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The Strikeforce debut/return to the UFC review

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In January, the UFC added 20 fighters to their roster from Strikeforce. Some were fortunate to make it, while others were locks to make the roster. Now these fighters may not have the star power like Nick Diaz or Alistair Overeem, but some of them could be future champions. Gilbert Melendez was very close to becoming the lightweight champion, while Daniel Cormier is being touted as a possible future champion.

The Strikeforce debut/return to the UFC review

It’s been about five months since the transactions occurred. Most of them have debuted or returned by now, so I’m going to break down the most notable performances. There was a lot of buzz going into some debuts such as Melendez, Cormier, Luke Rockhold, and Jacare Souza.

There are some fighters that haven’t debuted yet. Roger Gracie will be facing Tim Kennedy at UFC 162. The winner of that fight should be put in the top ten of the middleweight division. Still most of them have fought at least once by now, which makes it a perfect time to breakdown their fights. Here are some fighters that stood out the most from their debut or return in the UFC.

Josh Thomson

Nobody impressed me more from the group of Strikeforce fighters than Josh Thomson. He wasn’t a heavy underdog against Nate Diaz, but it was obvious that Diaz was the favorite. It was an intriguing matchup between two different styles although everyone felt that Thomson needed to take Diaz to the ground.

That wasn’t the case and Thomson took the fight to Diaz. He implemented a lot of kicks and pushed the pace for the entire fight. When Diaz was taunting him, he never lost his composure and battered Diaz with some vicious combinations. Then he landed his second head kick and finished him off.

Nobody ever knocked out Diaz before, which is why this was such a monumental victory. Not even Benson Henderson fought like that against Diaz. As the fight went on, Henderson was looking for takedowns and not wanting to standup. Thomson was relentless with his kicks and looked to be in the best shape of his life. A fight with Pat Healy could be next and if he were to win, he should earn himself a title shot.

Jacare Souza

Some people may be upset that he’s on the list because he was a huge favorite going into his fight against Chris Camozzi. When you compare his performance to the likes of Cormier and Gegard Mousasi, it looks much better. Souza came into the fight as a heavy favorite and fought like one. He didn’t jab for three rounds and look to play it safe like Mousasi. He was aggressive and looked to finish the fight right away.

From the second the bell started, he was in control of the fight. His standup looked good before taking down Camozzi. The best part of the fight was that he really had to work to secure the arm triangle choke. Camozzi’s ground defense was solid and he really battled hard in an attempt to get out of the first round. Souza is so strong and dangerous on the ground that it was only a matter of time before he was going to finish him.

We haven’t seen Souza’s full potential yet, but we’ll see it in a few months when he fights Yushin Okami. After seeing his past few fights, Okami has bullied his opponents into the cage and has grounded them. He did that against smaller middleweights in Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard. I’ll be shocked if he managed to do that against someone as massive as Souza. This is an excellent fight that should be labeled as a title eliminator. Both fighters are riding a lot of momentum and could be on their way towards a title shot in the future.

Pat Healy

The official record book may not make it seem positive, but it was a great performance by Pat Healy in my eyes. Jim Miller was a heavy favorite going into that fight and had only been finished once in 26 fights. That is an impressive feat, which goes to show you how tough Miller truly is.

When that fight was announced, it seemed like Healy was going to struggle with Miller’s speed and cardio. He may have been bigger and stronger, but Miller is one of the top lightweights in the world that can fight at a rapid pace. The fight ended up being one of the better fights so far this year and it was easily the best fight at UFC 159.

Healy used his size advantage to dictate the second and third round. He grounded Miller, which led to most of his significant strikes especially when he got Miller’s back. When he submitted Miller, it was shocking to see considering how good Miller’s submission defense was. Healy made a massive statement in the division despite losing the victory due to testing positive for marijuana. It’s unfortunate that happened, but I’m sure he’ll get a big fight coming up.

Here are a few fighters, who fell flat in their debut or return to the UFC. There was a long list to choose from.

Luke Rockhold

Other than Cormier and Melendez, nobody had more buzz going into their UFC debut than Luke Rockhold. He was fighting in a main event against one of the most respected fighters in the company in Vitor Belfort. It was a massive fight that had some heat behind it with Rockhold very confident in his chances of winning.

He looked rattled from the start and never seemed to get comfortable in the fight. Belfort was very aggressive, while Rockhold was on his heels. Then when he tried to attack, it didn’t muster up to much. He even slipped at one point going for a head kick. Belfort showed him how to connect with a head kick with a spinning heel kick that has to be up there for knockout of the year.

It was a major loss for Rockhold, who had so much momentum going into this fight. Many people believed he was going to win by outworking Belfort and winning by decision. It wasn’t meant to be and now he’s going to have to bounce back in a major way. He’ll probably fight one more time before the end of the year. A fight against the winner of Tim Boetsch vs. Mark Munoz could work.

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Nate Marquardt

It was really disappointing to see Marquardt get knocked out in the first round. When he returned to the UFC, I was really excited to see him join a welterweight division full of fighters who can knock anyone out. The possibilities of matchups were endless with guys like Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler, and Johnny Hendricks. They match him up against Jake Ellenberger, which is a great matchup considering how they are pretty similar.

These are both guys, who are very aggressive and have serious knockout power. You knew the fight wasn’t going to go to decision based on how both fighters fight. That prediction was correct, but to see Marquardt get knocked in the first round was really surprising. He was coming off a tough loss by decision against Tarec Saffiedine, so you would expect him to respond better.

He is expected to fight Hector Lombard before the year ends. Usually, Marquardt has the strength advantage in his fights considering he dropped down from middleweight only a few years ago. Now that may not be the case in a fight, which will have high implications. Both fighters haven’t been riding much momentum recently and desperately need a win. If he were to get knocked out in the first round again, we could see Marquardt cut again which will be unfortunate. He never seems to be fully appreciated for all of the great performances he’s put on over the years.

K.J Noons

Even though he’s getting older and entered a talent-rich lightweight division, people still had high expectations for K.J Noons. Many people were split on their prediction when Noons fought Donald Cerrone at UFC 160. It was the only fight on the card, where people seemed really unsure on whom to pick. Instead it turned out to be very lopsided and Noons was soundly defeated.

There has been always criticism on Noons being too one-dimensional at times with his boxing. You would think he prepare himself better for a versatile fighter in Cerrone. Instead he was taken down at will and was well controlled throughout the fight. He was cut open early in the fight and never seemed to recover.

He has lost five out of his last six fights although the loss to Ryan Couture was a questionable judging decision. Another loss would likely lead to Noons being cut. In a division as good as the lightweight division, he needs to get his act together fast. He needs to be more prepared for well-rounded fighters that can strike, wrestle, and can ground-and-pound. The only division fighters can get away with being one-dimensional and manage to have a pretty nice career is the heavyweight division.

Those are six of the twenty Strikeforce additions that have stood out the most. The debuts of Daniel Cormier and Gegard Mousasi were pretty lackluster. Both of them seemed to play it safe, although at least Cormier was going up against a two time heavyweight champion in Frank Mir. Mousasi went up against Illir Latifi and never looked like he was going to finish the fight.

Even though he wasn’t included in the 20 fighters that were signed, Josh Barnett will be making his return to the UFC against Mir in August. This has been a dream fight of mine and many other fans for years now. The buildup should be entertaining as well considering both guys aren’t afraid to speak their mind.

Even though not many of them have stood out yet, there will be better performances from the Strikeforce additions in the future. This was a great crop of fighters that should compete in the top ten for years to come. Hopefully we’ll get to see matchups like Melendez against Diego Sanchez in the future. The UFC needs to continue to put the fighters from Strikeforce against UFC veterans to make fresh match-ups. They’ve done it for the most part so far and it has been successful.

You could follow me on twitter @Allen_Strk or e-mail me at AStrk19@gmail.com and be sure to follow @MMA_Sucka for all breaking news and updates.

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