Which Strikeforce Champion Has The Best Chance Of Becoming A UFC Champion?
Nick Diaz & Gilbert Melendez
At this weekend’s Strikeforce event, the commentary team of Gus Johnson, Frank Shamrock and Mauro Ranello repeatedly asked the question if Strikeforce and UFC’s champions should clash. It is an interesting question, brought to the forefront with Zuffa’s purchase of the organization. And after Saturday’s impressive wins by Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and welterweight champion Nick Diaz, you’ve gotta be curious which of Strikeforce’s five champions has the best shot at holding UFC gold. Let’s look at each champion and break it down.
Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem
Overeem is a bad man who’s been around the block. In PRIDE, he was a dangerous light heavyweight but could never get over the hump, as he lost to the likes of “Shogun” Rua, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum and Chuck Liddell. But upon moving up to heavyweight and entering Strikeforce, he has owned the company. Despite losing to Sergei Kharitonov in K-1 back in 2007, Overeem has been dominant in both Strikeforce and PRIDE as he owns wins over Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee. However, Duffee and Rogers would be C-level fighters in a top heavy UFC Heavyweight division. I’m not sure Overeem would be as dominant against the likes of Shane Carwin, Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez or Brock Lesnar.
Light Heavyweight: Dan Henderson
Considering Henderson came from the UFC and lost his inaugural fight to the departing Jake Shields, it’s hard to fathom Henderson as a legitimate threat to a freak like UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones. He’s have to buzzsaw his way through Rashad Evans, “Shogun” Rua and Rampage Jackson before sniffing the marvelous Jones. I just don’t give Henderson a shot in hell.
Middleweight: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Dude…Anderson Silva is in that division. Forget about it.
Welterweight: Nick Diaz
Here’s one of the more interesting entries. Nick Diaz has all the tools to give any fighter in the UFC fits. His boxing is excellent (as evidenced in his 1st round TKO of Paul Daley), he comes from the Cesar Gracie Jiujitsu academy so his ground game is top-notch (as he demonstrated against Evangelista Santos and Scott Smith) and he’s about as tough as they come. He’s won nine fights in a row (finishing eight of his opponents) and hasn’t just been pretty good, he’s been the best. A fight with Georges St. Pierre is intriguing because Diaz has the skills (dangerous boxing & crazy jiujitsu) to offset GSP’s lauded wrestling and striking. Diaz needs a test because the welterweight division in Strikeforce is way too thin to keep feeding him sheep. Give him a shark and we like are chances.
Lightweight: Gilbert Melendez
He’s 19-2 and puts on exciting fights. The lightweight division in the UFC is as deep as it has ever been, but Melendez could most definitely get in there and mix it up with the world’s best. He owns victories over the UFC’s Clay Guida, as well as Jason Thompson and Tatsuya Kawajiri. He also soundly thumped one of the lightweight division’s best submission fighters of all-time in Shinya Aoki. The division may be crowded, but Melendez also comes from the Cesar-Gracie school of jiujitsu so which automatically enhances his chances. On top of that, he’s part of the “Skrap Pack” consisting of himself, Nate and Nick Diaz and Jake Shields (who will be challenging Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title on April 30th). You can’t put anything past these guys, even with a loaded division featuring current champion Frankie Edgar and the former WEC champion Anthony Pettis. Melendez’s advantage is that no UFC lightweight champion has been dominant or looks unbeatable. Melendez may quite honestly have the best chance to become a UFC champion sooner than later.
My pick for the Strikeforce fighter than can hoist UFC gold?