Based in San Jose, California, Strikeforce provided more than enough moments of pure MMA magic. HP Pavillion witnessed history on numerous occasions, from Le vs. Shamrock, through Carano vs. Cyborg, and up to the legendary encounter between Fedor Emelianenko and Fabricio Werdum.
Strikeforce legacy will carry on with its former fighters, vast majority of which will join the Ultimate Fighting Championship. So which former Strikeforce fighters we should be looking for in 2013?
DC is currently the number one pound-for-pound fighter competing under the Strikeforce banner. Cormier is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Mixed Martial Arts, possessing surprising explosiveness and great striking skills that allowed him to record high-profile victories against Antonio Silva, Jeff Monson, and Josh Barnett. While it remains pretty clear that Cormier will not challenge his teammate Cain Velasquez for the UFC Heavyweight title, a drop down to 205 seems like an exciting opportunity for the thirty-three year old Olympian.
I've always been a fan of 'El Nino' Melendez. However, I must admit that a split decision victory over Josh Thomson was not one of the best moments in Melendez's career. At the same time, I'm highly intrigued to see what a motivated Gilbert Melendez can do inside the Octagon. Many experts believe 'El Nino' is one of the Top 10 Pound-for-Pound fighters on the planet, but let's see if he lives up to the expectations.
The Great has absolutely destroyed Tyron Woodley at his 170 debut back in July, 2012. Marquardt is one of the most experienced fighters in MMA, and definitely has the necessary skillset to achieve greatness at Welterweight. It's also interesting to see that Nate Marquardt has no problems fighting his former teammate Georges St. Pierre. Top fighters should fight top fighters, simple as that. I can't see Marquardt losing this weekend, however, fights against guys like Koscheck, Jake Ellenberger and Hendricks would be an interesting test for the former King of Pancrase.
Yes, Josh Barnett. The Baby-faced Assassin is still a force to be reckoned with, and definitely a threat for many top fighters in the UFC Heavyweight division. Barnett still has his trademark aggressiveness, and the unique catchwrestling style that would make him a 10,000-piece for guys like Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. I'm not saying Josh Barnett will be the next UFC Heavyweight champion, but I can definitely see him going strong in the higher echelon of the UFC Heavyweight division.
Last but definitely not the least, Luke Rockhold is probably the most exciting fighter to join the UFC from Strikeforce. Unique striking skills, magnetic personality, and a good potential to become the next big thing in the UFC Middleweight division. The same division that finally his a good list of potential title contenders. Rockhold would blend-in perfectly, with many promising match-ups on the radar. I'll make a bet on Costa Philippou as Like Rockhold's first opponent inside the Octagon.