cyborg's drug suspension, the fact that Alistair Overeem gets to keep his title shot proves that the UFC really doesn't give a crap as long as you bring in money. If you're a highlight reel like Overeem, you can juice to your heart's content and still get the biggest payday of your life. Meanwhile, if you're unmarketable Yushin Okami, you lose your shot if you get injured.

Wait for the suspension to end. Put these gals on the main card. You're guaranteed something crazy.

Sound off, Maniacs. Praise my genius, denounce my idiocy, whatever you please. Who would you choose to bring Strikeforce into the big time?

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