Strikeforce fighters win, prove they belong on UFC stage

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Tyron Woodley connects with a right while defeating Jay Hieron during a UFC 156 undercard match.

Tyron Woodley connects with a right while defeating Jay Hieron during a UFC 156 undercard match.

LAS VEGAS -- Lightweight fighter Bobby Green walked into Friday's pre-fight meeting with UFC boss Dana White. Chairs lined the room and Green was like the new kid on the first day of school, looking for a seat. But then Green, making his UFC debut, spotted two familiar faces -- those of fellow Strikeforce alumni Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Tyron Woodley. "Here we were, all the Strikeforce guys all alone and all the UFC guys are all friends," Green says. "We're just sitting there like, 'Can we do this?' "

But the trio -- all making their UFC debuts after Strikeforce shuttered last month -- went from quiet guys in the back of the room to front and center, each winning their respective fights in an impressive fashion. Strikeforce went 3-0 on the night.

"[Strikeforce] picked a lot of good fighters and it's showing today that we come to fight," says Green.

The Strikeforce crew collected its first win of the evening after a gutsy performance by an ill Vallie-Flagg. The 34-year-old outlasted Yves Edwards for a split decision in a bout that pitted two of the kindest fighters in the league.

Green, 26, from Fontana, Calif., was next in the cage. He openly doubted his worthiness to compete in UFC, the sport's biggest stage, perhaps an outgrowth of the red-headed stepchild status often assigned to Strikeforce fighters. "I've felt like I'm not worthy enough to walk behind any of these [UFC] guys that fight on this stage," he said after his third-round submission of All-American wrestling specialist Jacob Volkmann. "So for me to have a win against a top 10 guy is a blessing."

If Green initially felt unworthy, Tyron Woodley, felt determined. Woodley left no ambiguity about his talents. The St. Louis native launched a full-on blitz of punches to the head of opponent Jay Hieron, scarily laying out the UFC vet, his legs shaking. Woodley knocked out Hieron in a short but brutal 36 seconds. "I had planned on making a statement," he says. "That was the theme behind my entire training camp. I think I did that tonight."

Statement made, loud and clear. These guys have been good enough all along.