Saffiedine wins welterweight title in final Strikeforce card
OKLAHOMA CITY - Belgian fighter Tarec Saffiedine is Strikeforce's final welterweight champion.
Saffiedine earned a convincing unanimous decision against defending champ Nate Marquardt in the final event for the UFC's sister promotion Saturday.
Saffiedine (14-3) put on a striking clinic as he battered and bruised Marquardt's left leg with a destructive series of snapping low kicks. That left Marquardt's limb purple and his balance wobbly by the third round and saw him become nearly immobile near the end.
A 14-year-veteran, Marquardt (32-11-2) refused to back down, and he limped forward and looked to fire punches until the final bell, but it wasn't nearly enough to halt the surprising assault from Saffiedine.
The 26-year-old sealed his win with a fifth-round takedown of the former champ, and he maintained top position until the final bell, when he leapt to his feet in celebration of the best performance in his young career. A product of the promotion's prospects-based "Challengers Series" events, Saffiedine admitted it was an emotional way to bring down the curtain on 27 years of Strikeforce.
"It's unbelievable," Saffiedine said. "I can't imagine I'm wearing the belt right now. It's unreal."
Formerly a California-based independent promotion, Strikeforce was purchased in March 2011 by the UFC. Officials recently elected to shutter the company and transfer the organization's talent to the UFC.
Following the conclusion of the event, former Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker admitted it was an emotional moment but felt it was the right time to move on to other challenges.
"It's a tough thing, but you know what, I'm so happy for these guys that fought tonight," Coker said. "It's the pinnacle of my career. I feel like we've done some great work in mixed martial arts and martial arts fighting, and it's time."
In the night's co-feature, undefeated heavyweight Daniel Cormier (11-0) kept his record unblemished with a dominant second-round TKO over Dutchman Dion Staring.
While Staring fired off several heavy punches on the feet, it was Cormier's wrestling that set the tone for the fight. Cormier took Staring to the floor at will and pummelled with punches and elbows that landed with increasing frequency. Staring showed admirable heart by routinely scrambling up to his feet, but Cormier brought him back to the floor each time, and the bout was mercifully waved off at the 4:02 mark of the second round.
After the win, Cormier — who was originally expected to face Frank Mir before injury forced him to withdraw from the card — called out the former heavyweight champ.
"April 20 on FOX, I signed my UFC contract," Cormier said. "Frank Mir, you and me, let's do it."
Afterward, Cormier confirmed he's planning a long-rumoured move down to 205 pounds in hopes of facing UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones after his scheduled UFC 159 bout with Chael Sonnen.
"I'm going to let Jon defend his belt April 27, and I'm going to kick his ass in the fall," Cormier said.
In earlier heavyweight action, Strikeforce grand prix finalist and 16-to-1 favourite Josh Barnett (32-6) needed less than half of a round to finish unknown Austrian Nandor Guelmino (11-4-1).
Despite battling a flu in the weeks before the fight, Barnett overwhelmed his outmatched opponent by taking the fight quickly to the floor. Guelmino tried to scramble to his feet and reset, but Barnett brought him right back to the floor and locked in a fight-ending arm-triangle choke, earning the win at the 2:11 mark of the opening round.