Another MMA promotion bit the dust on Saturday as Strikeforce put on its final show. Strikeforce began its journey a scant seven years ago and put on some memorable fights and generated some of the most recognizable names in MMA such as Cormier, Rousey, Cung Le, and Jacare Souza. Along the way, some of the legends of the sport also passed through the Strikeforce cage including Dan Henderson, Frank Shamrock, and “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianko. Ultimately, poor planning, bad behavior in the cage, and some lousy luck ended Strikeforce’s run as an independent promotion and it becomes only the latest in a line of promotional absorptions by the juggernaut that is Zuffa/UFC.
In the main event, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nate “The Great” Marquardt put his title on the line versus Belgian kickboxer Tarec Saffiedine. It was expected to be a lopsided victory for Marquardt but someone forgot to tell Saffiedine as he dominated the fight. Saffiedine stuffed Marquardt’s takedowns and peppered Nate’s legs with kicks. Marquardt would land the heavier strikes but by round four the damage to his lead leg threatened to destroy any kind of power he had in his punches. Marquardt looked gassed early, a stark contrast from his previous fight but not unheard of during his career. Saffiedine brutalized Marquardt’s leg for five rounds and by the final round Marquardt could barely stand much less fight. To put an exclamation point on his triumphant performance, Saffiedine actually took down the larger man and held him there until the bell rang. Tarec Saffiedine takes the unanimous decision victory (48-47, 49-46 x 2) as well as the Strikeforce welterweight championship. It was a fitting end as Saffiedine made his name in Strikeforce, rising through the undercards and Challenger series. Now, he makes his way to the UFC as the final Strikeforce Welterweight Champion
In the best illustration of how far Strikeforce has fallen, rising star and Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier followed up his career making victory over Josh Barnett by facing complete unknown Dion Staring. Cormier was expected to use his world-class wrestling pedigree to ground and pound Staring into next week. That was largely the case as Staring was completely outclassed in all aspects. Cormier’s wrestling was a centerpiece of his attack but he also used effective and improved striking to rough up Staring in the first and second rounds. To Staring’s credit, he did try to fight his way out of positions but by the end of the second round, “Big” John McCarthy had seen enough. Cormier get the TKO victory and improves to 11-0 in his MMA career. He moves onto a step up in competition in the UFC where I expect him to make an impact immediately. Cormier didn’t waste any time as he called out Frank Mir for his first fight in the UFC and then proceed to call out Jon Jones at light heavyweight. 205 lbs. would be a much better weight class for Cormier as he might have trouble muscling the big boys at heavyweight.
Veteran fighter and former UFC Heavyweight champion Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett attempted to make his case that he should be allowed back in the UFC despite his earlier transgressions as he stepped into the cage vs. Nandor “The Hun” Guelmino. Guelmino came into this bout a HUGE underdog as he had never faced anyone near the caliber of Barnett. That was very evident as Barnett immediately took Guelmino down. After Guelmino scrambled to get up, Barnett worked for another takedown. Guelmino gifted an arm triangle on the floor and Barnett obliged. Barnett’s easy victory was overshadowed by his great by pro-wrestling standards post-fight interview which probably did more to raise his value to the UFC than cruising to a win over an unknown heavyweight.
Former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi made his return facing veteran fight Mike Kyle. The fighters spent the first minute or so feeling each other out with Mousasi stalking Kyle around the cage. After failing on the first attempt, Mousasi managed to take Kyle down and begin the softening up process. From there, it all went the Armenian’s way as Mousasi transitioned to mount and began raining strikes. Kyle was forced to give up his back and that allowed Mousasi to lock in the rear naked choke for the first round victory. Mousasi looked focused in moving to 34-3-2 and this rededication to his MMA career will serve him well in the UFC.
Ed “Short Fuse” Herman became the first and only UFC contracted combatant to fight in the Strikeforce cage as he took on former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jacare Souza on short notice at a catchweight of 195 lbs. The two fighters came out cautiously until Jacare took down Herman with a thunderous dump. Herman attempted to scramble and ended up hitting Souza with some illegal upkicks after which the ref inexplicably stood the fighters up. Jacare immediately responded by easily taking down Herman again and transitioned to a sick looking kimura that forced the tap. Souza looked in complete control the entire time and looked better on the feet we’ve previously seen him. Jacare improves to 17-3 and serves notice to the UFC middleweight division that a strong, dominant submission grappler is making his way to the big stage.
Ryan Couture defeated K.J. Noons by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
Tim Kennedy defeated Trevor Smith by submission (guillotine), 1:36 of round 3
Pat Healy defeated Kurt Holobaugh by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Roger Gracie defeated Anthony Smith by submission (arm-triangle choke), 3:16 of round 2
Adriano Martins defeated Jorge Gurgel by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Estevan Payan defeated Mike Bravo by TKO (strikes), 4:01 of round 2