Strikeforce matchmaker: Who should the ‘Marquardt vs. Saffiedine' main card winners fight in the UFC?

Photo by Esther Lin via SHOsports

Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with Strikeforce's final event in the history books, the big winners from the event are expected to be brought over to the UFC. If that's the case, who should the Strikeforce vets meet inside the Octagon?

Strikeforce: "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine" has come to a conclusion. And in what was organization's last ever event; the fighters delivered solid action on what will forever be a memorable night in mixed martial arts (MMA) history.

Tarec Saffiedine, Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, Gegard Mousasi and Ronaldo Souza were the big winners Saturday night (Jan. 12, 2013) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on Showtime.

After every fight card, fans wonder who the winners will be matched up with next. That reigns especially true for the fighters from the final Strikeforce event, as the UFC talent pool is much deeper than Strikeforce.

Not everyone has a guaranteed spot on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, but for the sake of this article, let's assume all five "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine" main card winners will be signed to compete inside the Octagon.

Here we go:

Winner: Ronaldo Souza
Who He Should Fight Next: Rich Franklin
Why They Should Fight: What better way to introduce "Jacare" to UFC fans than by pitting him against a former UFC champion in Franklin? Despite the fact Souza has won three in a row and Franklin is coming off a first-round knockout loss to Cung Le, the match up still makes sense.

From Franklin's standpoint, a fight with Souza gives him the chance to rebound from the devastating loss to Le with a relatively safe fight. By no means is Franklin winning a given, but the chances of him getting knocked out again are minimal. Moreover, "Ace" has a historically exceled against grappling-based fighters, never having lost by submission in his 37-fight career.

At 38 years of age, the clock is ticking on Franklin's career and if he can't get by Souza that might be the best indication it's time to hang up the gloves.

For Souza, there's no greater opportunity to make a splash on the UFC scene than by taking out a former world champion. The high-level submission grappling arsenal of the 33-year-old makes him a threat to absolutely anyone, but it would be especially interesting to see if the Brazilian could be the first person to make Franklin tap out.

This match up would be a welcomed edition to the main card of any UFC pay-per-view (PPV) lineup.

Winner: Gegard Mousasi
Who He Should Fight Next: Alexander Gustafsson
Why They Should Fight: In a perfect world, Gustafsson's next fight would be for the light heavyweight title, a shot he supposedly earned with his unanimous decision victory over Mauricio Rua at UFC on FOX 5 last month.

As we know by now, though, the MMA world is far from perfect, and with Chael Sonnen, Daniel Cormier and possibly Dan Henderson or Lyoto Machida waiting for a crack at the belt as well, it's unlikely that "The Mauler" will be fighting for UFC gold any time soon.

That means Gustafsson needs to stay active, so why not have him welcome Mousasi to the UFC?

This potential match up is extremely enticing for a number of reasons. Both men come out of Europe, are young, lengthy, slick and prefer to keep their fights standing while always working to finish the fight.

Some have argued that Mousasi truly belongs at 185-pounds. Once he steps into the cage with the 6'4" Gustafsson, it wouldn't take long to assess if that's the case or not.

Other potential options for Mousasi in the UFC are against the winner of Quinton Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC on FOX 6 or the winner of Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156.

Regardless of what ends up being next for Mousasi, the Dutchman's trip to the UFC is long overdue and he is one to keep a close eye on going forward.

Winner: Josh Barnett
Who He Should Fight Next: Roy Nelson
Why They Should Fight: Josh Barnett's return to the UFC is the most uncertain of any main card winner, but should "The Warmaster" be welcomed back to the Octagon after nearly 11 years away, he would immediately find himself "in the mix" with the top heavyweight contenders.

There are a number of options for Barnett in the UFC. Considering the currently landscape of the heavyweight division, a fight with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 10 winner Roy Nelson is the most logical.

Nelson knocked out Matt Mitrione last month at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale and is currently on a two-fight win-streak, albeit against underwhelming competition.

From a purely competitive perspective, Nelson vs. Barnett would be all kinds of fun. Both men have knockout power in their hands, solid wrestling chops and stellar submission skills. Plus, it could potentially pit two of UFC President Dana White's most disliked fighters against one another.

If Barnett signs with the UFC, hopefully it will be for the long-haul and a fight against Nelson would be just the start of a number of fascinating match ups involving the longtime MMA veteran in the UFC.

Winner: Daniel Cormier
Who He Should Fight Next: Frank Mir
Why They Should Fight: Cormier and Mir are making Joe Silva's job easy, as they have both campaigned to fight one another in recent months.

Cormier and Mir were scheduled to meet at a Strikeforce event last November, but an injury to Mir forced him off the card. Since then the former UFC heavyweight champion has stated he is more than open to welcoming Cormier to the UFC once "DC" completed his Strikeforce contract.

Cormier did just that, defeating Dion Staring by second-round TKO in his final Strikeforce fight. The Heavyweight Grand Prix champion even went as far as calling out Mir in his post-fight interview with Pat Militech.

While the bout is not yet official, look for this fight to take place at UFC on FOX 7 on April 20, 2013, in Cormier's backyard of San Jose.

Winner: Tarec Saffiedine
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Josh Koscheck vs. Robbie Lawler at UFC 157
Why They Should Fight: Saffiedine stunned the MMA world with his lopsided decision victory over Nate Marquardt in the main event of the final Strikeforce show.

There appeared to be big plans for Marquardt's re-entry to the UFC, and Saffiedine played spoiler, stealing Marquardt's thunder and leaving fans wondering what is next for "Sponge."

Should Saffiedine be signed to the UFC, which is expected, the Belgian needs to face a strong wrestler in order to prove he is grown as a fighter from his lone defeat under the Strikeforce banner, a unanimous decision to Tyron Woodley in Jan. 2011.

The perfect test for Saffiedine's UFC debut would be against the winner of longtime veteran of the organization Josh Koscheck and knockout specialist Robbie Lawler, who are currently scheduled for a 170-pound contest at UFC 157: "Rousey vs. Carmouche" on Feb. 23, 2013.

After seeing what Saffiedine was able to do against Marquardt on the feet, Koscheck would likely rely on his wrestling abilities in a hypothetical match up. If the 26-year-old could neutralize Koscheck's takedown attempts, it would go a long way in showing what he could do against the division's best.

If Lawler pulls off the upset at UFC 157, a match up with Saffiedine would be an intriguing striking battle, but it's unlikely many fans would want to see two ex-Strikeforce fighters face off so soon.

Look for Saffiedine to be paired up with a Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce or Jay Hieron-type character if "Ruthless" defeats Koscheck next month.

That ends this edition of fantasy matchmaker. What do you think of these potential match ups? Do you agree? Disagree?

Let us know in the comments section below which Strikeforce vs. UFC fights you would make involving the main card winners from last night's show.

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