Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report 01.18.13: Goodbye Strikeforce Edition
Welcome one and all, the best part of Friday is here again. That’s right, I’m going to start promoting myself as the best thing about Fridays. Of course if I wind up on a different day of the week at some point that will make things awkward for the new Friday guy, but we’ll worry about that if it ever happens. This week we’ve got plenty to go over, including the final Strikeforce event. I know plenty of writers have been predicting the demise of Strikeforce for over a year, but it’s still sad to see a top level promotion go under. I never had any personal great memories associated with Strikeforce, but it was a place for fighters to go and it was different from the UFC. I’m not celebrating its demise, but I do want to say I’m happy it didn’t keep plugging along as it was going, because aspects of it were painful. Hopefully at the end of the day people remember the good things the promotion did, because there were plenty of those. There’s also news, like Benson Henderson’s next opponent and which Strikeforce fighters are UFC bound. Plenty to discuss, hope you’re ready because I’ve Locked you in the Guillotine again.
Pat Healy does what Pat Healy does: Pat Healy, after numerous opponent changes, actually got a fight on the final Strikeforce card. Healy took on Kurt Holobaugh and won a unanimous decision in rather typical Pat Healy fashion. Healy controlled the action on the ground, had a couple of different submission attempts, and just proved again his grappling acumen. I hope he gets a shot in the UFC, though I’m not sure how far he’ll go against that level of competition.
Split decision: Ryan Couture defeated KJ Noons by split decision. Plenty of people disagreed with that decision and thought Noons won the fight. The fight was a back and forth affair contested mostly on the feet. The fight was fun enough one though marred by a questionable decision.
Jacare makes a statement: Jacare Souza defeated Ed Herman by submission in the first round with a nasty kimura. Jacare landed better blows on the feet, his kicks looked better than his last fights and his wrestling was improved as he took Herman down twice including the last one that landed the Brazilian in side control and he locked up a tight kimura that forced Herman to tap out. Herman took the fight on short notice, but he was out of his depth against Jacare here and it showed. Souza now enters the UFC with some pretty serious momentum.
Mousasi impresses: Gegard Mousasi defeated Mike Kyle by submission in the first round in an impressive performance. On the feet Mousasi was clearly more technical but his game plan was to get Kyle to the ground. Once Mousasi got Kyle down it was all over for Kyle. Mousasi’s superiority on the ground was evident as he passed guard, landed hard shots, and locked in a tight rear naked choke to force Kyle to give up. Good win for Mousasi as he looks to get some momentum as he transitions into the UFC.
Barnett does what he should have: Josh Barnett defeated Nandor Guelmino with an arm triangle choke in the first round to win by submission. This was exactly what everyone predicted, exactly what should have happened, and thankfully it was what did happen. I’m not sure if Barnett is heading to the UFC or not, but this is exactly the performance that Barnett should have had in this situation. Good win for Barnett, and I would very much like to see him in the UFC.
Cormier wins again: Daniel Cormier defeated Dion Staring by TKO in the second round with strikes on the ground. Cormier dominated the striking, the wrestling, everything that he should have done. I was a little surprised that Cormier didn’t finish the fight in the first round, but Staring wanted to make some kind of positive impression in his fight. After the win Cormier announced that he had signed with the UFC and was going to fight Frank Mir on FOX before dropping down to 205 and challenge for the light heavyweight title. I actually kind of hope Cormier stays at heavyweight because he’s had some issues making the lower weight before and he’s clearly good enough to fight at heavyweight. His decision will hinge in large part on how long Cain Velasquez remains heavyweight champion, but I am interested in watching Cormier fight in either weight class at this point.
Saffiedine impresses: Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt by unanimous decision to become the final Strikeforce welterweight champion. The fight was dictated by Tarec’s takedown defense and his leg kicks. Tarec landed some really nasty leg kicks through the entire fight that left Marquardt’s left thigh a bruised mess. I don’t think Marquardt was prepared for Saffiedine’s accurate striking attacks and striking defense. The clinch didn’t go Marquardt’s way either, Saffiedine just looked like a completely different fighter from his last outing. The overall fight wasn’t great, but Tarec is clearly ready to move into the UFC at this point.
Melendez gets a title shot: The final Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez was announced as the next challenger to UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson this week. The fight will take place at the UFC’s seventh event on FOX. This will be the second title fight of Henderson’s that’s being given away on free TV, but it makes sense. The lightweight division has never drawn very well, BJ Penn was a draw and when he was champion he drew but the division as a whole doesn’t have much name recognition or drawing power. By displaying the two best lightweight fighters on free TV again the UFC is trying to build that division on the quality of the fights, and hopefully on the ability and charisma of Benson Henderson. This should be a fun fight either way though.
Rampage still gone: Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson confirmed this week in the conference call for the upcoming UFC on FOX 6 event that he has no plans to renew his contract with the UFC. Rampage has long had issues with brass in the UFC, he felt he wasn’t treated fairly after he became the champion, felt that both his coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter were edited to make him look bad, as well as various other complaints during his UFC tenure. Whatever Rampage decides to do, likely an MMA and wrestling deal with Bellator and TNA, I wish him good luck.
Strikeforce fighters coming over: At this time the UFC announced a list of fighters they have brought over from Strikeforce. The list includes, but isn’t strictly limited too: Daniel Cormier, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, KJ Noons, Ryan Couture, Pat Healy, Gegard Mousasi, Roger Gracie, Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy, Nate Marquardt, and Tarec Saffiedine. Notably absent at this time is heavyweight Josh Barnett, who it appears will either become the next Bellator heavyweight champion or begin squashing guys at a smaller MMA promotion near you soon. The list is pretty much what everyone expected though, and now it just remains to be seen how well those guys do in the UFC.
This Saturday the UFC kicks off 2013 on F/X. While a couple of the fights on this card have the potential to be real stinkers, that’s also true of every card. Let’s take a look at what the UFC is bringing to their first show of the new year.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Thiago Tavares: I think Khabib Nurmagomedov lost his last fight. Let’s get that clear right now, I thought Gleison Tibau beat him and should have won that decision. With that said, Nurmagomedov has tons of talent and possibly even more potential. The guy could be a UFC champion. Thiago Tavares has somehow managed to keep his job with the UFC, despite being pretty much the exact same fighter and in the exact same position he was when he signed with them in 2007. I think Nurmagomedov has the advantage everywhere the fight goes. Striking, in the clinch, grappling on the mat, this is really his fight to lose. All I ask for is a better performance than he had against Tibau.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell: Ladies and gentlemen, the original Rousimar Palhares is back in action. Seriously, both Gabe Gonzaga and Palhares have mental issues when it comes to fighting and they shut down if things don’t go their way from the beginning. Of course in the case of Gonzaga that tended to mean he didn’t kick you in the head and you fall over. Fortunately for the Brazilian he seems more interested in actually using his very good submission skills during his current run with the UFC. Across the cage from Gonzaga is Ben Rothwell. Rothwell is a tough all around fighter, but he’s completely unspectacular in every aspect of MMA. If Rothwell can survive the first round and make Gonzaga work he can realistically win this fight. While that certainly can happen I’m leaning towards Gonzaga getting a takedown and submitting Rothwell in the first.
Daniel Sarafian vs. CB Dollaway: I think watching a CB Dollaway fight is a bit like going to the dentist. It has to happen every now and then, but you don’t look forward to it and you’re happy when it’s over. Daniel Sarafian was supposed to fight in the finals of the first TUF: Brazil event at middleweight, but got injured training and had to pull out of the fight. Here he makes his UFC debut against a strong wrestler. Sarafian needs to catch a submission in transition to get a win here, because without that Dollaway is likely to take him down and grind out another boring win. Let’s face it, Dollaway couldn’t finish Jason Miller when Miller was fighting on one leg, I don’t think he’s finishing anyone ever again at this point. I do think he’ll win this fight though.
Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort: There’s part of me that really wants Michael Bisping to win just so I can watch Anderson Silva annihilate him later this year. Anderson Silva decimating Bisping in England would be awesome. That said, watching Belfort knock Bisping out cold in a style reminiscent of what Dan Henderson did to him would also be awesome. Of course the reality is that Bisping should be the favorite in this fight. Bisping has a really good hit and run strategy, and Belfort doesn’t really have the movement to cut off the cage and force Bisping to eat a couple of power shots. Of course Bisping does have a bad habit of getting hit. Dan Henderson, Dennis Kang, Wanderlei Silva, pretty much every opponent Bisping has faced has been able to tag him at least once. If Belfort tags Bisping, Bisping is going down. Belfort doesn’t let anyone off the hook, if you’re hurt he’s going to finish you plain and simple. While logically Bisping out points Belfort and possibly even finishes him in the fourth or fifth rounds, I’m picking Belfort just because I want to see Bisping unconscious again.
Hey, any excuse to use that picture. Plus Belfort might have one of his own after Saturday. That does conclude this edition of the Guillotine. I’ll be back here next week with a breakdown of all the fights, hopefully including a new and improved unconscious picture of Michael Bisping. I do expect to see all of you back here, I mean it’s the best thing about Friday right? OK, that’s self delusion I know, but it’s certainly not the worst part either. You survived another Guillotine and I’ll see you back here next Friday.