Now that the dust from Saturday night’s Strikeforce event has settled, it’s time to examine what logical next steps can be taken with the stars of the event. While playing armchair matchmaker is usually an easy task, as most fights make themselves, that simply isn’t the case this time around. We will look at the barren landscape that is Strikeforce at the moment, and what’s left for the competitors.
Daniel Cormier: We’ve always known that the winner of the Heavyweight tournament would have one more fight in Strikeforce before entering the UFC, but after the sterling performance put on by Cormier, finding any meaningful opposition is next to impossible. With the exception of DC and Barnett, the entire Strikeforce heavyweight roster has been ingested by the UFC.
As Dana White has stated, UFC fighters will remain UFC fighters, nixing any possibility of a cross-over heavyweight bout. Leaving us with one-off options outside of the three major MMA promotions. The twelve pounds of gold that now sit around Cormier’s waist say that his next fight must be someone with at least some name value. Given that the heavyweight division is notoriously thin, finding anyone with name name value, coming off a win, is incredibly difficult. Andrei Arlovski and Fedor Emelianenko come to mind, but given their failed Strikeforce runs, it is highly unlikely that either man makes it back to the promotion.
This leaves us with Todd Duffee and Tim Sylvia. Duffee’s last win, came behind two losses, leaving “The Maine-Iac.” Sylvia has been, rather unsuccessfully, lobbying for another UFC run, making him the logical choice. If Sylvia can look even remotely competent against Cormier, he may find himself with a permanent slot under the Zuffa banner. Meanwhile, if Cormier completely blows his doors off, Zuffa have rid themselves of a nuisance.
Best Case Scenario: Tim Sylvia
Josh Barnett: Like Cormier, Barnett is also stranded in an empty Strikeforce heavyweight division. However, the loss to Cormier makes choosing his opposition easier. Barnett does not to headline the next Strikeforce card he’s featured on. Any of the aforementioned heavyweights would serve as a decent foil for Barnett. Strikeforce may not even need to dip outside of their roster, as light heavyweight Mike Kyle, who also lost on this card, has always shown a willingness to fight at heavyweight.
Given his bombastic personality, Barnett could be a sellable co-main event on nearly any UFC card. If Zuffa does indeed plan on bringing “The War Master” into the fold, it would be best to do so on the heels of a winnable fight against a solid, visible opponent.
Best Case Scenario: Mike Kyle
Gilbert Melendez: Melendez finds himself in the precarious position of being champion in a division where nearly all of the top competitors are in the UFC or have already lost to “El Niño”. Unless, for some unfathomable reason, Eddie Alvarez decides to sign with Strikeforce, there’s no discernibly sellable fight for the champ. The only fighter with name value for the Cesar Gracie product to face would be KJ Noons, who is coming off a loss.
There is, however, Pat Healy. While not the most visible fighter in the division, Healy is riding a four-fight win streak against strong opposition, looking impressive in the process. The angle of Pat Healy rising to the top of the Strikeforce ranks after once being considered a journeyman for so many years can also make this an interesting title tilt for Melendez.
Best Case Scenario: Pat Healy
Josh Thomson: It would seem that “The Punk” is in the same unenviable position his AKA training partner, Jon Fitch, held for so long. After coming up on the short-end of the trilogy with Melendez, Thomson now sits as the definitive number-two in the division. Giving him another shot at the strap while Gilbert holds seems irrational, yet you can’t simply have him pick off future title contenders one-by-one.
The idea behind much of Zuffa’s matchmaking is winners face winners, losers fight losers. Melendez’s previous victim, Jorge Masvidal seems like a ripe fight to make for “The Punk”. Given “Gamebred’s” lack of offense against Gilbert, he will likely not be in the title picture any time soon.
Best Case Scenario: Jorge Masvidal
Rafael”Feijao” Cavalcante: Hands down, the easiest take away from this card. It is a fight that Strikeforce fans have been clamoring to see for quite some time. If Strikeforce is going to stick around, they will need a light heavyweight champion, and it should be the winner of Feijao-Mousasi. Both men have asked and been asked for the bout behind their last wins. The time is now.
Best Case Scenario: Gegard Mousasi
Mike Kyle: After being blitzed by Feijao, there is really no lack of options as to what you can do with the AKA product. As I said earlier, a return to heavyweight to duel with Josh Barnett seems to be in Barnett’s best interest. What’s best for Kyle is questionable at this point. With Dan Henderson splitting town and King Mo being released, there is an utter lack of contenders after the next title fight. Perhaps a match with Ovince St. Preux is in order? Whoever can right the ship can simply hope to obtain one more win after that bout, finding themselves “in the mix”.
Best Case Scenario: Ovince St. Preux
What happens next is up to Sean Shelby, who has proven to be a good matchmaker, even with the mess he’s given to work with. Hopefully Some kind of magic can be worked and some of solid match-ups can be made following Strikeforce: Cormier vs Barnett.