Strikeforce’s doors came to a close for the final time with Tarec Saffiedine defeating Nate Marquardt for the company’s welterweight title Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
Saffiedine brutalized Marquardt’s lead leg for the majority of the five-round affair, earning the unanimous decision with scores of 48-47, 49-46 and 49-46.
“I’ve been training so hard for so long. It’s unbelievable,” said the newly-crowned champion following his win. “I can’t believe I’m wearing the belt right now.”
Both fighters started out the fight conservatively, measuring each other on the feet. There weren’t many significant strikes from either fighter until Saffiedine began landing leg kicks on the way to winning the opening frame.
Marquardt picked up the offense in the second round, taking his opponent down once in the frame. Saffiedine continued to land leg kicks, but Marquardt controlled the pace for the greater part of the round.
Saffiedine’s confidence grew as the fight went on, pressing the action and landing more leg kicks as the third round was underway. The Belgian fighter clinched with his opponent on several occasions, applying numerous punches and knees from that position.
Marquardt began to show fatigue in the fourth round, and Saffiedine solidified the win with a takedown in the fifth on the way to the unanimous decision.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, who started the promotion in 1985 as a kickboxing organization, shared his thoughts on Saturday’s fights being the company’s last. The Zuffa-owned organization will shut down, which, according to the executive, is a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s a tough thing, but I’m so happy for these guys who fought tonight,” Coker said following the final Strikeforce card. “It’s time.”
Coker added that he’ll forever be in debt to Showtime, Strikeforce’s broadcast partner, for taking a chance on what was once a regional promotion, putting them on the national stage through the premium cable channel.
With the win, Saffiedine will likely be headed to the UFC. Marquardt, who was once in the UFC, will also make his transition back to the world’s leading MMA promotion.
Daniel Cormier vs. Dion Staring
In what was a lopsided victory, Daniel Cormier toppled Dion Staring by technical knockout in the second round of their co-main event on Saturday.
Cormier shut his opponent out, getting the stoppage at 4:02 of the round. Cormier earned the dominant win, but it was the announcement of his plans going forward that got the most attention, calling out Frank Mir and Jon Jones for his first two fights in the UFC.
“Right now, April 20 on FOX … Frank Mir, let’s do it,” he said in his post-fight interview. “I’m going to let Jon [Jones] defend his belt on April 27 and kick his ass in the Fall.”
Cormier also said during his post-fight speech that he signed his UFC contract. Originally, Mir and Cormier were supposed to fight in a November Strikeforce card, but the former UFC heavyweight champion was injured, leaving Cormier with no opponent. The fight’s cancelation prompted the scrubbing of the entire card — the second Strikeforce event cancelation in as many months.
No announcements were made confirming Cormier’s debut UFC fight.
Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett made quick work of Nandor Guelmino, submitting his opponent in the first round of their Strikeforce fight.
Barnett took Guelmino down, secured full mount and locked on the arm triangle to finish the fight at 2:11 of the opening round.
In the middle of a pro wrestling-like speech in his post fight interview, Barnett said he doesn’t know if he’ll be a part of the UFC after the last Strikeforce card.
“No idea where I’m going to end up,” Barnett said.
It’s unclear if the UFC is willing to negotiate a contract with Barnett, as UFC president Dana White recently said, much like Barnett, that he has no idea if the heavyweight will come back to the Las Vegas-based organization.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle
Gegard Mousasi submitted Mike Kyle in the first round of their main card fight at Strikeforce’s final event.
The Dutch-Armenian fighter applied a successful takedown, locking on a rear-naked choke at 4:09 of the opening frame. Mousasi credited a rediscovered focus for his win on Saturday night.
“I got more professional,” he said in his post-fight interview, adding that he got out of his comfort zone to produce the win.
Mousasi is likely to move over to the UFC, where, as we reported on GRACIEMAG.com, he’d like to face light heavyweight contenders like Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Ed Herman
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza beat Ed Herman in the first round of Strikeforce’s opening fight on the main card.
Jacare put his Jiu-Jitsu to use, putting Herman on his back before mounting the UFC veteran and slapping on the kimura. Herman was forced to tap out at 3:10 of the opening round.
The evening’s preliminary fights results are as follows:
- Ryan Couture defeated K.J. Noons by split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
- Tim Kennedy defeated Trevor Smith by submission (guillotine choke) at 1:36, Round 3
- Pat Healy defeated Kurt Holobaugh by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Roger Gracie defeated Anthony Smith by submission (arm triangle choke) at 3:16, Round 2
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