UFC president Dana White might have emphasized that Strikeforce, although recently bought by his organization, will operate as a separate entity, but the not-too-distant future should see fantastic fights when, rather than if, the newly-bought promotion is merged into the ever-growing giant that is the UFC.
Yes, Zuffa’s purchase of the UFC’s main competitor in the United States is operating as normal, but that won’t last. So, which Strikeforce fighters can MMA fans hope to some day see fighting in the octagon? That’s a tough one to answer. But here is a dozen that would certainly add something to the mix:
1 Gilbert Melendez, lightweight (8-1 Strikeforce record): this 28-year-old Californian is probably the most justifiable threat to the UFC’s best. Considered the second best lightweight, his combination of stamina, strength, wrestling, strategy and striking places him alongside Anthony Pettis and Gray Maynard as a leading challenger to Frank Edgar’s title.
2 Nick Diaz, welterweight, 27 (5-0 Strikeforce): an ex-UFC fighter, Diaz is the existing Strikeforce welterweight champ and hasn’t been beaten since 2007. The 27-year-old is one of only a few non-UFC welterweights that fans want to see face Canadian Georges St-Pierre. The Californian defends the title on April 9 at San Diego’s Valley View Casino Arena against unpopular Englishman Paul Daley.
3 Alistair Overeem, heavyweight (3-0 Strikeforce): this 30-year-old Dutchman would be a major asset to the UFC’s heavyweight category with his undiluted power and striking. A fight against Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir, Junior dos Santos or Brock Lesnar would pack out any arena.
4 Dan Henderson, light-heavyweight (Strikeforce 2-1): yet another Californian, 40-year-old Henderson – with only one fight remaining on his Strikeforce deal – might well be the earliest star to switch to the UFC, a mere two years after leaving White’s organization. He is the current light-heavyweight champion after defeating Rafael Cavalcante last weekend.
5 Gegard Mousasi, light-heavyweight (2-1 Strikeforce): his considered style and killer instinct make him an appealing addition. The 25-year-old Armenian must, however, plan more when facing quality fighters and strengthen his takedown defense.
6 Muhammed Lawal, light-heavyweight (2-1 Strikeforce): if this 30-year-old from Tennessee with an affable personality can improve his striking and manage his stamina, he could be a massive star.
7 Tim Kennedy, middleweight (4-1 Strikeforce):?an Army Special Forces vet, this 31-year-old – and another Californian – would be a wonderful addition to the UFC middleweight division.
8 Antonio Silva, heavyweight (3-1 Strikeforce): a 31-year-old Brazilian who is rapidly emerging as one of the most well-rounded fighters in his weight.
9 Fabricio Werdum, heavyweight (3-0 Strikeforce): another big Brazilian whose jiu-jitsu is impressive. It would be spectacular to see this 33-year-old fight Carwin, Velasquez, Mir, dos Santos and Lesnar.
10 Ronaldo Souza, middleweight (4-0 Strikeforce): a submission specialist, this third Brazilian, aged 31, would provide a nice counterpoint to the grappling/wrestling styles of such as Japanese star Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen.
11 Rafael Cavalcante, light-heavyweight (3-2 Strikeforce): the fourth Brazilian in our dozen possesses an outstanding ground game, while the UFC could use this 30-year-old to provide greater depth to its light-heavyweight division.
12 Robbie Lawler, middleweight (2-3 Strikeforce): the final Californian on our list of possibles, this 28-year-old can supply one-punch KOs. Crowds lap that up.