Nate Marquardt (above) is the lone champion still fighting on the "Strikeforce: Champions" card that could represent the promotion's swan song. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Nothing is official and no one is commenting, but it’s an open secret that the Jan. 12 fight card in Oklahoma City will be the last for the snakebit folks at Strikeforce. But before they pack up the office, there’s still a little work to be done. Someone needs to find the Wite-Out and cover over an “s,” altering “Strikeforce: Champions” to “Strikeforce: Champion.”
The former is the name given to the event when it was officially announced a couple of weeks ago. And the label fit, given that there would three championship fights packed onto the card, along with a bout featuring the champ of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Still, this seemed a bit like that big burst of colors and sounds and fanfare that comes at the end of a fireworks display.
Actually, the only aspect of that fireworks analogy that works is the part about the end being near. There have been no bursts of colors lighting up the sky above Strikeforce venues lately. It’s been nothing but darkness, just dud after dud, with the last two events having been canceled and the promotion’s very existence being counted down as a matter of days.
But Jan. 12 would at least allow the Scott Coker-led promotion to go out with a bang, with the three title fights (thus, “Champions”) and the heavyweight tussle showcasing local hero Daniel Cormier. This is Strikeforce, though, so you just knew something had to go wrong.
First, lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez reportedly dropped off the card. There’s been no official confirmation, just a Nov. 16 report on the website of the Brazilian magazine Tatame and a vague comment that same day by UFC president Dana White, who said during an online chat with readers of the Montreal Gazette, “From what I’m hearing, and I don’t run Strikeforce, Melendez is hurt again.” Gilbert’s shoulder injury originally had forced him to pull out of a Sept. 22 defense against Pat Healy, and the loss of that main event led to the cancellation of the whole card.
Then, on Saturday, the website MMA Corner reported that middleweight champ Luke Rockhold had suffered a wrist injury and his defense against Lorenz Lakrkin was off. The two were originally scheduled to go at it Nov. 3, but Luke injured that same wrist and the fight -- as well as that entire card, too -- was scratched. A disappointed Larkin gave us the closest thing that we’ve had to confirmation of the injury/cancellation report, sarcastically addressing White on Twitter: “Hey Dana, I hurt my right pinky toe, guess I can’t fight. Wish I started two years before I did so I could have skipped this [synonym for cat] era.”
So now “Strikeforce: Champions” is down to a single champ, Nate Marquardt, who’ll defend his welterweight belt against Tarec Saffiedine. And of course there’s still Cormier, the event’s true draw for Okies. Before starting his ongoing beatdown of Strikeforce heavyweights, Daniel was an All-American and NCAA Division I runnerup wrestler at Oklahoma State. He went on to make two Olympic Games. He’ll face Dion Staring before moving over the UFC.
But first Marquardt and especially Cormier are being fitted for head-to-toe bubble wrap. It’s in the Strikeforce supply closet, and this is likely the last chance to use it.
-- Jeff Wagenheim