Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
As I'm sure you're aware of by now, Strikeforce will cease to exist after January 12th, 2013. It seems likely that a lot of the fighters will be moving over to the good ol' UFC. But what the heck do you with the best talent in Strikeforce in terms of matchups? Well, I'm here to try and make some sense of it all. I'm not going to predict the future for everyone, but let's take a look at what could happen for a bunch of the top fighters from Scott Coker's baby.
First off, I'm going to make another big assumption - that Zuffa isn't looking at title vs. title matchups right out of the gate for the three belts that are on the line at the last Strikeforce event. They have individual division plans that would probably supercede this idea, and it's not like any of the WEC guys got title shots when they came over (yes, Anthony Pettis was told he'd get one, but he never did). I think they'll give each guy a major fight before they ever sniff a title shot, to introduce them to the UFC audience. So my matchmaking will be made along those lines. With that caveat out of the way, let's roll.
Ronda Rousey - The women's bantamweight champion is in the unique position of being her division. She's not going to be challenging any current UFC fighter, because there aren't any females in the UFC. She's the groundbreaker, and probably a major part of the reason this went down the way it did. She won't be defending her title on January 12th, and will likely walk into the UFC in the vein of Jose Aldo - she'll be christened the UFC champ right away. I think her first title defense should come against Sara McMann, but the biggest fight would undoubtedly be against Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos. Can she make 135 though? Who knows. A rematch with Miesha Tate is a possibility as well.
Daniel Cormier - Dion Staring? That's the best they could do? Wow. Anyway, it seems pretty obvious that if he's going to stay at heavyweight (which depends on the UFC 155 main event between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos), that he should probably face formerly scheduled opponent Frank Mir first.
Gilbert Melendez - He's meeting Pat Healy at the last SF event, and he's probably going to defend his title successfully. It's possible he could face Ben Henderson immediately if Bendo beats Gil's teammate Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5. I doubt it though (since the Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone winner is probably in line first), and he certainly wouldn't face Diaz if he won. So who should he fight? My vote is for someone who hasn't even fought in the UFC yet.
The bout has already been discussed at length in the past, and it has a pretty good storyline - Bellator's best (not really, but it works) vs. Strikeforce's best at lightweight. Winner gets a shot at the UFC title. It introduces them to the audience in a high-profile fight, and it's guaranteed entertainment. Alvarez isn't actually signed yet, but it's going to happen. Alvarez vs. Melendez would be awesome on the April Fox card.
Luke Rockhold - He meets Lorenz Larkin on January 12th. Could Larkin win? Sure. Will he? I don't think so. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has said that he'd be interested in facing Rockhold, but it looks like he'll be fighting Georges St. Pierre next. That means the MW title is on the shelf for a bit, but Rockhold should be a frontrunner for an eventual shot ASAP.. Two possible matchups make the most sense. He should face either the winner of the Chris Weidman vs. Tim Boetsch bout at UFC 155, or the winner of the Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort bout at UFC on FX 7. I'd prefer the latter, especially if Weidman wins since he deserves the first shot. If Anderson will ever fight him, that is.
Nate Marquardt - First off, will the UFC take him back? If he beats Tarec Saffiedine, I think they will. Marquardt at welterweight in the UFC might have stalled out not too long ago, but he can still be a force in that division and there are plenty of good fights for him. Who should he meet first? I think the winner of the UFC on Fox 5 bout between Rory MacDonald and B.J. Penn sounds excellent.
Ronaldo Souza -He really should be the man facing Rockhold in Strikeforce's swansong, but whatever. I don't know if he'll be booked on the January 12th card, but if he is and if he wins, give him the winner of Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares. That sounds amusing no matter how it turns out.
Gegard Mousasi - He hasn't fought since like 1997, but he can definitely be a force in the LHW division and it has long been a dream of mine to see him in the UFC. I hope he fights in January, but somehow I doubt it. Either way, throw him in there with James Te Huna once he makes it to the UFC. Power vs. technique. I'd pay for that.
Josh Barnett - The wildcard. I assume they'll give The Warmaster a bout on their last card, for no other reason than to fulfill his contract. Will he get brought over to the UFC? Who knows. His acrimonious relationship with Dana White leads me to believe that he won't, but I really, really want him to. There are so many great matchups for Barnett in the UFC, and I might be totally dreaming with this, but here goes - if they bring him over, give him the winner of the TUF Brazil 2 coaches bout between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum. Nog/Barnett 3? Money. Barnett/Werdum? Money. Will it happen? Hell no. But It should.