Yesterday’s final Strikeforce event will forever be an important date in MMA history. We witnessed many of the organization’s finest fighters take one last walk down the ramp and cement their likely inclusion in the UFC roster. It is a consequence of Zuffa’s purchase of the organization in the beginning of 2011. Interestingly enough, this situation has occurred in the sport before; on December 16th, 2010, WEC had its final event before folding into the UFC. At the time, there was speculation on how well its lightweights would perform in the octagon. In less than two years the outstanding success of Benson Henderson (6-0 UFC, Lightweight champion, 2 title defenses), Donald Cerrone (6-1 UFC, 5 fights in 2011, 5 bonuses), Anthony Pettis (2-1 UFC, KO of Lauzon) and mixed performances from several others in the UFC has ended that speculation. With many of Strikeforce’s fighters debuting soon, one has to wonder if any of its divisions will shake things up like the WEC lightweights. I believe the Strikeforce lightweights, welterweights, and middleweights have the best shot.
Notable Strikeforce lightweights include: Josh Thomson, Gilbert Melendez (division champion), Pat Healy, Ryan Couture, KJ Noons and Caros Fodor (expected to face Sam Stout). Melendez will get the best fighter the UFC can offer for his first fight, if not a title shot. At 21-2, riding a 7 fight win streak, with wins over Aoki and Thomson, expectations are high for him. Thomson arguably won his last fight against Melendez and is also expected to perform well in the UFC. Lastly, Healy, who was set to face Melendez and is riding a 6 fight win streak, has enough experience to figure into the equation. However, the UFC lightweight division's depth may be too difficult to overcome.
Notable welterweights include: Nate Marquardt, Tarec Saffiedine (division champion) and Robbie Lawler (expected to fight Josh Koscheck). While not as deep as the Strikeforce lightweights, Marquardt and Saffiedine on their own could jam up the division. For the same reason though, I think it is less likely they will replicate the WEC lightweights.
Notable middleweights include: Ronaldo Souza, Gegard Mousasi (he is considering a return to this weight class), Tim Kennedy, Luke Rockhold (division champion), Lorenz Larkin and Roger Gracie. If Mousasi returns to the middleweight division within his first couple of fights, this division will likely turn the middleweight division upside down. With top UFC middleweights like Belcher, Boetsch and Palhares falling recently, it is an opportune time for Strikeforce veterans to take over. Also, it is the UFC’s weakest division with Anderson Silva sitting comfortably at top. While it is not likely that any of these fighters, or UFC fighters for that matter, will dethrone Silva like the lightweights did to Edgar, this division still has the best chance to most resemble the WEC lightweights.
Which division do you think poses the greatest threat to its UFC counterpart?