Just when things were looking bleak for Strikeforce’s final outing, the promotion Thursday added four intriguing contests to the card.
Strikeforce “Champions,” which takes place Jan. 12 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, will include a light heavyweight bout between former 205-pound champ Gegard Mousasi and Mike Kyle, as well as ex-185-pound titleholder Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (Pictured) versus Lorenz Larkin. A pair of new lightweight tilts was also made official, as Pat Healy will face Jorge Masvidal and K.J. Noons will take on Ryan Couture.
Two Strikeforce champions -- lightweight Gilbert Melendez and middleweight Luke Rockhold -- withdrew from the event in recent weeks, leaving a Nate Marquardt-Tarec Saffiedine welterweight bout as the card’s lone championship affair. Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner Daniel Cormier will also be in action against Dutch newcomer Dion Staring.
Mousasi and Kyle were originally scheduled to meet in April 2011; Kyle was forced from the bout due to an injury, leaving Mousasi to fight replacement Keith Jardine to a controversial draw. Mousasi has since recorded victories over Ovince St. Preux and Japanese judoka Hiroshi Izumi, but has not competed since December 2011. Kyle topped previously unbeaten Brazilian Marcos Rogerio de Lima last December before having a 33-second submission loss overturned when opponent Rafael Cavalcante tested positive for a banned substance.
Larkin also had a loss removed from his record for the same reason; the overturning of his January defeat against Muhammed Lawal kept his unblemished record intact. In July, Larkin notched a unanimous decision over Robbie Lawler to improve to 13-0. Ex-champ Souza has recorded back-to-back wins since dropping his title to Rockhold, most recently clobbering Derek Brunson in a 41-second August bout.
Healy, who was to challenge Melendez for the lightweight strap, comes in on a five-fight win streak, during which he topped former Sengoku champ Mizuto Hirota and prospect Maximo Blanco. He faces former challenger Masvidal, who rebounded from a five-round loss to Melendez with a July outpointing of Justin Wilcox.
Noons will attempt to end his Strikeforce run on a high note after losing three of his last four starts. Couture, who has made all six of his professional appearances with the promotion, will look to run his streak to four after wins over Conor Huen, Joe Duarte and Maka Watson.