There’s no doubt the UFC’s incorporation of Strikeforce talent into the organization has been a smashing success. The final event in Strikeforce history was held in January of 2013 and saw Tarec Saffiedine defeat Nate Marquardt to win the welterweight title in the last bout in that promotion’s history.
While Saffiedine hasn’t been able to make a substantial impact during his UFC tenure so far, many of his other Strikeforce colleagues have been able to shine inside the Octagon. Here are the top-five ex-Strikeforce fighters in the UFC.
5. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion has been the model of perfection during his UFC tenure. He’s gone 5-0 and has produced four finishes along the way. The dangerous Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist has improved upon his all-around skills by adding a formidable stand-up game to his arsenal.
He owns notable UFC wins over Yushin Okami and Gegard Mousasi and is seemingly at the top of his game. The 35-year-old has a key upcoming clash against Yoel Romero at UFC 194, and it’s quite conceivable that the winner could get a title shot. That contest happens on the same Dec. 12 card in Las Vegas as the highly-anticipated Luke Rockhold-Chris Weidman championship bout.
Souza has been a man on a mission since losing his Strikeforce belt to Rockhold in 2011, as he’s reeled off eight straight victories. “Jacare” has 18 finishes to his credit in 22 career wins, including a whopping 16 by submission. He’s definitely one of the finest grapplers in the entire sport and a tough test for any 185-pound competitor.
4. Daniel Cormier
Cormier rose to prominence with his brilliant display during the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. He defeated Jeff Monson, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Josh Barnett to win the tournament. The performance against “The Warmaster” was dazzling as he tossed his 250-pound opponent around like a sack of potatoes in securing a decision victory. It was a testament to Cormier’s Olympic wrestling background.
“DC” has gone 6-1 during a UFC tenure that’s been contested at both heavyweight and light heavyweight. After posting wins over Frank Mir and Roy Nelson he opted to make the move to the 205-pound ranks. The decision was made to avoid any possible conflict with AKA training partner Cain Velasquez, who has been a two-time UFC heavyweight titlist.
While Cormier sustained his first career loss against Jon Jones in their UFC 182 light heavyweight title clash, he would make amends in his second championship opportunity by submitting Anthony Johnson to win the vacant strap at UFC 187. He made a successful first defense in an epic battle against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 in Houston.
After the hard-fought split-decision victory over “The Mauler,” Cormier seems poised for a rematch in early 2016 against “Bones.” Jones was stripped of his belt and suspended after an April hit-and-run accident in New Mexico but was reinstated after managing to avoid jail time following a plea agreement.
3. Robbie Lawler
After what was a relatively mediocre run with Strikeforce, no one could have envisioned the resurgence that Lawler has enjoyed during his second UFC stint. “Ruthless” went just 3-5 during his time in Strikeforce while campaigning mostly as a middleweight.
The 33-year-old has taken his career to championship heights since moving down to the 170-pound division. He’s produced a 7-1 UFC record upon his return and claimed gold with a split-decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 181.
The American Top Team stalwart was involved in one of the most thrilling welterweight title clashes in Octagon history against Rory MacDonald at UFC 189. Lawler would rally to produce a fifth-round stoppage in an insanely violent battle. The veteran is noted for his punching power and tremendous chin.
Lawler is set to make his next title defense against former interim champion Carlos Condit at UFC 195 in early January. That contest is very likely to produce another memorable war.
2. Fabricio Werdum
Prior to his second UFC stint, Werdum was most well-known for his stunning 2010 submission victory in Strikeforce over Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko. That triumph snapped the former PRIDE superstar’s remarkable 28-fight undefeated streak and effectively ended his air of invincibility.
The talented Brazilian was previously seen as a one-trick pony who relied upon his dangerous ground game. However, that’s all changed after Werdum was able to reinvent himself thanks to his much-improved striking technique.
Werdum’s story is very similar to Lawler’s in regards to his late career renaissance. The 38-year-old veteran has taken his game to new heights in his second go-round with the organization. He claimed an interim title at UFC 180 by knocking out the incredibly tough Mark Hunt, and would later become undisputed champion by dominating Cain Velasquez in Mexico City in their unification title showdown at UFC 188. Werdum secured a third-round submission victory to improve to 6-0 in his UFC return.
“Vai Cavalo” has also bested Travis Browne, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mike Russow and Roy Nelson. Werdum is expected to defend his strap in a rematch against Velasquez in the first quarter of 2016. A clash on Super Bowl weekend could be in the cards.
While Rousey had shown signs of greatness during her time as a Strikeforce champion with first-round submission victories over Miesha Tate and Sara Kaufman, she’s evolved into MMA’s biggest superstar while competing under the UFC banner. Rousey has become a mainstream sensation and the organization’s top pay-per-view draw.
“Rowdy” has managed to successfully combine her professional fighting career with a blossoming Hollywood acting career. Rousey has already made six successful defenses of her women’s bantamweight title and is making it look easier with each appearance.
Her last three defenses against Alexis Davis, Cat Zingano and Bethe Correia have lasted a combined 64 seconds. All 12 of her career triumphs have come by knockout or submission and only Tate has managed to make it out of the first-round. Tate took Rousey into the uncharted territory of a third-round before being finished by armbar in their rematch at UFC 168.
Rousey is expected to establish a new attendance record in her next bout at UFC 193 in Melbourne, Australia when she squares off this weekend against unbeaten challenger Holly Holm. The champion’s improved striking skills will get a strong test against “The Preacher’s Daughter” as Holm is a former world boxing titlist.
One of the biggest fights that the UFC could possibly make in 2016 would be a highly anticipated showdown between Rousey and former Strikeforce featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino. Hopefully that’s a contest that will finally become a reality as the trash-talk between the two has gotten tiresome.
The awards, accolades, talk show appearances and magazine photo shoots continue to pile up for the 28-year-old California native and Rousey’s incredible star power shows no signs of diminishing.