Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix 2011 Preview


Futures betting lines have recently been announced for the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix 2011. For the gambling initiated, Gambling Futures are bets that are made far in advance on the outcome of a tournament or season. They are much more common in Team Sports like the NFL or MLB, but can sometimes be seen in MMA in regards to tournaments. Here are the current odds for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.

**Note: For those of you paying attention you can see that there are a few other fighters, beyond the 8 Heavyweights announced as part of the tournament. This is because these are Reserve fighters. Because of the tournament format, fighters must continue fighting on a strict schedule. In MMA injuries in training and in fights can often occur. If a fighter is unable to continue in the tournament due to injury, he will be replaced by a reserve fighter, which is the reason these fighters are listed on the odds.

Fighter Moneyline Odds Payout Odds
Fedor Emelianenko +170 1.70 to 1
Alistair Overeem +180 1.80 to 1
Josh Barnett +350 3.50 to 1
Andrei Arlovski +950 9.50 to 1
Fabricio Werdum +1200 12.0 to 1
Antonio Silva +1800 18.0 to 1
Sergei Kharitonov +2000 20.0 to 1
Brett Rogers +2200 22.0 to 1
Shane Del Rosario +3200 32.0 to 1
Valenttijn Overeem +3500 35.0 to 1
Lavar Johnson +4000 40.0 to 1
Ray Sefo +5200 52.0 to 1
The Field (Any fighter not listed) +3500 35.0 to 1

We’ll focus on the 8 announced Heavyweight fighters, who will be competing in the tournament. I’ll give a brief bit of a background on each fighter, an analysis of strengths and weaknesses and finally a gambling analysis.

[adinserter block=”1″]Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (+180)


WIN over Todd Duffee via KO (Punches) in Round 1 (0:19) (K-1 Dynamite NYE – 12/31/2010)
WIN over Brett Rogers via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (3:40) (Strikeforce – 5/15/2010)
WIN over Kazuyuki Fujita via KO (Knee) in Round 1 (1:15) (K-1 Dynamite NYE – 12/31/2009)
WIN over James Thompson via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round 1 (0:33) (DREAM 12 – 10/25/2009)
WIN over Tony Sylvester via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round 1 (1:23) (UG 11 – 10/17/2009)

Alistair Overeem is a Dutch fighter who fights out of Amsterdam, Netherlands. He was however born in Hounslow, England. Overeem is a member of the Golden Glory fight team based out of Holland. He is a former Light Heavyweight fighter, who has in the past few years bulked up about 50 pounds and now fights as a Heavyweight. Since moving up in weight, Overeem has been on an absolute tear and is widely considered one of the top Heavyweights in the world. He is the current and reigning Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion. Overeem is a mainly stand up fighter, who in 2010 won the K-1 World Grand Prix in K-1 Kickboxing. Overeem is 6’5″ tall and regularly weighs in at the Heavyweight limit of 265 pounds. He has a career record of 34-11, but only one of his career wins have gone to decision, which makes him a fighter that often finishes his opposition.

Strengths: Extremely strong and powerful, Excellent striking and kickboxing ability, Underrated Submission Skills

Weaknesses: Largely untested as a Heavyweight Fighter, Questionable Chin, Unproved cardio

At +180 Overeem is another heavy favorite in the tournament. The line of +180 means that bookmakers give him an approximately 35% chance of winning the grand prix. The main knock on Overeem is that he has not yet faced top level competition at the Heavyweight level, however he has been on an absolute tear as of late, destroying anyone who has gotten in the ring/cage with him. Earlier in his career Overeem has a questionable chin, it’s unclear if the extra weight will do anything to improve that chin, but with some heavy hitters in the tournament there is a chance we might find out. Another thing we haven’t seen with this bulk up is the effect on Alistair’s gas tank. He hasn’t been tested recently and no one knows how all of that extra muscle will affect his conditioning and ability to fight for fifteen minutes. Overeem’s first fight will be against Fabricio Werdum, a man who holds a career victory over Overeem, although it was years ago when Overeem was still fighting at 205 pounds.

Josh “The Babyfaced Assassin” Barnett (+350)


WIN over Geronimo dos Santos via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (2:35) (Impact FC – 7/10/2010)
WIN over Siala “Mighty Mo” Siliga via Submission (Kimura) in Round 1 (4:41) (DREAM – 3/22/2010)
WIN over Gilbert Yvel via Submission (Punches) in Round 3 (3:05) (Affliction – 1/24/2009)
WIN over Pedro Rizzo via KO (Punch) in Round 2 (1:44) (Affliction – 7/19/2008)
WIN over Jeff Monson via Decision (Unanimous) 3 Rounds (5:00) (Sengoku RC – 5/18/2008)

Josh Barnett is an American fighter and professional wrestler from Seattle, Washington. He is a Catch Wrestler, who also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Barnett may be a bit of a wild card for this tournament as he is unable to be licensed to fight in several US States because of suspensions for PED use. He is however an accomplished fighter who has held the UFC Heavyweight Championship, the King of Pancrase open weight Championship and was the runner up in the prestigious Pride 2006 open weight Grand Prix, losing to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the finals. The wrestling standout is 33 years old and is a fairly large Heavyweight; standing 6’3″ and weighing just over 250 pounds. He holds a career record of 29-5, with his losses coming to elite level fighters like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo and Mirko Filipovic (3 times.)

Strengths: Strong Wrestling, Underrated Submission and Ground Game, Lots of MMA Experience

Weaknesses: Mediocre Stand up Abilities, Lack of Activity as a fighter due to licensing Issues, Somewhat questionable chin

At +350 Barnett is the next in line in terms of odds to win the Grand Prix. Odds of +350 translate to the bookies giving the American a 22% chance of winning. Most of this is due to the side of the brackets where he falls. Barnett is on the right side of the bracket and faces significantly weaker competition than the other side of the bracket. The question will be if he is able to make all of his fights. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has said that they will be scheduling around his licensing issues (Steroid Suspensions) and will be going to States that will license him to fight, or will seek outside venues. His first fight is against Brett Rogers and there are rumors that the fight will take place in Japan to avoid any regulatory interference.

Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (+1200)


WIN over Fedor Emelianenko via Submission (Triangle Armbar) in Round 1 (1:09) (Strikeforce – 6/26/2010)
WIN over Antonio Silva via Decision (Unanimous) 3 Rounds (5:00) (Strikeforce – 11/7/2009)
WIN over Mike Kyle via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round 1 (1:24) (Strikeforce – 8/15/2009)
LOSS to Junior dos Santos via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (1:21) (UFC – 10/25/2008)
WIN over Brandon Vera via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (4:40) (UFC – 6/7/2008)

Fabricio Werdum is a Brazilian fighter with an extremely high Brazilian Jiu Jitsu pedigree. Werdum holds a Black belt in BJJ and a Black belt in Judo. Werdum is a two-time BJJ World Champion, a two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) World Heavyweight Champion and also a European Jiu Jitsu champion. He trains with a number of teams, most notable Brazil’s Chute Boxe Academy. He stands 6’4″ tall and weighs roughly 240 pounds. He is entering the tournament with a ton of momentum after a career-defining win over Fedor Emelianenko in June. Werdum has a career MMA record of 14-4-1 with 8 wins via Submission and 4 via TKO.

Strengths: Excellent Grappling Game, Well-Rounded skill set, Experience against top competition

Weaknesses: Stand up skills are mediocre, Weak wrestling, Inability to adapt a new game plan mid-fight

At +1200 there seems to be little faith from the bookies in Werdum’s ability to win this Grand Prix, despite his latest win over Fedor. At +1200 he is being given about a 7.5% chance to win, and this might be with good reason. He is on the loaded side of the bracket, and will need to face Alistair Overeem in his first fight (one of the favorites to win the tournament), in his next fight he will need to fight the winner of Fedor Emelienanko vs. Antonio Silva, which may be another favorite to win the tournament. The lone bright spot for Werdum supporters is that all three of those fighters I just listed are fighters that he has previously beaten, although the Overeem fight was 5 years ago, and Overeem has improved all facets of his game since then.

Brett “The Grim” Rogers (+2200)


WIN over Ruben Villareal via Decision (Unanimous) 3 Rounds (5:00) (W-1 MMA – 10/23/2010)
LOSS to Alistair Overeem via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (3:40) (Strikeforce – 5/15/2010)
LOSS to Fedor Emelianenko via TKO (Punches) in Round 2 (1:48) (Strikeforce – 11/7/2009)
WIN over Andrei Arlovski via TKO (Punches) in Round 1 (0:22) (Strikeforce – 6/6/2009)
WIN over Ron Humphrey via TKO (Knees) in Round 2 (1:38) (Strikeforce – 4/11/2009)

Brett Rogers is an American fighter from St. Paul, Minnesota. He trains with Ambition MMA under head trainer Mike Reilly. Rogers is 29 years old and is a large Heavyweight fighter. He is 6’4″ tall and weighs in at the Heavyweight limit of 265 but often walks around closer to 290 pounds. Rogers has experience in Boxing, Muay Thai Kickboxing and some wrestling. He has an 80.5 inch reach. Rogers owns a career MMA record of 11-2, he has 9 wins via Knockout, 1 via Submission and 1 via Decision. Until his most recent fight, Rogers had never gone to the third round in a fight.

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Strengths: Strong boxing and stand up skills, Big Knockout power, Strong ground and pound

Weaknesses: Has struggled against top tier opponents, Shown fragile chin against big punchers, Unproven wrestling skills

In his last fight Rogers got a bit of a tune-up fight, likely in advance of this tournament. Although he has struggled against top tier opponents Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem, he did fairly well in the first round against Fedor. He actually rocked Fedor with ground and pound that likely broke the Russian’s nose. He has a tough test in his first tournament bout, facing off against Josh Barnett. Wrestling wise Rogers is very unproven, so this will be the first real test of his wrestling skills as Barnett is an elite level wrestler. At +2200 Rogers is the biggest long shot of the 8 official entrants in the tournament. At those long odds he is being given just over 4% chance to win the tournament. But if he can get by the wrestling of Barnett he may stand a good chance against the winner of the Kharitonov vs. Arlovski bout, as his big KO power will be a big advantage in those fights.

[adinserter block=”1″]Strikeforce Grand Prix Tournament Breakdown and Predictions

There are a lot of things that you need to take into account when assessing a long-term bet like this. First of all your money is going to be tied up for a long time so you shouldn’t bet anything that you can’t afford to let just sit until the end of 2011 at least. Also, because of the long odds, there’s a fairly low betting limit, with most books allowing a maximum bet of $100. The other factor to consider is there potential match ups throughout the tournament. Styles make fights, so some fighters may see an easier road to the finals based on how other fights shake up. The final thing to consider is their history of injuries. These guys are going to have to stay healthy enough to fight 3 fights in a year, which can be tough to do, especially at the highest level in a combat sport. To analyze the bets we can break the fighters down into three categories, the tournament favorites, the middle of the pack and the long shots.

Favorites – Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem have to be considered the favorites to win the tournament and their betting lines show that. Getting only +170 or +180 respectively is not a very large return on investment. If you are interested in betting either of these two to win the tournament a better option is to bet each fight individually. Simply take the $100 you would bet on the future and then bet every fight.

(For example, you would bet $100 on Fedor to beat Antonio Silva at -350, which would earn you a payout of $28.57. For his next fight, you would wager the initial $100 plus 28.57 for a bet of $128.57 at potential odds off say -110 (Basically a pick ‘em) which would get you a payout of $116.88. Then for his final fight, where he might be a slightly larger favorite say -200, you could lay the total amount of $245.45 (128.57+116.88) on Fedor to win, and get a payout of $122.72. For your $100 investment this would give you $368.17, which is a profit of $268.17 as opposed to $170.)

Middle of the Pack – Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum are the middle of the pack bets in this tournament.

Josh Barnett has a winnable first round contest against Brett Rogers. He then faces the winner of Kharitonov and Arlovski. These are all fighters that Barnett should easily be able to out wrestle and defeat. So he likely has the easiest path to the finals. A bet on him at +350 is likely a decent bet, as he is the most likely from his side of the bracket to get to the final. The question will all come down to if he can defeat whoever he faces in the finals.

Andrei Arlovski might be a nostalgic bet for some long-time fans, and he probably looks attractive at 9.5 to 1, but I think his true line is probably closer to 15 to 1 or so. He may have some of the best technical boxing in the tournament, but against a field like this, that glass chin of his isn’t going to do him any favors.

Fabricio Werdum is getting 12 to 1, which may be attractive to some betters. He does hold a career victory over his first round opponent Alistair Overeem, but that was several years ago and Overeem has improved greatly since then. Overeem has also bulked up significantly since then, and it will likely be a completely different fight this time around. In that fight Werdum was soundly out-boxed, but took over when Overeem was gassed out. Overeem hits much harder now and has been running through competition, so Werdum will need a plan to get the fight to the ground where he can exploit his grappling edge.

Long Shots – Here are the rest of the fighters, the long shots. Antonio Silva, Sergei Kharitonov and Brett Rogers.

Antonio Silva is just in a bad place, but it’s not something he didn’t ask for. He has the unenviable task of facing Fedor in the first round. Should he pull off a massive upset in that fight, he will likely enter the next fight as a sizable underdog to either Alistair Overeem or Werdum ( a tournament favorite, or a man who holds a win over him.) At 18 to 1, he’s getting about a 5% chance to win the tournament, he probably stands a bit better of a chance than that, but it’s still a bet for value and one that you’re more likely to lose than win. I do think he stands a chance at upsetting Fedor Emelianenko, I think he has it in tough in his next fight. But if you’re looking for long odds, I think Silva may be the best bet.

Sergei Kharitonov might be a decent bet getting such long odds, but there’s one thing that holds me back from pulling the trigger. He is probably a better fighter than 20 to 1, and he think he can defeat Arlovski in their opening round bout, but I just don’t trust his body. He’s worn out from a life spent fighting for a living. He’s slowing down which affects his in-cage performance, but he’s also more injury prone. His last five fights date back to 2007. In three years he has had only five fights, and it’s all due to layoffs from injuries, I just don’t trust his ability to stay in shape for three fights in a year, something he hasn’t done since 2005.

Brett Rogers is the biggest dog on the board, getting 22 to 1, but his path to the finals is likely a difficult one. He takes on Barnett in the first round, and Barnett has a stout chin and great wrestling. It will be a tough fight for Rogers to defeat Barnett. If he does pull off the upset there though, he might have an easier time against either Arlovski or Kharitonov, as he has the power to end the fight against either of those two strikers who will oblige him standing. In the finals though is where this Cinderella run ends though, as he is most likely to face either Fedor or Overeem, two fighters who have defeated him convincingly in the past. Long odds can often be attractive and enticing, but don’t fall for this one.

Betting Picks – For me I like to bet underdogs for value a lot of the time. However, in this case I think the tournament favorites are the best bets. My pick for the entire tournament is Alistair Overeem. He has improved rapidly, has world class striking (he recently won the K-1 World Grand Prix) and has run through all of his competition recently. However at odds of only +180, I would prefer to roll the dice on his line being good enough to get better odds by basically parlaying all of his fights together (as outlined above.) One scary thing about Overeem is his need to fight elsewhere and stay busy, as he often competes in Kickboxing or K-1 fights in between MMA fights, but Strikeforce has locked him up for this tournament, and he will be focusing solely on this tournament. Good news for his supporters.

If you’re looking for slightly better odds, my second favorite bet is Josh Barnett. I was able to get a piece of him at +400 as opposed to +350, which means more money might be coming in on him. Barnett has a pretty easy path to the finals I believe, and if Strikeforce is going to schedule around his licensing issues I think he could make it to the finals pretty easily. From there, hope for an awe-inspiring performance from Barnett, or hope that injury to the other finalist causes a late replacement in the tournament, which will make it easier for Barnett to win the finals.

Recommended Plays:

A small play on Josh Barnett at +350 (or better if odds are available)

A parlayed bet on Alistair Overeem (as outlined above.) Take your $100 and keep betting the total amount won on every fight.

Lee McGregor is a fan of all combat sports including both Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. When not catching fights or watching hockey, he can be found as an Author and Editor at his own website

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