This weekend, Strikeforce will close its doors as a promotion, and it’s been a slow, and at times, painful death. However, there was a day when Strikeforce was the number two operation in the world and boasted an impressive array of fighters. When the dust settles on Saturday night, Strikeforce will go down in history as a failed venture that never lived up to its potential. But at the end of the day, they put on some memorable fights featuring some great fighters. Let’s take a look at five of the best:
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson:
When these two legends met in a superfight in late July of 2011, a match was made that Pride FC fans had been clamoring for many years prior. Fedor came in incredibly game, and Henderson was the promotion’s newly crowned Light Heavyweight champ, having bested Rafael Cavalcante earlier that year. The bout was a legendary slugfest that saw Fedor rock Henderson with a barrage of punches, only to see Henderson use a slick wrestling reversal and KO Emelianenko with a powerful uppercut on the ground.
Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley:
Another match of explosive strikers, this fight featured two bad boy personas rather than the soft-spoken attitudes of Henderson and Fedor. Diaz, as Welterweight champ of the time, was wisely expected to use his BJJ pedigree to outclass the British striker Daley. But this bout showed just how stubborn Nick Diaz can be, as he chose to stand and trade. Both fighters rocked each other, and one point, it seemed like Diaz was just about out. However, he came back with some thunderous hits of his own and earned the TKO finish.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson III:
These two rivals met for the third time at the World Heavyweight Grand Prix Final. Melendez was talked of as the Lightweight champ who should be in the UFC fighting better competition. But Thomson gave him all he could handle in an absolute war. While Melendez showed great striking and defense early on, it was in fact Thomson who used great takedowns in the later rounds. In the end, Melendez kept his streak alive, winning the grudge match with a five round decision.
Cung Le vs. Frank Shamrock:
Strikeforce was just beginning to make waves when MMA legend Frank Shamrock faced off with dynamic striker and Sanshou champ Cung Le in early 2008. We saw a rare site in MMA, as Shamrock was thoroughly outclassed on the feet with a whirlwind of strikes from Le. Le broke the arm of Shamrock with a kick, and the former UFC Light Heavyweight champ never fully recovered. Cung Le was the new Middleweight champion.
Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate:
When Ronda Rousey was scheduled to fight Miesha Tate for the Women’s Bantamweight title in March of 2012, she was a relatively unknown, albeit undefeated, judoka with an Olympic medal to her name. Tate cried she didn’t even deserve the title shot. Rousey proved her wrong with brutal effectiveness, securing a first round armbar that ultimately tore the ligaments from Tate’s elbow. Ronda Rousey was catapulted into the stardom that she has since parlayed into the inaugural UFC Women’s title.
These fights were all very exciting for me to watch, and showed a glimpse that there could be great MMA outside of the UFC in current times. It was not meant to be, however. You may think that other fights deserved to make the list, so let me know what your favorite Strikeforce bouts are in the comments below.