Photo by Dave Mandel for Sherdog
Before the UFC swept in with their handfuls of cash, Strikeforce was a pseudo-national MMA organization of moderate success. Without the necessary roster to support deep divisions of talent, Strikeforce owner Scott Coker and matchmaker Rich Chou were forced to manage their resources carefully and creatively in order to sign bouts that appealed to a national audience.
This was evident with their first card following the purchase of EliteXC's assets in February of 2009. Coker and Chou took San Jose-favorite Frank Shamrock and pitted him against newly-acquired welterweight Nick Diaz in a catchweight bout at 179 pounds. The catchweight gimmick continued on their next major show as Jake Shields agreed to fight Robbie Lawler at 182 pounds in the main event.
Once the company settled in, they began to focus on developing traditional talent pools in the five major weight classes. It was a task made tougher by the fact that the vast majority of talent concentrated in the UFC.
The problem peaked in January when welterweight champion Nick Diaz defended his title against Evangelista Santos. Santos, owning a career 18-13 MMA record, challenged for Diaz's titled after a lone victory at 170 pounds over Marius Zaromskis. He put on a spirited performance, but ultimately fell to a Diaz submission late in the second round.
With Diaz's victory over Paul Daley and Gilbert Melendez trouncing Tatsuya Kawajiri last night, the Strikeforce brain trust finds themselves in a familiar position. By wiping out Daley, Diaz eliminated the only fighter ranked in our Consenus Rankings under Strikeforce contract. Melendez whacked the number eight lightweight, but still has number four Shinya Aoki, who submitted Lyle Beerbohm within two minutes last night, waiting should Strikeforce be able to secure his services.
But fans want to see both men fighting the elites in the UFC (as evidenced by the trollish 4% who answered no in last night's absurd Showtime poll), and Melendez himself called for a unification bout between himself and the eventual UFC champion.
Scott Coker believes we'll see crossover fights in eight months to a year, but the situation with Melendez and (moreso) Diaz is immediate. Melendez has Aoki, but a victory would erase his final Strikeforce challenger. Diaz has no viable contenders in line outside of Tyron Woodley, an 8-0 prospect without any meaningful victories on his ledger.
Opening up the possibility for UFC fighters to crossover (or vice versa) just makes sense at this point. It would allow Diaz to fight the likes of Josh Koscheck (and split up the AKA logjam at the top of the UFC's welterweight division), providing him the top ten opponent that fans have demanded.