As referee Dan Miragliotta pried Dan Henderson from the back of Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, I asked myself, “Who does he fight next?”
It’s a simple question with a simple answer: Henderson will most likely meet the winner of a fight between Gegard Mousasi and Mike Kyle on April 9th. However, the sentiment behind the question remains.
Let us delve in to a fantasy for a moment. It’s unlikely that Kyle will emerge victorious over Mousasi, and even more unlikely for him to beat both Mousasi and Henderson in back-to-back fights. So, we’ll jump to ahead to August. Mousasi put away Kyle on April 9th, and is scheduled to fight Dan Henderson for Strikeforce’s light heavyweight strap.
Here’s where the sentiment of my question starts to emerge. Neither fighter would have a fresh matchup coming out with a win. Henderson has already beaten Renato Sobral and now Rafael “Feijao.” He’s trained with “King” Mo Lawal in the past. Mousasi knocked out Sobral in 2009, and lost his title to “King” Mo in a decision last April.
I’m starting to repeat names, and that’s the point I’m trying to get across. Strikeforce has a rotation of five fighters at the top of their 205 lb. divison: Henderson, Mousasi, “Feijao,” “King” Mo, and “Babalu.” There’s an argument that Sobral — whose recent light heavyweight success includes wins over Sokoudjou and Bobby Southworth — doesn’t belong in the discussion either.
It’s a problem that plagues Strikeforce in almost every weight division. The organization gave Evangelista Santos (and his unimpressive 18-13 MMA record) a shot at Nick Diaz’s title after winning a single fight at 170 lb. Middleweight champ Ronaldo Souza’s best next option is probably Tim Kennedy, the man he beat for the vacant belt in August. Gilbert Melendez might have to fight Josh Thomson for a third time if he gets by Tatsuya Kawajiri. Women’s champion Cristiane Santos hasn’t fought since bludgeoning Jan Finney last June with no fights on the horizon.
The only division that Strikeforce seems to have any depth is at heavyweight, and champion Alistair Overeem has defended that title all of one time since winning it late in 2007.
The bigger issue here is that Strikeforce hasn’t shown a repeated ability to cultivate talent from within. The two most marketable fighters they’ve developed under their banner — Gina Carano and Cris “Cyborg” — fell into their laps from the remnants of EliteXC. There’s a case to be made with Gilbert Melendez, but run down the rest of their roster. Nick Diaz? Fought in the UFC, acquired through EliteXC. Ronaldo Souza? Made his name in Dream. King Mo? Sengoku. Dan Henderson? Pride and the UFC. Alistair Overeem? Japan. Fedor Emelianenko? Pride. Fabricio Werdum? Pride and the UFC. Gegard Mousasi? Japan. Paul Daley? UFC. “Babalu”? Long-time UFC veteran.
Barring some sort of shift in the MMA universe, now I’m starting to ask myself, “Has Strikeforce hit a plateau?”
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