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Monday, January 14, 2013
Strikeforce elite go out with a bang

By Josh Gross
ESPN.com

Honest postmortems should conclude that being under new management was a death sentence for Strikeforce, which is why Saturday's grand finale in Oklahoma City felt less a celebration than an MMA rite of passage.

The best way to go out of the MMA promotional business and make money is for Zuffa to decide it wants to promote some of your fighters because they could turn into pay-per-view stars. Aspiring promoters might even step into the business hoping that someday not so far away Zuffa will come calling, but that's a huge gamble. If that message wasn't clear before Strikeforce closed shop, it better be now since UFC has matured to the point that it promotes virtually all the best talent in the world.

Strikeforce the apparition joins Affliction, EliteXC, International Fight League, Pride, World Extreme Cagefighting and World Fighting Alliance as shows that attempted to do something in MMA and to varying degrees found success -- most especially when it came to talent building.

WFA delivered Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Martin Kampmann to the Octagon. Pride brought Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Dan Henderson and Mirko Cro-Cop. WEC handed Carlos Condit, Chael Sonnen and two exciting weight classes to UFC. Strikeforce, which gobbled up fighters via EliteXC and Affliction, contributed women and a contingent of potential champions.

In time and from 30,000 feet, Strikeforce will represent the final piece of the puzzle to UFC's dominance over MMA. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker's carnival controlled the last vestiges of what wasn't absorbed directly into the UFC through the Pride merger. It culled talent from EliteXC and developed a fair share of homegrown studs. Strikeforce was deep and relevant, which means UFC is now impossibly deep and, with rare few exceptions, the place where MMA worth watching happens.

While Zuffa's Pride procurement was a major moment for the sport (though not so much the AFL-NFL merger it was made out to be), its consumption of Strikeforce holds more significance, I think. An argument could be made that based just off talent, Strikeforce possesses more riches for Zuffa over the long haul than Pride produced.

Several sweet additions were on display this weekend.