Opening Round: I Want My Belts Back!

With Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine in the rear-view mirror the organization has turned its attention turned towards its next show, a March 3 event in Columbus, Ohio featuring a title-fight between bantamweight queen Miesha Tate and undefeated Armbar-machine Ronda Rousey. However, what Strikeforce needs to do instead of worrying about Tate’s title is turn their focus towards awarding a welterweight and light heavyweight champion rather than continue letting the divisional gold collect dust.

The question then becomes, who should fill the vacant contendership slots and how should Strikeforce handle the situation? Read ahead and find out, at least from this humble man’s perspective.

It seems clear Muhammed Lawal and Tyron Woodley cemented spots in their respective weight-classes’ title-fights with their performances on Saturday night. In beating Larkin, Lawal took out an unbeaten rising star with some impressive performances to his credit, while the same is true in the case of Woodley vs. Jordan Mein minus Larkin’s lack of losses. “King Mo” is a former champ coming off a win over another previously perfect opponent, Roger Gracie, while Woodley has yet to taste defeat and holds wins over a handful of highly-respected peers (Tarec Saffiedine/Paul Daley).

Meanwhile, finding apt adversaries for Lawal/Woodley is far from difficult, especially when considering the vast resources at Zuffa’s disposal.

In the case of procuring a 205-pound contender the obvious choice should involve a bout between Gegard Mousasi and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante. They’ve each held the light heavyweight strap before and have history with Lawal. On one hand you have Mousasi who would be looking to avenge his only loss in the last five years and on the other you’ve got “Feijao” who took Lawal’s title in true beatdown fashion. If one of the two is not available to fight in the next few months, preferably at the March show, Mike Kyle could make for a solid replacement as well since he’s 6-1 in his last seven fights with the only loss coming to Antonio Silva on short notice, a heavyweight no less.

On the 170-pound side of things it’s a bit trickier. Strikeforce is particularly thin when it comes to well-known welterweights. It seems Saffiedine is a lot of folks’ favorite to slide into a rematch against Woodley with gold up for grabs but I’m not among them. He was in trouble a few times against Tyler Stinson this past weekend and did little to shine against “T-Wood” the first time around. Rather, I’d like to see the Belgian first face Jason High who has won six in a row including success against Mein. And, like with Cavalcante-Mousasi, if High-Saffiedine aren’t able to compete before summer then Strikeforce can have an alternate on hand such as Nah-Shon Burrell or Daley if he puts Kazuo Misaki away quickly in their March match-up.

If Strikeforce can coordinate the simple plan I laid out it would afford them the luxury of booking championship clashes by mid-year, thus freeing up the possibility of having each divisional rep defend his title at least one time before the end of 2012 when Strikeforce’s deal with Showtime runs out. If not and Strikeforce continues to twiddle their thumbs it will simply show the public they shouldn’t take the brand seriously since the people who run it don’t either. Perception is reality and the longer the welterweight/light heavyweight titles sit on the shelf the more it appears Strikeforce truly is on life support rather than a viable MMA organization, while naming two new champs would be a jolt of life that might get the promotion’s pulse going again.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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