After causing more noise than nearly every other competitor to the UFC during its peak years, Strikeforce went out fairly quietly with its final event over the weekend, as the California-based organization will now close up shop. It was a long time coming, as the promotion was sold to UFC parent company Zuffa in 2011 and had been hemorrhaging money almost since that time. Just as fellow defunct organization WEC had, the final bout in the organization’s history featured an upset, as welterweight Tarec Saffiedine earned a unanimous decision over the heavily favored Nate Marquardt to claim the organization’s welterweight title. Saffiedine likely earned a spot on the UFC’s roster with the win, something that had only been promised to former UFC castoff Marquardt prior to the bout.
One of very few top ten fighters left on the Strikeforce roster, heavyweight Daniel Cormier ended his Strikeforce career with a bang, as the unbeaten former NCAA champion and Olympian put a clinic on against the overmatched Dion Staring in the co-headliner. Cormier is now expected to face Frank Mir in his UFC debut in April, and but he has vowed to drop to light heavyweight after that to take on his verbal sparring partner Jon Jones this fall.
Josh Barnett isn’t guaranteed a spot in the UFC due to a rocky past with the organization, but he certainly made his case as one of the sport’s elite heavyweights with a first round submission over Nandor Guelmino. Afterward he called out the entire UFC roster – or any heavyweight that is willing to step in the cage with him. A pair of former Strikeforce champions also earned likely tickets to the UFC, as middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi both earned quick stoppage victories. Souza stopped UFC import Ed Herman with a first round submission, and Mousasi retired Mike Kyle with a submission of his own.
Strikeforce preliminary winners were Ryan Couture, Tim Kennedy, Pat Healy, Roger Gracie, Adriano Martins, and Estevan Payan.
Jones wins Fighter of the Year
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones may have taken the blame for the cancellation of UFC 152, but that didn’t hinder him from winning the “Fighter of the Year” award at the 2012 World MMA Awards ceremony. He beat out Daniel Cormier, Ronda Rousey, Nate Diaz, and Benson Henderson to claim the award at the ceremony in Las Vegas. Other notable award winners were Dana White (Leading Man of the Year), Chris Weidman (Breakthrough Fighter of the Year), Edson Barboza (Knockout of the Year), Rousey (Female Fighter of the Year), the UFC (Promotion of the Year), and Frank Mir (Submission of the Year/Comeback of the Year).
Bellator vs. Alvarez appears to be headed to court
It appears as though the contract battle between Bellator MMA and its former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez could be headed to court. After Alvarez’s contract expired in October, he received a contract offer from the UFC. But Bellator had the option to match the offer, and they feel like they made an exact offer. Alvarez’s attorneys felt otherwise, as he was guaranteed a network TV deal on FOX (which Bellator couldn’t offer), and an immediate title shot. It remains to be seen how the battle will play out, but if Bellator does earn the services of Alvarez, he likely won’t be a happy employee.
Bellator sets tourneys for Season 8
With or without Eddie Alvarez, Bellator is moving forward with its eighth season, which will be its first on Spike TV. The season will begin this week with Bellator 85, as a pair of title fights will kick things off for the organization on its new home. Lightweight champion Michael Chandler will defend his title against Rick Hawn, and featherweight champion Pat Curran will defend his title against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The event will also include three quarterfinals in the light heavyweight tournament, which includes former Strikeforce champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, former UFC title challenger Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and “Kimbo Killer” Seth Petruzelli.
The next week, Bellator 86 will feature the organization’s welterweights. Champion Ben Askren will defend his title against Karl Amoussou, and the search for the next challenger will begin with the 170-pound tournament quarterfinals. Marius Zaromskis, Ben Saunders, Douglas Lima, and five others will battle for a title shot.
Bellator 87 will feature the lightweights, as eight fighters will vie for a shot at the 155-pound title, including Will Brooks, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, Lloyd Woodard, and Alexander Sarnavskiy.
TUF 17 cast announced, one fighter a “boogeyman”
The cast for the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter was announced this week, and it appears as though one fighter on the cast of middleweights puts nearly every opponent he faces in the hospital. That fighter is rumored to be Tor Troeng, a Swede who is known for his vicious fighting style. Other notable fighters include former NCAA wrestling champion Jake Heun, Strikeforce veterans Kevin Casey and Zak Cummings, EliteXC veteran “Bubba” McDaniel, and Northeast powerhouse Uriah Hall.
The UFC has suspended two more fighters for failing post-fight drug tests, as middleweight Rousimar Palhares and light heavyweight Joey Beltran both received nine-month suspensions following losses at UFC on FX 6 in December…Invicta FC 5 will feature the organization’s debut in California, and the April event will feature 105-pound atomweight champion Jessica Penne’s first title defense against Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson…One FC 7 will take place on Feb. 2 in Malaysia and is set to feature a Malaysian featherweight championship tournament…Jon Jones’ next light heavyweight title defense is official for April 27, as he is set to face Chael Sonnen after the two serve as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 17.
By David McKinney (@MMAMcKinney)