Strikeforce’s Santos suspended

by Robert Sargent

The future of the Strikeforce 145-pound women’s division changed drastically this past week with news that champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos had tested positive for a steroid metabolite and has incurred a one-year suspension.

The Brazilian knockout artist is expected to be stripped of her Strikeforce title, and her division may be phased out of the promotion entirely.

Santos (10-1 MMA, 4-0 SF) had initially been awarded a 16-second TKO victory over Japanese challenger Hiroko “Cat’s Eye” Yamanaka (12-1 MMA, 0-0 SF) at “Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Masvidal” on Dec. 17 in San Diego. The result of the bout was overturned and ruled a no-content by the California State Athletic Commission on Jan. 6 after Santos’ pre-fight drug test came back positive for stanozolol. Santos was subsequently fined $2,500 and suspended until Dec. 16, 2012, one year after the date of her failed drug test.

Santos will be forced to relinquish her Strikeforce championship, as well as her spot atop both the 145-pound division and pound-for-pound female MMA rankings, but the ramifications from her positive steroid test could run much deeper.

UFC president Dana White has stated that the Strikeforce women’s featherweight division may be eliminated entirely in Santos’ absence and the promotion admittedly has few options remaining in order to salvage the division.

Of the top female fighters at 145 pounds, most are currently either signed to other promotions outside of Strikeforce or have recently competed in other weight classes such as bantamweight. Others are coming off recent defeats or injuries. Or, as in the case of top European prospect Yana “Foxy” Kunitskaya, they are unable to secure visas to compete in the U.S.

To date, the Strikeforce 145-pound women’s division has largely been used as a platform to set up fighters for title bouts with Santos – whether they were ready to take on the challenge or not. The division is arguably the weakest of the five main women’s weight classes, and it may be up to another promotion outside of Strikeforce to devote the time and resources that are needed to establish the 145-pound class as a credible women’s division in the absence of Santos and former MMA superstar Gina “Conviction” Carano.

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