By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The final Strikeforce card ever will come to Showtime Saturday night, with five fights airing live on the night's main card. They've got a chance to go out with one of their higher rated cards, due to the fact that it's a free preview weekend for Showtime. Regardless of ratings, the fighters on Saturday's main card broadcast have been put into some unenviable positions.
For several of the night's massive favorites, anything less than dominant victory doesn't look great into their UFC debuts, while those underdogs may need to pull something off in order to get a shot in the Octagon in the first place.
So here's what's at stake on the card, and how I think things play out in Oklahoma:
Nate Marquardt vs. Tarec Saffiedine (Welterweight Championship): Along with Daniel Cormier, Marquardt's one of the fighters on this card who legitimately might be a top contender once they get to the UFC. Marquardt's a former title challenger in the middleweight division, and though he faltered near the end of his 185 lb. run, he looks renewed as a welterweight, and might be one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division.
Saffiedine, while a solid fighter, has never fought someone at Marquardt's level. Perhaps the toughest fight he's had came against Tyron Woodley, who defeated him by decision in 2011. Well, Marquardt just destroyed Woodley last year to capture the Strikeforce title, and he's a heavy favorite in this main event for a reason.
Saffiedine doesn't have the wrestling or takedown game to follow the gameplans that have been effective against Marquardt. He'll look to stand and strike, and against a violent and effective striker like Marquardt that's not a promising fact.
Marquardt is more than likely going to do what needs to be done, and he'll enter the UFC's welterweight division in 2013 with a very good chance of fighting for the title sooner than later. I've got Marquardt by TKO in the second round.
Daniel Cormier vs. Dion Staring (Heavyweight): Cormier might be the best heavyweight in the world. He just beat Josh Barnett to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix. He's now facing a man whose biggest "name" win might be TUF vet Akira Corassani, who is now in the featherweight division.
Cormier has felt it's disrespectful to Staring that betting lines are as much as 20-to-1, but honestly, he has no business having any trouble in this fight at all. Anything can happen in a fight, it's the nature of the sport, but Daniel Cormier should be leaps and bounds ahead of Staring.
It's not fair to Cormier, of course, but that's the position he's been put in here by Zuffa. He absolutely should wreck Staring, and I expect him to dominate, but it could be ugly. Cormier by TKO in the first round.
Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino (Heavyweight): The two biggest names Guelmino has fought were Andreas Kraniotakes, and Semmy Schilt. He was stopped by both of them.
By contrast, Barnett's loss to Daniel Cormier last year was his first in over five years. He's the better grappler, he's the better striker, and once again, this is a fight that, on paper, should be absolutely one sided.
For Barnett, a win - especially an exciting one - could very well bring him back into the UFC for the first time in 11 years. That's exactly what should happen here, and I'll take Barnett by submission in the first round.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle (Light Heavyweight): Mousasi's been out of action for over a year due to a knee injury, and that layoff makes this more of an even fight than it might have been otherwise.
Kyle's not a great fighter, but he's got some very real striking power, and is capable of putting forth some solid performances inside the cage. He might be a real challenge for Mousasi, but the former Strikeforce Champion has a very diverse game with a dangerous skill set on the ground and standing.
Kyle could present a challenge in this fight, but it's just as likely that he gets dominated by Mousasi here. Even with a year out of the cage, he's got great power, great submissions, and wants to make a statement into a UFC run. I think that comes through on Saturday, and I'll take Mousasi by submission in the first round.
Ed Herman vs. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (Middleweight): This could be a really good fight, or it could be a stalemate that is less than exciting. Herman's been in some great fights in the UFC, and Jacare's been in some very good fights as well, but stylistically, they could cancel each other out.
One of the key things to look at here is the fight Herman had with Jake Shields last August. Jacare's got a great wrestling game, which plays into his jiu jitsu game. Herman's typically very good at defending, but he can be put on his back.
That could lead to three duller rounds with Jacare working from the top as Herman continues defending. If that's not the case, Jacare's decent enough in striking to hang with Herman if they cancel each other out on the ground.
Still, Herman's strength is his submission game, and of the two, most would take Jacare in that aspect of the game. Herman's a great challenge for Jacare, but the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion should be able to rise to the occasion. Jacare by decision.
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