Got to love one thing about this weekend’s final show: for all the bluster of Strikeforce over the years the final fight on the final show is from a guy who gained his reputation from a lengthy run in the UFC facing off against the only welterweight left worth all that much who hasn’t shown all that much in the undercard of Strikeforce fights.
Fight breakdown – If we play MMA math then this should be a very easy fight for Nate “The Great” Marquardt. After blowing the doors off Tyron Woodley in 2012 he gets to face a man who nearly beat the Missouri wrestling product on a Challengers show in Tarec Saffiedine.
The Belgian product by of Team Quest is a fairly well rounded fighter with a penchant for the standup. He has fairly underrated submission skills and has trained enough wrestling to be adequate at it. He makes his living by being proficient off his back in the scramble and by bringing the violence on the fight.
The interesting thing about the “Sponge” is that for all the love of his standup he hasn’t stopped anyone by strikes in a long time. He’s fought almost exclusively to decision for the last three years; his only stoppage under the Strikeforce banner has been that of Nate Moore by strikes. As much as stand up game is pleasurable to watch he hasn’t shown the sort of kill-shot power that’s often ascribed to him.
Marquardt is still the same fighter that was an elite middleweight for some time in the UFC; he’s well rounded and tough, preferring to slug it out. He’s a big fighter for the division with a diverse game; he’s good off his back and has a sophisticated overall game.
Saffiedine isn’t a good enough wrestler to get him down and keep him there; the one thing Marquardt has always been good at is takedown defense. Only really elite guys have managed to get him down; it’s something that the only guys to get him on his back for extended periods of time in the MW division were Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami. His best chance at winning the fight is in the standup and it’ll get a bit ugly; this has all the feeling of a crowd pleasing brawl.
Why it matters – It’s for the right to be the last Strikeforce welterweight champion, of course, and being able to claim you’re the last something means a little in the long run. The big key to this is that it’s a near certainty the winner of the fight is going to the UFC and getting a high profile fight right away. The belt may not mean much in the long run despite being a world championship but it’s a one way ticket to the biggest show in the land.
Marquardt showed in the Woodley fight that he was potentially a Top 5 welterweight and another big win here gets him someone with a name in a potential title eliminator. Saffiedine wins and it’s a minor upset, of course, but it probably puts him in Paulo Thiago territory in that he has a win over a name and is expected to do more (but doesn’t). Saffiedine looks like just another guy and we know his ceiling because he’s about hit it.
Prediction – Marquardt by TKO