The Strikeforce organization held an event for the 63rd and final time before seizing operations for good as Strikeforce: "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine" went down last night (Jan. 12, 2013) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The fight card was one of the most stacked in the organization's history, with a number of Strikeforce-made stars and notable names entering the Hexagon for one last fight. More importantly, each bout was viewed as a "UFC audition," with the winners from the event expected to sign with the UFC.
In the event headliner, underdog Tarec Saffiedine upset Nate Marquardt to win the Strikeforce welterweight championship and as a result, will go down as the last 170-pound champion in the company's history.
In a sport like mixed martial arts (MMA), each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the cage, especially with the high stakes of the final Strikeforce show, is the highest of highs and can alter a fighter's career forever, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on Strikeforce's final fight card as well as a fair share of disappointments. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winners and loser from the event.
The biggest winner of the night and from the death of Strikeforce is ultimately the fans. For years, MMA fans have been craving to see the very best from Strikeforce take on the very best from the UFC. We have already seen glimpses of those fantasy match ups with the like of Alistair Overeem and Nick Diaz entering the Octagon, and now that Strikeforce no longer exists, the UFC will hand pick who they want to bring over to compete against the elite of the elite in the world's top MMA organization, making potentially fictional match ups into a real possibility.
Tarec Saffiedine was unsure about his future even after his upset of Nate Marquardt; however, it would be tough to deny "Sponge" a place on the UFC roster after his lopsided win over "The Great." Few expected the Team Quest product to defeat Marquardt, but he did just that, and in impressive fashion to boot. Of all the fighters to compete on the card, Saffiedine was hands down the biggest winner and it would be a travesty if he was not signed to the UFC.
Heavyweights Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett got the job done, dispatching of unknown Strikeforce newcomers Dion Staring and Nandor Guelmino in a swift and decisive manner. Cormier punched his ticket to the UFC and will likely debut against Frank Mir sometime this year. Barnett's future, on the other hand, remains a mystery.
Gegard Mousasi made a statement with a quick submission of Mike Kyle, and if brought over to the UFC will make a nice addition to the light heavyweight division. "The Dreamcatcher" has been one of the most talented fighters in the world for years now -- at 27 years of age and with 38 professional fights under his belt, the time is now for the Dutchman to make a run in the UFC.
Ryan Couture was the biggest winner from the night's "Prelims" card, earning a split decision over K.J. Noons, albeit in highly controversial fashion. Nearly everyone, including this writer, scored the fight for Noons. But that did not stop two of the ringside judges from giving the nod to Couture. With just seven professional fights under his belt, a win over Noons, however disputable it may have been, is nothing to shake your head at. Even if it's just based on the merits of his last name alone, expect Couture's next fight to take place under the UFC banner.
The biggest loser of the night and from the death of Strikeforce is the fighters. Whether you liked it or not, Strikeforce, especially prior to being bought out by UFC parent company ZUFFA in March 2011, was a necessary organization for the growth of MMA. There are only so many spots on the UFC roster and Strikeforce provided a quality alternative with a lot of exposure from the likes of Showtime and CBS. With a mix of homebred fighter, established veterans, big names and the odd PR magnet such as Hershel Walker, Strikeforce had a unique roster and put on many significant fights. Now that the organization has wrapped up its final show, there is one less promotion in town for athletes to make a paycheck, which hurts the sport in the end.
Nate Marquardt was a complete letdown, losing nearly every round to Tarec Saffiedine. Marquardt looked like an absolute killer in his welterweight debut against Tyron Woodley last year, but appeared completely lost for all 25 minutes against Saffiedine. "The Great" was picked apart by "Sponge," eating leg kick after leg kick while offering no response. Coming into the event, Marquardt was already talking about facing the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks upon entering the UFC, which makes his performance all the more disappointing.
K.J. Noons gets a spot in the loser's column, but through no fault of his own. The 30-year-old was utterly robbed by the judges against Ryan Couture, resulting in his fourth defeat in his past five fights. Even though a loss in technically added to Noons' record, few feel he was beaten and hopefully the UFC brass see it the same way and give the "King" a shot to redeem himself inside the Octagon.
Every fighter who came out on the wrong end of his bout falls into the loser's category. The 11 match ups scheduled for the event were viewed as "UFC auditions," but aside from Marquardt, Noons, and Ed Herman (who came over to Strikeforce from the UFC for a one-off fight), no one's future is safe. Don't be surprised if many of the losing fighters from "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine" are looking for a new job come Monday morning.
Who were your biggest winners and losers from the final Strikeforce event? Let us know in the comments in the comment section below.