Last week Dana White revealed that the Strikeforce heavyweight division is set to be phased out in 2012 and it appears they are wasting no time in drafting over some of the existing talent from the weight class into the UFC’s ranks.
We already knew that Fabricio Werdum had made the switch and will take on Roy Nelson at UFC 143, but it’s now emerged that both Chad Griggs and Lavar Johnson will now be joining him.
Griggs was one of the unlikely success story’s of 2011 for Strikeforce. Originally brought in as cannon fodder for Bobby Lashley in 2010, Griggs pulled off an upset win over the former pre-wrestler and then took less than a round to defeat both Gianpiero Villante and Valentijn Overeem this year in reserve bouts for the Strikeforce heavyweight GP.
According to MMAWeekly Griggs doesn’t have an opponent scheduled yet, but is expected to make his UFC debut in the early months of 2012.
Johnson was another participant in the reserve bouts for this year’s GP, but he was unable to make the same impact as Griggs, being defeated by Shane Del Rosario before heading back to the Strikeforce Challengers series where he suffered another loss.
While it’s been a disappointing year for him, ‘Big’ Johnson was on a seven fight winning streak prior to that and currently holds a 15-5 record overall.
He will be given a chance to prove himself almost immediately in the UFC as he’s now set to take on Joey Beltran at UFC On FOX 2 which takes place on January 28th.
Despite this exodus of talent from Strikeforce’s heavyweight roster there are still a couple of fights left before the division officially folds. Firstly there will be the final of the aforementioned heavyweight GP which will pit Josh Barnett against Daniel Cormier, and then the winner of that will have one last bout against an as yet unnamed opponent.
Both men are then almost certain to be headed for the UFC.