Times Are Changing: Women’s Division and Strikeforce Folding

Jake Cochran

When TMZ broke a headline about Ronda Rousey the MMA community collectively cringed and held their breath. The tabloid site is the last place most enthusiasts wanted to see the bantamweight former Olympian making headlines.

Assuming the worst, that she robbed a convenient store run by orphans completely for profit on Christmas most fans were extremely surprised and relieved when they found it not to be the case. In fact it was the complete opposite.

Ronda Rousey was to be declared the first women in UFC history to become a champion and get their 12 pounds of gold.

The story went on to say that Strikeforce would be closing up shop for good after their January super show, featuring all three current title-holders defending their belts for the final time. Since the promotion would be shutting down and migrating all of its fighters to the UFC, that would mean that for the UFC would be inheriting a women’s division as well as some talent at lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and at least one heavyweight.

While this seems great for the fans of the sport this leaves a ton of questions and opens up a pandora’s box of scenarios. With the final event Strikeforce event on the horizon, the organization has pulled out all the stops and decided to have everyone that has a belt fight, and they are even holding Daniel Cormier, the winner of the heavyweight grand prix to his contract to do one last fight after the GP.

The idea of having Cormier fight one last time in the promotion would be an alright plan, if he was fighting his original opponent of Frank Mir but Cormier is facing off against the practically unknown Dion Staring. Staring has never fought in Strikeforce, or any top promotion, this might be Strikeforce’s last attempt of giving ZUFFA the middle finger because if Cormier were to lose this fight, he would take a big hit in his marketability.

Cormier is currently undefeated in his Mixed Martial Arts career and has finished seven of his ten opponents within the first two rounds. But Cormier is not just some random undefeated heavyweight, Cormier was the captain of the US Olympic Wrestling team in 2008 but was forced out of competition after his kidneys failed during an unsuccessful weight cut.

Also the idea of all the champs fighting on one card is a cool idea but what happens if someone gets bitten by the injury bug? Why would these contenders want to fight another contender fight in an organization that’s just going to fold?  What’s even worse is that the champions don’t really have anything to gain at this point because everyone remembers how Anthony Pettis’s WEC-UFC title unification bout went (still waiting on that.)

Best case scenario those champions can hope for is the idea that they will get a favorable match-up when they do cross over to the UFC, and realistically the only champion that people could justify an immediate title shot would be Gilbert Melendez and lightweight just broke up what felt like a two year log jam of title fight rematches.

Even worse for Melendez is that his longtime teammate and training partner Nate Diaz is going to fight for the lightweight title in December against Benson Henderson on UFC on FOX 5. So there’s a good chance Nate Diaz will become the UFC Lightweight Champion. As previously stated, Gilbert has final Strikeforce fight before the merger in January. If Gilbert wins and Nate wins, whether the title gets unified may be up to whether the teammates want to fight each other, which is basically a lose-lose for Gilbert and Nate.

Another situation that will unfold after the January event is the problem that is the already loaded and confusing middleweight division. With Luke Rockhold retaining his title it will be unlikely he will get an immediate title shot, especially with Anderson Silva possibly doing a super fight with Georges St. Pierre. The best case scenario is the UFC introducing an interim title because of the super fight and having Rockhold fight undefeated up-and-comer Chris Weidman. This match-up wouldn’t have the teammate trouble that lightweight would have but it would take away the possibility of Anderson fighting Rockhold outright or fighting an undefeated Weidman.

Whether Rockhold wins or not in January will decide the next plan of action but the idea of a Rockhold-Silva immediate fight will probably not be the most likely outcome.

The next scenario that will arise after the January event will be that of what the UFC does with Nate Marquardt. In July of 2011 Nate Marquardt tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone before his headlining match against Rick Story and forced the UFC to make the match-up of underdog Charlie Brenneman versus Rick Story, and the UFC to release Nate The Great and Dana White to say that he would never fight in the UFC again.

So if Marquardt successfully defends his title in January the UFC may have to make Dana White eat his words and sign Marquardt, but I’d doubt he’s going to see a title shot with any special urgency as the welterweight division is a shark tank and already has about two fights for number one contender and Nick Diaz waiting in the wings.

But if Marquardt doesn’t win his fight, it might be time for the longtime contender to test the waters in free agency yet again. Especially when the roster spots at welterweight in the UFC are tough to hold as it is now without factoring in the rest of Strikeforce.

Even with all these imported fighters from Strikeforce one division is already looking cleared out and has many in the MMA community worried about the level of formidable competition for the champion.

That division is the newest division, the women’s division, with Ronda Rousey sitting firmly atop the division destroying all of her opposition within the first round by Armbar, with four of her five wins coming in under a minute, there isn’t much that Rousey has to prove.

The fight that is currently being targeting is the match up between her and the 145 pound former champion Kris ‘Cyborg’ Santos, but the match-up is currently a pipedream as Cyborg has said there is no way that she makes 135.

While the UFC announced they will add a women’s division they did not state they will add 135 or 145, they just said a women’s division. So that is leaving many questions, and honestly after Rousey the division isn’t met with much enthusiasm by the casual fan.

With the newly added women’s division the UFC will have a whole new task ahead and in the next few weeks more questions will be answered and maybe the division will take more shape, but until then Rousey can rest easy knowing she is the first women’s UFC Champion without even setting foot in the octagon.