Last night’s edition of “UFC Tonight” featured an announcement of 20 fighters to be absorbed by the UFC from Strikeforce. Fighters such as Daniel Cormier and Gilbert Melendez were obvious shoo-ins, as they already have UFC bouts lined up for April. Some of the lesser-known fighters may have been unsure of their Zuffa status, but the list reads as follows:
Champion Luke Rockhold
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Champion Tarec Saffiedine
Champion Gilbert Melendez
So with the list being announced promptly, the former Strikeforce fighters now know where they stand. Now the discussion shifts to the exact impact they will have on their respective UFC divisions.
Obviously the higher weight divisions will see the least fighters come over, but Daniel Cormier is widely viewed as the fighter with the ability to make the most waves in the UFC. His exact readiness for top-level UFC fights will be gauged when he faces Frank Mir on April 20th. Many believe he could be a UFC champion, but he refuses to fight titleholder and teammate Cain Velasquez. A bout with Jon Jones at 205 is hopefully on the horizon.
Gegard Mousasi could do some damage at 205, but it remains to be seen if he is fully healed from past devastating injuries. If healthy, the sky could be the limit for the talented kickboxer. A fight with someone like Glover Teixeira could be a good matchup down the road.
Middleweight has some great talent headed to the Octagon. Luke Rockhold is no doubt a great fighter with some creative standup and a gas tank to last late into the championship rounds. He shocked many by wresting the Strikeforce 185 lb. belt from Jacare, and has recently speculated on a fight with fellow rising prospect Costa Philippou.
Jacare himself has been on a tear since losing his belt, and he could continue that in the UFC. Lorenz Larkin has a good chance to score some knockouts with his impressive Muay Thai, and it will be interesting to see if Roger Gracie can succeed at the highest level while being quite one-dimensional.
Welterweight is interesting too, but also shaky for the Strikeforce defectors. With so many talented wrestlers with KO power in the division already, it will be quite tough for Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine to gain another belt. The leg kicks he used to destroy Nate Marquardt last weekend could be turned into many a takedown against the UFC’s top 170 lb. fighters, or so one would think.
Marquardt has been given another chance in the UFC, but I think it will be tough goings for him unless he can score some early knockouts. Prospect Roger Bowling has some definite potential but will be in deep waters from the outset.
Lightweight will get a few fighters that could mix up the division a bit, or at the very least provide some new and exciting 155 lb. bouts. Obviously the title bout between Gilbert Melendez and Benson Henderson will be great to watch this spring, and will answer a lot of questions and speculation about who is the true best Lightweight.
Beyond that, I think Josh Thomson could surprise a few folks. He may not be flashy, but he is gritty and never quits. Thomson could be a good gatekeeper for the UFC to gauge how ready some of their young talent is getting.
I think that perhaps K.J. Noons and Ryan Couture should face off in a rematch on an upcoming preliminary card. I thought Noons won that fight, but Couture was awarded the controversial split decision.
Pat Healy will have a chance to prove himself, but if he doesn’t do it quickly, and impressively, he may not last long. Kurt Holobaugh and Adriano Martins will also need to win and win quick to stay afloat in the competitive UFC Lightweight division.
So the announcement has been made and several talented fighters are headed to the UFC. Some will have their appearance felt immediately, while others will most likely debut later on this year. I personally think it was a good move by the UFC to get this over and done with, because now we know who can be speculated upon.
Josh Barnett is left off the list, as his renegade attitude and past troubles with Zuffa most likely leave a UFC return up to chance at this point. I think that outside of Cormier, and to a lesser extent, Rockhold, Jacare, and Melendez, the Strikeforce fighters may find a rocky road ahead of them. What do you think of the list and how it will shake up the UFC?