We’re roughly two months away from Strikeforce’s September event and Daniel Cormier’s final opponent before he steps into the UFC, and presumably into the title picture, and no matchup has been announced. Tim Sylvia had been rumored but per Dana White himself the former UFC champion hasn’t been signed to fight. Apparently money has been somewhat of an issue but nothing has come out that has been verified from Zuffa, Strikeforce or Tim Sylvia in regards to it. So you can’t really put a whole lot of stock into the rumor mill at this point.
He remains the best possible choice in this scenario that requires Cormier to fight one more time, of course, but nothing official has been announced. The plus one fight has turned into a hindrance when by all rights we should have seen Cormier and Barnett moved over and competing on a UFC card sometime by the end of 2012 instead of still on Showtime.
It was brilliant in concept when the Strikeforce heavyweight division was in full force; Alistair Overeem would be able to fight the winner if he couldn’t have won the tournament itself. It made the Grand Prix that much more important because the winner would be in position to win the title if it hadn’t been the current champion. Imagine if Werdum had beaten Overeem in the semi-final, won the tournament and now faced Overeem with the title on the line? Unfortunately it didn’t happen but the possibilities made it feel like it was super important.
Now with the division about to be permanently deep-sixed with the last fight on the contracts of both Cormier and his Grand Prix finalist Josh Barnett, the question remains. Who does Cormier get in his last Showtime obligated fight before he steps into the deep waters of the UFC?
The amusing thing is that the more you try to find people who would be worthy, capable of being a worthy fight the more you want to just grab a guy from the UFC roster properly and throw them in there. But you can’t because the cost would probably be prohibitive; there’s so little to gain for someone like Frank Mir to go over that they’d have to probably make it worth their while with a check in the mid-six figures. And as much as Dana White and company want to get Daniel Cormier someone with talent, coughing up big coin to someone to fight on a lower tier show that won’t make nearly as much money as it would cost isn’t sane fiscal policy.
So who’s left that could potentially garner an audience and give Cormier at least a passable challenge? Not much, apparently, and with some slight tongue in cheek selections it’s time to play a game: who should Daniel Cormier face in his final Strikeforce fight?
Couple of rules to, ahem, narrow the field down:
1. You’ve had to have a year of training or at least one professional fight in a legitimate organization
2. Not on a UFC roster currently
3. Not on a Bellator roster currently
4. An actual heavyweight
5. Can’t have fought Cormier before
6. Not on One FC’s roster currently
7. Not Brock Lesnar
You essentially need to find someone who isn’t an active (and therefore restricted) member of someone’s roster who is an actual heavyweight and that hasn’t fought Cormier before. You want a fresh matchup and someone who’s new; Strikeforce has had a lot of retread fights lately but repeating Barnett/Cormier is something I don’t think they’d do and the fight wasn’t close enough the first time to be something people would pay for.
That eliminates Andrei Arlovski, Fedor, Barnett, Jeff Monson, Cole Konrad and a UFC fighter currently on the roster. What we want to do is eliminate the candidates who’d cost money or have contracts that would make it much more difficult, as well as provide a reasonably new opponent for the former Olympic wrestling team captain. And while Brock Lesnar would be the out of left field pick, he’s currently in the WWE and won’t be returning to MMA until at least this spring if at all. Now who’s left? Ten guys could conceivably be on the radar.
Really it’s about five but 10 is a better number to get hits from SEO shenanigans, of course, and sometimes a little comedy goes a long way. So it’s really five joke picks and five serious picks; I’ll leave it to you guys to separate them. Honestly read this and weep because there’s like nobody out there who feels like an appropriate fight to make; one almost wishes Showtime would say something like “You know, every possibility is horrible so just take both of those guys and move on” but there’s no chance that happens.
The Top Ten Fighters Daniel Cormier Can Face
In His Final Strikeforce Fight
10. Bob “The Beast” Sapp
Ok, so it would one punch and Sapp flailing away on the ground for 30 seconds trying not to get hit while crying for his mother. And it would probably be a bit more expensive than they’d prefer, but at least Cormier won’t break his hand. Heck, you could probably change his entrance music to “It’s raining men” by The Weather Girls and he’d probably have no problem with it for some extra coins in his pocket.
9. David “Tank” Abbott
At this point one imagines all the former bar room brawler would need is a case of cheap beer and a new cardboard box to sleep in to take a fight. It may be a gross mismatch but you would be helping Tank out; cardboard boxes can get leaky after a while, especially when you sleep under a freeway like one imagines the former UFC and WCW stalwart to do. It would be a huge step in competition for him, though, as fighting other hobos for pocket change and competitive prize-fighting are two very different things.
All kidding aside let’s be frank in one regard: He fought Scott Ferozzo in someone’s backyard for what was probably $20 and a couch to crash on. It was in someone’s backyard with a referee in an Ohio State football jersey, with the winner determined by a crowd of drunks who got to see a fight at the local family barbeque. So it’s not like this is some sort of loss of dignity on Tank’s behalf to be served up as cannon fodder for a highlight reel.
8. Dave Bautista
The former WWE champion is scheduled to make his MMA debut in October but at one point he did have aspirations of fighting under the Strikeforce banner under the Cesar Gracie fight team. Granted it probably wouldn’t get sanctioned due to competitiveness issues but it would probably draw the most eyeballs. And who wouldn’t enjoy a pro wrestler being destroyed by an actual one? It would look impressive in highlight reels considering Bautista is a large man with an incredible physique.
7. James Toney
He’s still under contract, right? One imagines it’d be too costly to bring the boxing champion in based on his reported figures from his lone UFC fight most likely, and most if not all the cash would go to the IRS to cover Toney’s tax issue with them, but Toney’s hands make for a potentially interesting matchup. Toney is shot and fighting purely for the money at this point; if he’s not boxing why not let him step in a cage and get some eyeballs I say.
6. Bobbly Lashley
The first guy on the list and one who actually has fought under the Strikeforce banner (and another former WWE champion) is Bobby Lashley. Lashley has never really lived up to what was perceived to be his potential, being a great athlete and former pro wrestling champion with extensive amateur credentials. He was a case of too much, too soon based on his celebrity from the WWE causing him to get higher profile fights before he was ready for them. His growth as a fighter was stunted and who knows if he’ll ever be able to make the leap from great athlete to great fighter. He’s available to fight after a loss in India’s Super Fight League, most likely, depending on the exclusivity of his deal. Signed by Strikeforce well before he was ready, trying to strike lightning twice after Brock Lesnar came into the UFC initially, Lashley is a name but probably won’t offer much for Cormier.
5. Todd Duffee
If Strikeforce is potentially a place for former UFC types to add some tread back onto the tire, potentially rehabilitate themselves in front of UFC brass, then Duffee would be a perfect candidate. He has one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history and looked like a world beater until running into Mike Russow. Duffee’s been all over the map but looked pretty good in his SFL stint so far. You can never have enough good heavyweights and this could be a good test for Duffee to see if he can handle being back in the UFC again.
4. Sean “Big Sexy” McCorkle
Everyone loves McCorkle as a person, as he’s funny and charming, but as a fighter he’s just not UFC quality. He’s good enough to win on the regional scene, and maybe get a call up to the big leagues on short notice, but he’s the ultimate test if you should be in the UFC or not. McCorkle is that fringe fighter who’s just good enough to be in the UFC but you don’t lose anything if he’s not on the roster as well. It’s a shame because he seems like a really decent guy. It would make for a decent matchup with Cormier as McCorkle has so much experience in the fight game that he might pose a bit of a test after a while.
3. Sergei Kharitonov
Sergei may not be an elite level fighter but he has a name to him, at a minimum. His striking skills would make for an interesting matchup with Cormier if he chose to keep it there and he has a well-rounded enough resume into being a credible opponent. He was in the Strikeforce Grand Prix and, while he lost to Barnett in the semi-final, is still technically a sellable fight. I mean it’s Strikeforce … this is the same company that had the gall to tell Frank Shamrock to say that Brett Rogers was the “unquestionable #2 heavyweight in the world” before his fight with Fedor. The fact that he did it with a straight face tells you all need to know in that regard but there is one thing Kharitonov still has going for him.
He’s still a top 20 fighter and not a huge step down in competition in theory at least. It may not be the scalp on his resume that Barnett is, but a good striker will test a lot about Cormier.
2. Travis Fulton
It doesn’t get more experienced than Travis Fulton, he of over 300 professional fights and almost 250 wins. He’s fought anyone who’s anyone in the MMA and isn’t on anyone’s active roster. It’s probably because he’s not that good but it’s an intriguing sell to the masses. “Daniel Cormier .. a guy without a lot of fights but looks like a killer … against the most experienced fighter in MMA history.” You can imagine Mauro Ranallo barking this out and it sounding awesome.
1. Tim Sylvia
If you want to see if Sylvia has anything left but don’t want him on the UFC roster this is the perfect spot for him. He gets one chance to prove his mettle, like he wants, but at the same time he’s not taking a spot on a UFC roster. If he beats Cormier it’s the perfect comeback story, if he’s competitive you can bring him over for a one-off and if he gets destroyed in epic fashion then Dana White has proved his point without sacrificing a UFC card. If Sylvia really wants a fight to prove his worth he’ll take this, take far less than he commands on the regional scene, and go for redemption. It’s the best fight to make but usually when you say that in MMA it doesn’t happen.
Tags: daniel cormier, Mixed Martial Arts, Strikeforce