Once regarded as the weak link in the promotion’s chain, the Ultimate Fighting Championship now has four legitimate contenders for Brock Lesnar’s title in Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Minotauro Nogueira, future challengers Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson, and a slew of young talent thanks to TUF Season 10.
But rival promotion Strikeforce’s prestige class is in a predicament. There’s champion Alistair Overeem who hasn’t fought in America since he won the title in Nov. 2007. Then there’s Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus #1 heavyweight in the world. Brett Rogers tested Fedor before suffering a second-round TKO, and Fabricio Werdum called ‘next’ for Fedor after topping Antonio Silva on the same card.
Then there’s Bobby Lashley, Mike Kyle, Daniel Cormier and Herschel Walker, who are all too green to present credible match ups with the best in the division. In between exists a talent gap, and with plenty of good fighters competing on the independent circuit, Strikeforce needs to reach out and build a bridge with a recipe of young lions and veterans with something left for add to its roster:
(Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
Sims is back in the spotlight, even if it’s just for one night and he’s expected to be chicken feed for Bobby Lashley. The three-time UFC veteran was formally, and finally, named Lashley’s opponent for Saturday night in Sunrise after two others fell through.
After Lashley, Sims will face former UFC Heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia at the end of March. Few, if anybody, is giving Sims a chance, especially after his unremarkable run on “The Ultimate Fighter 10” when he was choked unconscious in the first round by Justin Wren. But Sims is only 30 and his class clown routine on the show kept his face on screen. He’s also riding a three-fight winning streak and is a veteran of two UFC battles with Frank Mir. If he at least survives against Lashley, Strikeforce may want to consider negotiating with him to at the very least add a recognizable name to its heavyweight camp.
(Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)
Rogers lost to Brendan Schaub during TUF 10 but shows enough potential that Rogers revealed on his Facebook page that Dana White left the door open to him once he gains more experience. Dream or Strikeforce could have served as a stepping stone but the Team Rampage member was encouraged to refine his game and accept up to six fights over the next year after joining Trevor Whitman’s Grudge Training Camp to train with rival coach Rashad Evans. Rogers returns to the cage Feb. 13 to fight Team Quest’s Dan Stewart (4-1) at the Snoqualmie Casino in suburban Seattle. “We are trying to get me as much experience as we can this year then we will see where I’m at,” Rogers said. “Hopefully the UFC and Strikeforce will want me!”
At age 39 Monson is a tough, blue-collar veteran who poses a challenge to anyone. The “Snowman” parlayed 14 straight victories into a second UFC stint that included wins over Branden Lee, Marcio Cruz and Anthony Perosh before dropping a five-round unanimous decision to champion Tim Sylvia. Subsequently, negotiations to fight then-PRIDE heavyweight king Fedor Emelianenko fell through.
Monson has won eight of his last nine fights, most notably a controversial decision over Roy Nelson on Roy Jones Jr.’s hybrid boxing/MMA card “March Badness.” His failure to avenge a 2007 loss to Pedro Rizzo was his only defeat in ’09. Monson is the type of crafty and courageous warhorse who can put a scare into the Bobby Lashleys of the world.
(Herman kicks Kerry Schall. Props to Esther Lin.)
Herman has traveled the world to compile a 16-1 record, including a 12-0 run to begin his career. ProMMA.info reported last December that Herman may headline a Gameness Fighting Championship (GFC) card in Nashville on Feb. 20. His first-round knockout of Jim York at Sengoku 11 became a Knockout of the Year nominee on Inside MMA’s 2009 Bazzie Awards. A fledging organization needs hungry young talent eager to make their mark. Herman is a fighter that if successful Strikeforce can market around for a long time.
(Justin Wren throws on Jon Madsen at the TUF 10 Finale.)
Another young lion who was dropped by the UFC after his split decision loss to Jon Madsen at the TUF 10 Finale despite his impressive TUF 10 win over Wes Sims and a controversial two round majority decision loss to Roy Nelson in the quarterfinals. Wren, now a member of the Greg Jackson’s Denver contingent, could make the UFC regret its decision if Strikeforce comes calling.
(Props to Esther Lin.)
The biggest name and most accomplished fighter on the market is dogged by the positive drug test that doomed his title bout against Fedor and effectively shuttered Affliction. He’s scheduled to appear before the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), an appointment already postponed twice, on Feb. 22 to reapply for his license. Strikeforce would love him, but there’s no telling if he’ll fight again in the U.S.
(Props to Tracy Lee.)
Fedor’s little brother is a legit heavyweight in his own right, has a large and loyal fan base of his own, and boasts a fan-friendly style. The only problem is that he’s unable to get sanctioned by the CSAC over undisclosed problems with his blood tests leading up to his Affliction bout with Paul Buentello. The younger Emelianenko, who boasts an impressive canvas of Russian mob tattoos, is rumored to carry Hepatitis B, which would end his career in the U.S. Even if that turns out to not be the case it may be impossible for Strikeforce to sign Aleksander because he is persona non grata to the company’s promotional partner, M-1 Global – Aleks left Fedor’s camp and M-1 officials refuse to discuss him on the record or off.