Strikeforce is in a bit of a bind for its November card. Slated to be the heavyweight division’s final hurrah for Daniel Cormier, who had been scheduled to take on Frank Mir before a knee injury forced Mir to withdraw, the Heavyweight Grand Prix titlist is now without an opponent with roughly two months left before the fight. After promising a fairly big name and an opponent from the UFC, after Tim Sylvia was offered the fight and was denied it by powers rumored to include Dana White and/or Showtime, Cormier is now stuck waiting for an opponent. And Strikeforce now has to scramble for a name opponent. Sylvia, especially based on his last performance against Arlovski at One FC, probably won’t be it. So who will? It may not be a top five fighter like Mir, and it won’t be a rematch with Josh Barnett, but it will be someone substantial. Why?
Because it has to be someone from the UFC at this point, pure and simple.
The bar has been raised with the announcement of Mir as his opponent and it clearly shows Zuffa’s regards with Cormier; he’s clearly on the cusp of a high level fight and needs someone substantial in this go around. But who? There are three main criteria Sean Shelby, Zuffa and Showtime have to be looking at three things right now for determining his next matchup:
1. Availability - Zuffa isn’t pulling someone from a scheduled fight for a Strikeforce card. Alistair Overeem could make sense but Overeem/Cormier would make significantly more cash on a UFC card as well. Anyone who’s currently on a suspension of any kind isn’t going to be available for this card. Throw in anyone who’s coming off an injury and can’t train now is out as well.
2. Suitability - It would be easy to pull a random regional fighter and let him get a moment in the sun against Cormier. And before the Grand Prix it would’ve made sense. Cormier is considered by many a top five fighter and at this point someone with name value is needed.
3. Heavyweight Ability - They also aren’t going to pull a light heavyweight up and have him fighter Cormier, either, as well as a solid prospect isn’t going to be fed to Cormier. Someone who fights him is going to have at least three fights in the UFC and have their ceiling known at this point. It also won’t be a rematch of anyone he’s fought, either.
Looking at the UFC roster, there are a handful of fighters who make sense, are available and have big enough names to make an appearance against Cormier. So who’s available and makes sense? The following four fighters from the UFC roster:
Cheick Kongo – Kongo is a big, tough guy who would present a lot of style match-up problems with Cormier. He’s coming off the Shawn Jordan fight, which was lackluster at best, but might be healed up from that fight in time for this.
Pat Barry – Barry isn’t a top tier guy, not at all, but he’s never dull. You want to try and get an exciting win for Cormier to cap off his Strikeforce run? “Hype or Die” might be the best available guy to make that happen. I worry about Barry’s long term neurological health based on how many wicked knockouts he’s suffered but he’s available to fight.
Ben Rothwell – Rothwell is at a proverbial “do or die” moment in his career and so far is looking like the guy he was supposed to be coming in. He looked vicious against Brendan Schaub and is looking to be a potential title challenger for JDS down the road. He thinks he can fight for a UFC title in the near future, as well, and an upset here puts him in that category. He did pull out of the last UFC on Fox with an injury but if he’s healed he can get in a good training camp for the fight.
Fabricio Werdum – The best possible choice, uninjured and without a fight scheduled, and this becomes a de facto UFC title eliminator right here. Werdum wins and a matchup with Cain/JDS winner next spring makes sense. Cormier has the same possibilities as well. I don’t think it’ll happen, because this is a fight that makes better sense as the co-main on a UFC card.