Strikeforce Marquardt vs. Saffiedine: Five Fights to Watch to be an Informed Viewer

Nate 'the Great' Marquardt lands a brutal right hand against Tyron Woodley last July. - Photo by Esther Lin/Forza

There are plenty of interesting matchups on this weekend's Strikeforce card. Here are the fights you should be watching in order to know what to expect.

One of the most depressing things to watch in MMA is how promotions that die never seem to go out with a proper swan song. Nothing is ever graceful about their exit. Either you go out with your Kimbo Slice tucked between your legs, along with allegations of corruption and fight fixing, or you haunt us with images of a man so large that when he falls, the biological mechanisms that exist to let him back up seem absent.

Hell even Pride's final show was somewhere in the middle of embarrassing exits on a scale of 1 to Beached Butterbean. So it's with modest pleasure that Strikeforce's final show is not a complete sham. The names on the roster belong to legitimate mixed martial artists, which is shocking for an MMA promotion given the sport's history of the disgracefully departed.

As always, ‘five fights to watch to be an informed viewer' is about analysis, and not categorizing. Even though I think the card is good, let's not kid ourselves into thinking these matchups are ultra competitive. Since there's a good chance you've asked yourself ‘Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett are fighting who??', perhaps it's useful to start by filling in those blanks (respectively).

Dion Staring vs. Damian Grabowski at BOTE January 30, 2010

Keep in mind the title of this piece is not ‘Five Fights You'll Enjoy Watching'. Staring's loss against the relatively decent Damian Grabowski is a tepid affair. We see what Staring is capable of, and not capable of. He's a gritty, stocky, grinder type HW who would be at home on a bad season of TUF doing just enough to get onto the show.

He can clinch, and power through takedowns, and does so with regularity against the not-too-bad Grabowski. But sloppiness and a lack of cardio go hand in hand, which is how Staring gets caught. If there's anything to learn from this fight, it's that Staring's best hope is for Daniel Cormier to forget where to place his head on a slam like Gray Maynard, and knock himself out.

Nandor Guelmino vs. Ajlin Ahmic WFC 12 December 19 2010

The Schwarzenegger-voiced Nandor Guelmino is not a prospect by any means, but he's relatively quick for a HW. Ajlin Ahmic could be confused as a prospect, so it's to Nandor's credit that he's Ahmic's only loss. Watching the fight, however, and it's hard to understand how Ahmic lost in the first place.

None of what you see in the video tells us Nandor has even a remote chance against Josh Barnett. When he gets caught on the ground, Ahmic runs a clinic on him, switching to mount, to armbar, etc. None of the action illustrates the "chess match" the announcers keep blathering about. But we do see, as we saw in his match with Semmy Schilt, that Guelmino has a nice inside leg kick, and fast enough hands. Barnett won't lose this weekend, but he might have his hands full if he decides to keep the fight on the feet.

Nate Marquardt vs. Anderson Silva UFC 47

It's hard to draw parallels with the technical, and conservative but crafty offense of Tarec Saffiedine. No, I'm not comparing Saffiedine with Silva. But Saffiedine is unlike most of Nate's opponents, where Marquardt as it his best when he can bully fighters on the feet with his right hand.

I don't think that'll be the case here. Saffiedine is different from Gouveia, who defended Nate's plagiarism of Fulgore with his face, and Okami, who too easily falls into defensive shells standing. I happen to think this is a fascinating matchup, but if Nate's flaw lies anywhere, it's that even against great strikers, he gets over anxious with his right hand. Granted, his loss against Silva started with a brilliant switch nobody saw coming, but Silva softened him up with a few well-placed punches before the stoppage. Does Tarec have the same ability? No, but Marquardt has been cracked before. Even in the mostly lopsided fight against Thales Leites was Nate dropped.

Gegard Mousasi vs. Melvin Manhoef DREAM 6

I don't expect Mousasi to have problems against Mike Kyle, just like he didn't against Melvin Manhoef. Even though Kyle has improved over the years, Mousasi is never in danger against fighters who are primarily one-dimensional (which describes Mike to a T).

Gegard only gets into trouble when his opponent keeps the fight constantly in transition. People have odd memories of his scrap against Lawal (having watched it recently), in which Lawal landed the best punches of the fight on the feet because Mousasi seems to have trouble with switching between keeping his punches chambered, and being prepared to defend takedowns.

Even though expectations have long since cooled over Mousasi's status in the division, his talent can't be ignored. He's not a dumb fighter. If he senses any semblance of discomfort against Kyle on the feet, he'll take him down, where he's more than capable of scoring the submission.

Ronaldo Souza vs. Joey Villasenor Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery

Though not any discernible threat, Ed Herman is talented for a journeyman. Kind of like Joey Villasenor (though a bit better). Jacare has improved a lot since then, especially on the feet (though I don't think that much should be taken from his KO over Derek Brunson), but don't expect some lights out submission from the jiu jitsu phenom. Souza tends to turn in workman-like performances against rugged fighters who can defend the submission. I don't expect a pedestrian affair but fireworks don't await us either.

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