Top 10 ex-Strikeforce fighters

Can Cormier, Melendez, Rousey validate the league and its former fighters?

Updated: February 15, 2013, 3:35 PM ET
By Adam Hill | ESPN Insider

Gilbert Melendez/Ronda Rousey/Daniel CormierGetty Images/US PresswireEx-Strikeforce fighters Gilbert Melendez, Ronda Rousey, Daniel Cormier are impacting the UFC.

While the immediate image that emerged from UFC 156 in Las Vegas this month was Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva standing over much-hyped heavyweight Alistair Overeem and taunting him after a dramatic third-round knockout, the more enduring story might be the night the Strikeforce contingent officially put its stamp on the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Four wins. Two fight-night bonuses. The wins of Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Bobby Green and Tyron Woodley truly made it a special night for the organization that was once the UFC's top domestic competition.

UFC president Dana White was beaming as he talked about his newest employees.

"I've been saying this a lot over the last couple weeks. Without getting into it, I felt bad about what's happened to those guys over there in the last year," White said. "Nothing I can do. But they hung in there, and they came in here and delivered. It was fun tonight. These guys came in from Strikeforce, and they really did a great job tonight. I'm happy for them. Life is going to be a lot different for these guys now."

Times are also changing for the UFC, which is already reaping the benefits of the influx of talent. No fewer than four former Strikeforce fighters will be fighting for UFC title belts in the coming months. Perhaps most importantly, however, is Strikeforce's long-reigning lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez and his shot at champion Benson Henderson.

There has been a tendency among much of the MMA fan base to view the Strikeforce guys as somehow inferior. Melendez has long been viewed as the Strikeforce fighter who has been closest to "UFC quality" in the sense that his skills were formidable enough and dominated his league enough that he could have been UFC lightweight champ long ago.

If Melendez can defeat Henderson, would he finally vindicate all of the former Strikeforce fighters who now populate the UFC roster? Just as the WEC is now looked upon as a hotbed of talent with the emergence of Henderson, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis, Strikeforce could earn similar kudos posthumously.

Let's rank and break down the Top 10 former Strikeforce fighters now in the UFC. These are my rankings and based on overall ability, Strikeforce status, potential for a UFC title, and marketability.

One additional note: Plenty of fighters have competed in Strikeforce at some point and are now under UFC contract. We're limiting this list to fighters who are recognized for their stints in Strikeforce and have come over since the Zuffa purchase. While there is no hard-and-fast rule, common sense is the guide.

1. Daniel Cormier | heavyweight

Cormier