Three title fights have been slated for Strikeforce’s Jan. 12 effort.
In addition to a previously reported middleweight title confrontation between Luke Rockhold and Lorenz Larkin, the event is also expected to feature lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and welterweight king Nate Marquardt defending their belts against Pat Healy and Tarec Saffiedine. MMAJunkie.com first reported the matchups, and Sherdog.com confirmed the bookings with sources close to the bouts on Thursday evening.
The event takes place at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City and will also see heavyweight grand prix winner Daniel Cormier take on 34-year-old Dutchman Dion Staring.
A two-time Strikeforce lightweight titlist, Melendez has not lost since 2008 and rides a seven-fight winning streak heading into his showdown with Healy. “El Nino” most recently competed on May 19, taking a split decision over Josh Thomson in their rubber match.
One year younger than the champion, Healy, 29, rides a five-fight winning streak of his own into his first Strikeforce title shot. A former MFC welterweight champion, “Bam Bam” finished Caros Fodor with an arm-triangle to kick off 2012 before outpointing Deep lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota on July 14.
A former UFC middleweight title contender, Marquardt debuted under the Strikeforce banner as a welterweight after receiving his UFC release last year. The 33-year-old impressed in his Strikeforce foray this summer, knocking out Tyron Woodley with a sharp combination in the fourth round to win the vacant title.
Saffiedine, 26, has won six of his last seven fights, including three straight contests dating back to January of last year. “The Sponge” was last seen on Aug. 18, when he took a unanimous verdict over Roger Bowling to earn his 13th career victory.
Cormier has never lost as a mixed martial artist. Last year, the two-time Olympic wrestler stepped in as an injury replacement in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, winning the tournament by finishing former EliteXC champion Antonio Silva last September and then outpointing ex-UFC king Josh Barnett this past May.
Staring will make his Strikeforce debut against Cormier. The 13-year pro has won nine of his last 10 fights and last competed in April, stopping countryman John de Wilde in just 83 seconds. The 35-fight veteran owns half of his 28 career wins by form of knockout and another eight by way of submission.