Today Dana White shot down a rumor that Strikeforce was going to sign former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia to fight Cormier on Strikeforce's card at their event coming up on September 29th. Many fans (myself included) assumed this would be the smart fight to make, due to the historically shallow heavyweight division in MMA, especially outside of the UFC. So with Sylvia not coming back into the Zuffa fold, who else is really left for the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP winner to fight? The answer is, not a whole hell of a lot, but in this post I want to go over who is really the best options for Cormier to fight in his final Strikeforce fight before moving over to the big leagues.
10. Sean McCorkle
Record: 16 - 3
Highlight video: Well, there was none, but here is a recent fight he had in Feb this year Here
Known more for his mouth and his presence on fan boards more than his in ring prowess, Sean McCorkle is a huge heavyweight who has UFC experience. In his brief run with the company, he submitted former K-1 Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt before dropping back to back fights with Stefan Struve and Christian Morecraft. McCorkle has shown himself to be a finisher during his career, with only 1 of his fights ever going to a decision. He could make for a semi entertaining fight, plus would do his part to drum up interest while doing his best Chael Sonnen impersonation.
Record: 48 - 18
A former UFC Heavyweight champion, Rodriguez has been in a ring or a cage with some of the greatest heavyweights to ever fight. He holds wins over Gary Goodridge, Andrei Arlovski, Jeff Monson and Randy Couture. Unfortunately for Ricco, those wins all came 10 years ago, and he has struggled with some demons over the last couple of years. He looked to have his career back on track, until meeting Kimbo Slice killer Seth Petruzelli in Bellator last summer. Petruzelli KOed Rodriguez, ending a 9 fight winning streak. Since that loss, Rodriguez has gone 1-6 and could be the perfect warm body with a little bit of a name that Strikeforce could feed Cormier.
Record: 32 - 30
Highlight Video: None to speak of, but here is a video of his win over Randy Couture at Kings 2000 GP here
The brother of UFC Heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem, Valentijn is a veteran of the sport who actually had fought in a reserve bout for the Strikeforce Heavyweight GP, submitting to punches to everyone's favorite sideburned fighter, Chad Griggs. Overeem has been in the ring with some of the best in the world, including his win over Randy Couture, then a loss that same night to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. While certainly not a top shelf heavyweight, he is a solid veteran with a little bit of name recognition who has gone 4-2 over the last two years.
Record: 7 - 2
Highlights: Ok, well I am having a tough time finding highlight videos for mediocre heavyweights, so here is his win over Mike Cook here.
A former Strikeforce fighter, pro wrassler and a former amateur wrestler, Bobby Lashley was once considered "The Next Brock Lesnar". Needless to say he never quite did live up to that billing, but has amassed a solid 7-2 record since beginning his MMA career back in 2008. He is the current Shark Fight HW Champ, but recently dropped a decision to professional tomato can James Thompson. He makes sense for a fight with Cormier based on his name alone, plus it is highly unlikely Cormier would lose that fight.
6. Eddie Sanchez
Record: 13 - 7
Another former UFC veteran, Eddie Sanchez has fought around the world, and has been in the cage with Mirko CroCop, Brett Rogers and Soa Palelei. Sanchez has heavy hands, with 8 of his 13 victories coming via (T)KO, he has also lost 4 of his last 5. I am starting to pick up on a theme here in terms of heavies outside of the Zuffa umbrella.
5. Jon Madsen
Record; 7 - 1
Highlights: I looked man, believe me, I did. Nothing.....
The former Division II wrestler and TUF 10 competitor Jon Madsen hasn't competed since losing to Mike Russow back in March of 2011. He was released after the fight, despite accruing a 4 -1 record in the Octagon after his stint on TUF. He would provide a solid challenge for Cormier, as he has good wrestling (once beating Brock Lesnar in high school) and a solid chin. That being said, we are at the halfway point of this list, and Jon Madsen is on it. Again, the heavyweights, they are no Michael Bispings.
Record: 13 - 2
Highlights: Just visit here for Leland Roling's awesome World MMA Scouting report on Mr. Abdurahimov. It is all full of videos and awesome analysis.
Shamil Abdurahimov is a talented Russian prospect with a knack for ground and pound. The 28 year old is a smaller heavyweight, much like Cormier, and looks like he would challenge the Strikeforce GP winner's takedown defense. Abdurahimov is a finisher, with 11 of his 13 victories coming via (T)KO or submission. The drawback to bringing in Abdurahimov to fight Cormier is that he has no name recognition outside of the hardcores. Cormier and the UFC would have a lot to lose to bring in an unknown newcomer in and potentially have him beat someone with as much hype as Daniel Cormier has right now.
Record: 29 - 15
Highlight: Omg, I actually found one. Here
Paul Buentello is what we as fans like to call a "cagey veteran". He has fought for a UFC and Strikeforce Heavyweight title. He has been fighting since 1997, and has shared the cage with some of the best (Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Gary Goodridge, Tank Abbott). He has struggled of late, going 2-4 since 2010, but at least he is a recognizable fighter who like to brawl and would provide a solid test for Cormier before his eventual move to the UFC.
2. Soa Palelei
Record: 17 - 3
This would actually be a rematch, as Cormier defeated "The Hulk" back in 2010. Palelei has heavy hands (as is demonstrated by his 13 (T)KO victories) as well as is a BJJ black belt and an Australian Freestyle wrestling champion. He is big and powerful and has a pretty well rounded skill set. I don't know if Cormier would want to have a rematch with someone he beat (and cause him to tap to strikes), but as the title says, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel here right now.
Record: 19 - 5
Highlights: Wow, I am like what, 2 for 10. Almost below the Mendoza line. Here
A participant in the Strikeforce GP who lost to Cormier's finals opponent Josh Barnett, Kharitonov is far away the best choice to give Cormier a legitimate opponent. A former amateur boxer, and a student of Russian Sambo, he has a very solid overall skillset. The former Pride and Strikeforce fighter has beaten such notables as Semmy Schilt, Ninja Rua, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski. With Tim Sylvia being out of the mix, and Fedor Emelianenko retired from MMA, Sergei is hands down the best fighter available to fight Cormier this fall.
Did I miss anyone? I think that Dana maybe letting his personal dislike of Sylvia get in the way of the best possible fight for Cormier, but we shall see who they eventually match him up with before his much anticipated move over to the UFC.