staff picksIt’s the final Strikeforce card folks. And because of that, the staff is giving you our picks for the entire card, top to bottom.  That’s not something we do very often, but out of respect for a once great promotion that helped build numerous stars and provided countless fighters a place to earn a decent living outside the UFC, that’s how we’re bringing it.

Welterweight champ Nate Marquardt will be looking for another big win at 170 pounds so he can make his way back to the UFC and come in with some negotiating power. Heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier needs to put away his opponent in impressive fashion so he can make his move to the UFC. Then you have Josh Barnett and a whole host of others on this card who are well known names (and a few others who are not so well known) who are also going to need a new home after Saturday. Even though some of these fights appear to be mis-matches and “showcase” fights, hopefully it will at least be an entertaining night for the Strikeforce fans who tune in for one last hurrah.

So, here’s what we’re working with…

Nate Marquardt (32-10-2) vs. Tarec Saffiedine (13-3)

RICHARD MANN: For the most of Marquardt’s career, he was a single minded fighter. When he wanted to wrestle, he would do almost nothing but wrestle. When he wanted to strike, he would throw robotic strikes or get taken down. However, in his last fight, he seemed to put it together. For perhaps the first time in his career, Marquardt mixed his standing, ground and clinch almost seamlessly. The result was a devastating victory over one of the top prospect in the welterweight division. On the other hand, Saffiedine is also a mirror of Marquardt’s earlier robotic self. He began his career as a striker and has added defensive wrestling along the way. In his fights, he mostly circles away, lands straight punches and kicks to the legs and body. When opponents go for takedowns, he limp legs out and begins the circle again. That would not have been enough against the old Marquardt. The new Marquardt finds a way to score a stoppage. Marquardt by TKO

JACK BRATCHER: How great did Nate Marquardt look in his welterweight debut against Tyron Woodley? He devastated Tyron Woodley with punch combinations and elbows giving Woodley not only the first loss of his career, but a brutal KO loss. It’s one thing to lose, it’s another thing to get obliterated — and that’s what Marquardt did. Tarec Saffiedine is a much better striker than Tyron Woodley. Saffiedine actually lost to Woodley via unanimous decision in 2011 — but that was due to Woodley’s exceptional (often called boring) wrestling game. Saffiedine is no joke and is coming off three straight decision wins against Scott Smith, Tyler Stinson, Roger Bowling. But Marquardt is on another level, he’s been to the top of the mountain and faced the best the sport has to offer. He’s also doing all the right things, has the right training and at 170 pounds, it’s going to be very interesting to see just how far Nate Marquardt can go. He’s only been stopped via strikes by Anderson Silva (at middleweight). He hasn’t been submitted since 2003 — and keep in mind, at only 33, Marquardt has been fighting professionally since 1999! He may just now be coming into his prime. That is possible. We shall see. Marquardt via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: Marquardt’s size and stopping power give him the clear edge in this one. Marquardt by (T)KO

KELVIN HUNT:  Saffiedine is tough and never been finished if I remember correctly…Marquardt via decision

Daniel Cormier (10-0) vs. Dion Staring (28-7)

RICHARD MANN: Staring is not a complete walkover, but, for Cormier, it will be close. The wrestling advantage alone drops Staring’s chances lose to zero. The fact that Cormier is the better striker completes it. Look for Cormier to stalk his opponent around the cage and finish the fight. Cormier by TKO

JACK BRATCHER: I have no idea how Strikeforce even found Dion Staring or why they thought he deserved a fight against their heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. But here we are. He’s a 34-year-old fighter from the Netherlands and as far as I can tell this is his USA debut. He’s also a tremendous underdog with odds at 20-to-1. He has a very big experience advantage but so has almost everyone Cormier has faced. Cormier is among the best of the best. His striking has come along incredibly and his wrestling is off the charts. He’s undefeated with 10 straight wins, most recently knocking out Bigfoot Silva and winning a unanimous decision over veteran Josh Barnett. Cormier takes it easily via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: Instead of analysis on this one-sided assault in the making, I will instead use this space to remind everyone that I was the only one in the Western Hemisphere who told you Cain Velasquez would beat JDS by decision. Cormier by decision

KELVIN HUNT: Cormier by whatever he wants.

Josh Barnett (31-6) vs. Nandor Guelmino (11-3-1)

RICHARD MANN: According to Fight Matrix, Guelmino is the 59th best heavyweight in the world. Even though the sport has evolved, heavyweight MMA in still heavyweight MMA. Barnett wins this fight easily. Even if he is disinterested he should be able to lay and pray his way to a decision victory. Look for some heavy punches from the top to end the fight in the first round. Barnett by TKO

JACK BRATCHER: Nandor Guelmino is another heavyweight Strikeforce dug up from who knows where. He’s a 37-year-old Austrian with 3 wins via submission, 2 via TKO and 2 decisions. You may have heard of one fighter he faced. He got KO’d by Sammy Schilt in 2008. He’s on a 7-fight win streak against guys you’ve never heard of and pretty much seems tailor made to get decapitated by the War Master. Barnett by obliteration.

JAN GAETJENS: I don’t know who this Warmaster character is, but this should be an easy win for the Baby Faced Assassin. Barnett by submission

KELVIN HUNT: Barnett via submission here.

Mike Kyle (19-8-1, 2 NC) vs. Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2)

RICHARD MANN: If this fight happened two years ago the line might have been colossal. Mousasi is the better striker. Kyle throws bombs, but it will not be enough here. Mousasi will be able to stay out the outside and dominate the lesser striker. Eventually he will be able to stalk his way to a stoppage. Mousasi by TKO

JACK BRATCHER: Now here’s a fight that could get exciting. Kyle will be looking for the big KO while Mousasi uses his technical striking expertise to pick Kyle apart on the feet. Mousasi also has a very capable submission game should the need arise. The bad thing is Mousasi hasn’t fought since 2011. Kyle got a chance to fight once last year, dropping a submission to  Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante that was later overturned to a NC after Cavalcante tested positive for banned substances. Mousasi via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: I’m not concerned about ring rust; Mousasi can either end this one on the feet or on the ground, it’s just a matter of when. Mousasi by (T)KO

KELVIN HUNT: Mousasi should win this fight, but has looked lackluster in his last two. Mousasi via decision.

Ed Herman (20-8, 1 NC) vs. Ronaldo Souza (16-3, 1 NC)

RICHARD MANN: Herman has fought some of the best grapplers in MMA. In those fights, he looked surprisingly good, but still lost. He will be willing to indulge “Jacare” in a ground battle and it will not turn out very well. Souza’s weakness is his stand up game and questionable chin. Herman does not have the skills to take advantage of those flaws. Look for “Jacare” to dominate a ground oriented fight en route to a decision. “Jacare” by decision

JACK BRATCHER: So Ed Herman will go down in history as the one UFC fighter who hopped over to Strikeforce to fight one fight and come back. Herman was on a three fight win streak before losing a decision to Jake Shields in August. That loss was overturned after Shields tested positive. Jacare is a submission  wizard with power in his hands. Jacare has a 75% submission win ratio. That’s freaking huge. Herman is definitely going to have his hands full and it doesn’t help that most of his losses have come via submission. I like Herman, but I’m gonna have to go with Jacare via submission.

JAN GAETJENS: Herman’s top control on the ground can be smothering, but his willingness to posture up and drop heavy strikes from inside the guard could end up being his undoing against a fighter in Jacare who is most comfortable working off his back. If Herman can keep his limbs in check, he could very well steal this one, hell, why not! Herman by decision

KELVIN HUNT: Let’s see.  Jacare is a submission ace…and almost all of Herman’s losses are via submission.  You already know…

Pat Healy (28-16) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (9-0)

RICHARD MANN: Holobaugh comes into this fight undefeated but on short notice. He relies too much on his grappling game to score the upset. Healy struggles against guys who can put it on him while standing. If Holobaugh tries to take it to the floor, Healy will survive and get the better hand. Healy by decision

JACK BRATCHER: Holobaugh is undefeated against a bunch of guys you never heard of. He only turned pro in 2011. Healy is a seasoned vey on a five-fight win streak. Both guys favor the ground game, but Healy will be too much I believe. This is the biggest fight of Holobaugh’s career. Healy by decision.

JAN GAETJENS: I’m gonna go ahead and Furb this one. Healy by submission

KELVIN HUNT: I don’t know much about Holobaugh at all. Healy is tough as nails and has fought much better competition. Healy via decision.

Roger Gracie (5-1) vs. Anthony Smith (17-8)

RICHARD MANN: Normally in MMA, dropping a weight class is one of the most overrated career moves. However, when being bigger is essential to your game it makes a big difference. Gracie is not an explosive wrestler. At middleweight, he will be able to drag opponents down and implement his ground game. Smith is a solid veteran, but he does not have the exceptional skills to outwork the ADCC champion. Gracie by submission

JACK BRATCHER: In 25 fights Anthony Smith has not been to a decision. The majority of his losses have come via knockout. He submitted Lumumba Sayers in Strikeforce in his last fight. His experience makes this match-up at least acceptable — but make no mistake, he’s going to get submitted. Gracie via submission.

JAN GAETJENS:  I’m feeling a head and arm triangle type night. Gracie by submission

KELVIN HUNT: Fight set up for Gracie to win more than likely. Gracie via submission.

Ryan Couture (5-1) vs. K.J. Noons (11-5)

RICHARD MANN: Couture’s win over Conor Heun was his first victory that really made people take notice. In retrospect, maybe it should not carry so much weight. Shortly after the fight, news broke that Heun’s injuries have left him one step away from being turned into Robocop. Noons rarely dominates lesser fighters. However, he will be the better striker here. Couture will get takedowns, but they will not be clean and he will struggle to hold Noons down. Over the course of three rounds, Noons will do enough to take a decision. Noons by decision

JACK BRATCHER: Noons’ wrestling has gotten better, but with nearly a year on the sidelines, let’s hope he’s kept motivated and kept working. Couture is continuously improving and comes from prime stock. Noons’ boxing will be light years ahead of Couture in this fight and Couture will likely try to push him against the cage or take him down to stifle Noons’ game. Couture is a smart fighter but I’m gonna go with Noons via TKO, cause I’m feeling a little frisky.

JAN GAETJENS: Ryan Couture’s ground game is something KJ Noons should be scared of… homie. Couture by submission

KELVIN HUNT: I think Couture could beat Noons if he fought a near perfect fight. Noons has improved his wrestling and has better standup. Noons via decision.

Tim Kennedy (14-4) vs. Trevor Smith (10-2)


JACK BRATCHER: The competition Kennedy has faced compared to Smith is like night and day. Nine of Smith’s 10 wins have been via submission. Kennedy is more well-rounded. Smith won’t knock him out and Kennedy won’t get submitted. Kennedy should take this oen via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: This will be a very ‘Greg Jackson’-esque affair. Don’t see Kennedy’s smothering top game opening up a submission finish, but it should be more than enough to win over the judges. Kennedy by decision

KELVIN HUNT: Kennedy via decision.

Jorge Gurgel (14-8) vs. Adriano Martins (23-6)

RICHARD MANN: Like a lot of Brazilian fighters, Martins’ record is inflated with blow out victories. However, not all of his wins have come over red namers. For example, Ronny Torres is one of the best lightweights unsigned to a major promotion. Martins will have more than enough to best Gurgel on the feet. If Rich Franklin’s sidekick drags the fight to the ground, which is unlikely, Martins should be able to survive. Look for another crowd pleasing defeat to appear on Gurgel’s record after Saturday night. Martins by decision

JACK BRATCHER: Jorge hasn’t fought since 2011. Martins only fought once last year. Martins has spent his career fighting in Brazil, has 11 wins by (T)KO, 10 wins via decision and 2 wins via decision. Jorge has 10 wins via submission and 4 via decision. That’s crazy when you think about how much Jorge likes to stand and bang — he has never won a fight via (T)KO — NONE. Here’s the problem, if he stands and bangs with Martins, he’s gonna get knocked out, mark my words. Here’s the other thing: Jorge’s wife just got choked out. His sister-in-law just got knocked out. It would be nice if Jorge could save the family honor and pick up a win, but I’m going with Martins via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: Martins has a tendency to drop is hands, and, although Gurgel isn’t exactly a stud on his feet, he’s got enough experience and striking ability to take the win. This is assuming of course that he’s regained consciousness since his meeting with KJ Noons. Gurgel by (T)KO

KELVIN HUNT: I know nothing about Martins, but Gurgel probably is the worst ever at following gameplans or NOT fighting to his strengths. *Flips coin….Martins via decision.

Michael Bravo (7-3) vs. Estevan Payan (10-3)

RICHARD MANN: Neither one of these guys is going to set the world on fire. Bravo has not faced high level competition yet. Payan is mostly remembered for eating a spinning back fist from Yahir Reyes. With that being said, Payan has fought better fighters and even picked up wins over serviceable journeymen Alonzo Martinez and Luis Palomino. Payan by TKO

JACK BRATCHER: All 7 of Bravo’s wins have come via knockout. Payan seems to have the more well-rounded game, is on a heck of a win streak and has faced some notable names. It’s a bit of a toss up here but I’m gonna go with the knockout artist Mr. Michael Bravo to take it via TKO.

JAN GAETJENS: Payan’s erratic striking can land him in hot water, but I don’t know that Bravo has the counter punching or wrestling ability to really exploit that. Bravo hasn’t exactly walked through competition at the regional level, so I don’t see him coming out the winner against the stepped up competition. Payan by (T)KO

KELVIN HUNT: I don’t know much about these guys. Bravo looks like a finisher so I’ll take him via KO.


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