Most fighters did as expected at last night's final ever Strikeforce event that took place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. However a questionable decision in the Ryan Couture vs K.J. Noons fight had some people -- including UFC President Dana White -- calling it a robbery, and unexpectedly to most Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt for the now defunct Strikeforce Welterweight title.
Out of last night's roster of talent that was on display, I'll take a look at who should get a UFC contract, and who will most likely have to peddle their trade elsewhere.
Tarec Saffiedine - He did what few expected in defeating Marquardt last night, and a win has to ensure him a contract with MMA's leading fight promotion. We haven't seen a talented kickboxer in the UFC's Welterweight division since Paul Daley sucker-punched his way out of it. Depending on which version shows up, a fight with Thiago Alves could be dynamite, as well as many other interesting wrestle-boxer match ups.
Daniel Cormier - The still undefeated Heavyweight, and the unexpected Grand Prix Heavyweight champion is assured a place in the UFC after dismantling his game but outmatched opponent Dion Staring last night. Now team mate Cain Velasquez has recaptured UFC gold, it'll be interesting to see which weight division he fights in, as opportunities for great fights exist at both Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight, with Dana White saying he's open to Cormier competing in either. Could we be seeing a Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier title fight before the year is out?
Josh Barnett - On merit alone, Barnett should get to go to the UFC. However his 'I serve no master' ethos and strong individuality is likely to clash with the controlling Dana White as it has done in the past. Barnett did what he had to last night, got a quick finish and took no chances largely due to the illness that plagued him training for his opponent. How difficult the negotiation process for a UFC contract will be is largely down to The Warmaster.
Gegard Mousasi - A UFC contract has seemingly been a long time coming for this Armenian-Dutchman. A stand-out in Dream, Mousasi has found success at both Light Heavyweight and Middleweight, and has openly said he would drop back to 185lbs for a title fight. As long as there's no longer any M-1 baggage attached to this talented fighter, he should be good to go.
Ronaldo Souza - 'Jacare' met a game 'Short Fuse' in the cage last night, and a grazing illegal upkick that was almost dismissed by the oblivious referee, lit a fire under the Brazilian that lead to a shoulder wrenching Kimura finish. UFC's Miidleweight division is always in need of new blood, and Jacare's aggressive, dynamic submission fighter approach is a welcome addition.
Ryan Couture - Couture showed he could have the grit and determination his father famously brought to the cage in his scrappy, exciting performance with K.J. Noons. Controversial as the judging decision is, his willingness to scrap and find a way to fight back when in peril are the attributes Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta claim to love in a fighter.
K.J. Noons - While he technically lost due to dubious judging, he and Couture have unfinished business and a rematch makes for perfect FX fodder, either as a prelim to a PPV or on a FX event in its own right. Rounds 1-3 were thoroughly entertaining, and I'd bet Dana White and Joe Silva are thinking rounds '4-6' could deliver similarly.
Tim Kennedy - The Middleweight won his fight against a stronger than expected opponent, and gets a chance to see how good he really is in the UFC.
Roger Gracie - The most successful Gracie in the Jiu Jitsu world is incredibly one dimensional, but his skill in that one dimension is out of this world. He got the win, and trains with Black House (Lyoto Machida and uncle Renzo Gracie were in his corner last night) and as mentioned, Middleweight needs as many good fighters as it can get.
Hit The Road
Kurt Holobaugh - Being a risk taker just isn't enough to gain a spot in UFC's most swollen division. The kid's spirited, but needs more experience in the smaller shows.
Jorge Gurgel - Need I say more?
Mike Bravo - 7-4 isn't a completely terrible record, but his call up to the big show ended in a fairly definitive fashion. More wins needed before a UFC opportunity.
Mike Kyle - We wish you well in your future endeavours as a retired MMA fighter.
Just Let Me Bang, Bro!
Dion Staring & Nandor Guelmino - Both were utterly outclassed and outmatched, but we knew that from the start. However given the shallowness of the Heavyweight division and how top heavy it is, the learning curve for prospects working their way up is steep. UFC could always do with more bodies in a division where some good fighters need a more gradual path to progress. Nandor is also a European Heavyweight which there are a dearth of this side of the world. A cheap contract for both is a possibility.
Anthony Smith & Trevor Smith - Similar to Heavyweight, Middleweight could do with new bodies. Both Smiths could become prospects on physical attributes alone if matched up against fighters more their skill and experience level. Again, UFC won't have to break the bank to make them an offer to bolster a weight class that needs it.
Adriano Martins & Estevan Payan - Both won their fights, both were on unaired prelims. Lightweight isn't in need of Martins, Welterweight might need Payan a little more but not by much. They're in if Dana White is good for his word, which according to Jorge Gurgel, a win guarantees you a shot in the UFC. Dana White has changed his mind before, though.
Nate Marquardt - Lost without question the decision to Saffiedine, but has rarely been in a boring fight and would make an excellent high end gatekeeper at Welterweight. Annoyed Dana White no end for blowing the main event of a UFC card he was involved in, hence him fighting in Strikeforce. Generally a respectful guy, and capable of being a company man. A third chance for Marquardt hangs in the balance.