Luke Rockhold and Nate Marquardt will certainly be recovering from a weekend of celebrating following their title victories, but perhaps they should be concerned about their future.

Yes, winning a world title in a major promotion is definitely something to hang your hat on at the end of the day, but in the case of a Strikeforce champion, it’s not an enviable position. Look at any number of Strikeforce champions in recent memory and you will find two labels placed upon them by MMA fans. Either you’re not good enough to be in the UFC or you’re stuck facing unworthy challengers. Both champions can undoubtedly find that label placed upon them following their performances Saturday night.

In the case of Marquardt, he’ll likely be fighting challengers that either offer little in the way of name value or overall record. The welterweight division is extremely thin in Strikeforce with a number of prospects like the man he just defeated, Tyron Woodley, littered throughout the rankings. There’s a number of talented guys, but none could be considered true title challengers, as they all have glaring weaknesses.

Marquardt may want to explore his options outside Strikeforce if he wants to work his way back into the UFC. He looked great at the new weight class, but anyone who believes Marquardt can make a serious run in the UFC’s welterweight division is out of their mind. He still got rocked on numerous occasions by Woodley in their contest. Add to that the fact that the welterweight division in the UFC is possibly one of the most stacked in all of MMA, and fans will be hard pressed to believe Marquardt will be challenging for the UFC welterweight title any time soon.

Although Marquardt was one of the top middleweights in the division prior to his departure, we simply haven’t seen enough from him at 170 pounds to declare him worthy of entering the UFC title picture at this point. The ace up his sleeve, of course, is Marquardt’s prior UFC experience. He has competed on some of the biggest stages around the world, but ultimately fell short when the pressure of a world title came up.

If Marquardt can prove he can handle the pressures that come with not only being a champion but defending his belt, he will see the label of not being UFC-worthy erased from his resume.

Luke Rockhold (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Strikeforce’s middleweight champion. Luke Rockhold defended his title for a second time by defeating Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision. The tough Kennedy is a notoriously difficult fighter to look good against, but Rockhold was able to turn in an impressive performance in his five-round victory.

The AKA product showed his ever-improving striking game by battering Kennedy on the feet and used his grappling prowess to thwart Kennedy’s takedown attempts. Rockhold controlled much of the action and came close to finishing Kennedy in the fourth round.

As impressive as the victory was for Rockhold, it came against another middleweight who isn’t exactly held as a credible title challenger by MMA fans. Rockhold defeated the vaunted grappling ace Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza to take the middleweight title and walked through ex-UFC fighter Keith Jardine in his first title defense. Even though those names don’t top the middleweight rankings, Rockhold is still considered one of the best middleweights in the world.

He may want to get Strikeforce lightweight title-holder Gilbert Melendez on the phone and ask how to deal with questions concerning his home in Strikeforce. Rockhold had been very vocal about facing UFC champion Anderson Silva leading up to his bout, but is reportedly among the names of fighters who can’t leave Strikeforce to compete in the UFC.

If that’s the case, Rockhold will find himself in quite a limbo. He’s clearly grown out of the Strikeforce level of competition and is ready for the UFC, but can’t step into the Octagon. Even competing in Bellator or another major promotion, after his Strikeforce commitment is fulfilled, won’t help Rockhold’s place among the middleweight rankings.

Like Melendez and former Bellator champ Hector Lombard, Rockhold faces a no-win situation from here. By defending his title against a rather shallow middleweight division, Rockhold won’t see his name advance up the middleweight rankings, and if he were to lose, it would obviously drop him towards the bottom of the top 10.

Unless Rockhold can find a clever lawyer to work a loophole out of the Showtime agreement, he will constantly see his career accomplishments downplayed due to not being in the UFC.

Being one of the top fighters in the world and being a champion are both great things, but it seems in this case that it is not a place a Strikeforce fighter wants to find themselves in.

Top Photo: Nate Marquardt (L) poses with Scott Coker (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.