January 12, 2013 is the day Strikeforce retires.
The injury bug has plagued Strikeforce again and what was once called "Champions" is now "Marquardt vs. Saffiedine". The question is, does it matter?
Let's look at the big picture here. Do these Strikeforce champions moving over to the UFC really make any difference?
The simple answer is yes. They are not necessarily title contenders, although they have all looked solid. Take Nate Marquardt for an example, his career looks excellent. He has fought the best of the best at middleweight and has now cut down to be fairly dominant in the Strikeforce welterweight category.
Is Marquardt on the level of Georges St-Pierre? No, but it's safe to say none really are.
So if they are not sure fire title contenders, what are these champions going to do for the UFC? What they need is solid competition to decide who gets a title shot.
I am a sports purist. I love the AHL because it gives development time and a career for top pros after they slow up a little. Major League Baseball has one of the best development systems in sport. What do we have in MMA? Too many leagues, too many champions, and too many people being pulled in different directions.
The beauty of dissolving Strikeforce is that it puts talent into the middle of the pack for the UFC, and it sets up Bellator (ZUFFA competitor) as the top feeder league. Young MMA fighters now have a route to take with amateur fights, local cards and a few small paying gigs. Then if you are a natural talent, you jump to the big show. If you are smart, make a stop at Bellator, sharpen your skills against some of the top talent there, then jump to the UFC.
Now comes a statement designed to pick a fight with UFC fans. I agree with Firas Zahabi, Tristar Gym's head trainer, that Nick Diaz is next for GSP. Not that Diaz has a chance at the title, but Johny Hendricks needs a year of MMA wrestling (much different than NCAA) and some time to have his jujitsu developed. So who better for Hendricks right now than Marquardt? Is it the fight that I want to see? No, but I also want to see St-Pierre fight the best challenger he can.
Carlos Condit gave GSP trouble simply because he was the first fighter in a long time who could keep St-Pierre in his guard. Name me another fighter who regained full guard that many times against St-Pierre before.
Remember this fact when you are deciding to chirp at me on Twitter(@fitcityjordan). Hendricks wins by either decision, or early round big booming knockout. Kampmann took 46 seconds, Fitch took 12 seconds, Amir Sadollah took 29 seconds. There are a few more, but you get the point. Without the big punch, he goes to decision.
Hendricks' only loss was a decision, his last two decision wins were split. His last six fights were big knockouts, split decisions or a loss.
Is Hendricks talented? Yes. Is that punch from the left an absolute gift? Yes, but think about a guy like Dan Henderson. Someone I have had the pleasure of training with. When Dan fought Anderson Silva, it was the same situation. He had wrestling and dirty boxing to control him with, and hoped to land a huge over hand right. Dan controlled the first round, then Silva capitalized on a one-sided game plan. The result, a rear naked choke that gets replayed at least a dozen times a year. Hendricks could have the same result, or land the booming punch.
That's why this Strikeforce situation is great for the sport. Hendricks stays in the UFC and gets some solid opponents that won't affect his win/loss record, but will keep him in the title hunt. He can perfect his game before challenging GSP.
Hendricks will need to learn how to survive in order to throw that big bomb. The league will get more top talent and be able to put on three shows a month that are quality. The top fighters will get their rest, and mid-range athletes will know better where they stand in the rankings.
The UFC will also get a chance to develop more hype for a potential St-Pierre vs. Hendricks bout. If the fight is all it is made out to be, then MMA will take another big step forward.
If Strikeforce can keep their fighters healthy, be prepared for an awesome card January 12, 2013. It will set the face of MMA's future, and create a solid pool of fighters for the UFC to finally set up some real rankings and challenges for top contenders.
If Hendricks is reading this, for me, take a few fights before you challenge GSP, and work all aspects of your game. Dethroning St-Pierre is possible, but finding and exploiting his weakness... well... there is a reason it hasn't been done yet.
Jordan Cieciwa can be heard on TSN Radio 1290 every Saturday at 11:30am ct with his show The Weigh-In. You can also follow Jordan at www.twitter.com/FitCityJordan and get all your fitness tips at www.onefitcity.com.