Perspective is a weird thing. When the WEC was closed, most fans were celebrating and referring to guys coming over to the UFC as a "merger". It was sad, but WEC 53 was almost a celebration of the underdogs finally getting all the benefits of being in the UFC. Strikeforce though? It's a whole different story. Two cancelled events and a weakish last event have given many a "good riddance" attitude towards the promotion's closure. I saw it stated last night that it was more of a funeral atmosphere than anything, and that was true. This isn't a merger. Strikeforce died.
But what about the fighters?
Some guys are going to be out of a job. That's the harsh reality of businesses shutting down. But this also gives Joe Silva and Sean Shelby more matchmaking opportunities than ever, and there are a lot of guys (and girls) from Strikeforce that will quickly become contenders in the UFC. So, without further ado, here's how I would book the top ten Strikeforce fighters in their UFC debuts.
Just for clarity's sake, I'll throw in two notes before I get started. One - I'm leaving Ronda Rousey out of this since she's already booked against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157. In fact, I won't include anyone that's already booked in the UFC. And two - this list isn't putting the guys in order from 1-10 or anything, and shouldn't be taken as my version of a Strikeforce P4P list. It's in no particular order, other than the champions on top. Anyway, let's roll.
Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman - Look, Rockhold's coming in as the champ. It's possible that he gets the next shot at Anderson Silva if Michael Bisping loses, but I think a straight number one contender's bout with Weidman is the way to go. This should co-main a PPV or a Fox show, so the winner gets as much exposure as possible. It also gives Rockhold time to heal up since Weidman will still be out for a while.
Gilbert Melendez vs.Ben Henderson - If Eddie Alvarez was going to get a straight title shot coming in from Bellator, there's absolutely no reason while Melendez shouldn't get one. There's no clear-cut challenger for the lightweight title right now, and Gil is by far the best option. I maintain that Alvarez vs. Melendez for a title shot is still a good idea coming in, but Eddie's contract makes it clear that isn't something that's going to happen. So if Alvarez is going to be stuck facing a court battle over his services for a while, just give Melendez the shot.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Martin Kampmann - Yes, Kampmann is coming off a loss. But it was in a title contender's bout, and this is a good enough style matchup that they should just go for it. Saffiedine's got a lot to prove in the UFC's welterweight division, especially that he can handle a wrestler. But for his first bout, let's give him a standup war that the fans will enjoy. Kampmann is a great fit there.
Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir - This one's pretty obvious. They were supposed to meet on Strikeforce card in November, and Cormier called him out again last night. Just book it. Cormier called out Jon Jones too, but he should probably drop to 205 for a bout before that's a consideration.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Hector Lombard - If Jake Shields were staying at 185 I'd pick him, but I think he's going back to 170 again isn't he? Lombard is a good style matchup for Jacare, and it would be a very intriguing fight.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira winner - Maybe it's just because I'm a huge Mousasi fan, but I think he can hang with the top end of the UFC's LHW division. The title is tied up for a while, and there are plenty of people in line for a title shot. So give Mousasi a bout against a top guy that's not quite in the title picture right now, which gives it time to figure itself out. Rashad/Gegard sounds all kinds of awesome to me.
Roger Gracie vs. Rich Franklin - Look, we all know Gracie is supremely talented on the ground. But his striking is still really raw, and he needs more cage time. Franklin has never been submitted in 37 career bouts, and it's probably best to put him in there with someone that doesn't have KO power right now. Both have name value and this could headline a Fuel card.
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Brandon Vera - Feijao is still suspended for a little while, but he will be brought over for sure. Giving him a guy coming off a loss would make sense since his last bout was flipped to a no-contest. Vera's a good style matchup for him.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Francis Carmont - Let's face it, Larkin was given his shot against Rockhold way too quickly. It obviously didn't come to fruition either way, but he won't be fast-tracked like that in the UFC. Carmont is 4-0 in the organization and is a solid test for Larkin's first UFC fight.