The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament rolls into Dallas this Saturday night. The tournament quarterfinals conclude this weekend with two heavyweight collisions, yet it is the Strikeforce champion who will take center stage.
Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem fights Fabricio Werdum in a Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinal bout. With Fedor Emelianenko eliminated, Overeem currently stands as the tournament favorite. The Strikeforce title may not be on the line, yet all eyes will be on the Demolition Man.
Fabricio Werdum was once regarded as a future UFC heavyweight contender. The UFC terminated Werdum’s contract after going 4-4 in the promotion. Werdum then made the jump to Strikeforce and accumulated a pair of wins. Yet the MMA public and media questioned whether Werdum would be able to do the same against elite competition. Werdum silenced those critics on June 26, 2010 when he tapped out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.
Werdum and Overeem meet in one of the most highly anticipated fights of the tournament. It is a battle of the striking expert against the ground master. In addition to advancing in the tournament, the winner will arguably be regarded as the best heavyweight in Strikeforce. If Werdum beats Fedor and Overeem in back to back wins, he will undoubtedly be talked about as one of the top five heavyweights in MMA.
Overeem is certainly not playing his cards close to his vest. He has gone on record in several outlets stating his intentions for an early knockout. Overeem has extra motivation as he tries to avenge an early career loss to Werdum from Pride five years ago. If Overeem wins this fight, it doesn’t go past the middle of the second round.
Werdum will be coming in with a year layoff which concerns me. Obviously his game plan here is to take Overeem to the ground and tap him. I do want to point out that Werdum is not exactly a pushover in the stand up game and could take this one with a counter punch. Additionally, Werdum is arguably in better cardiovascular conditioning than Overeem (or anyone left in the tournament). If Overeem can’t put him away early, the champ could tire out fast which would undoubtedly benefit Werdum if this fight went the distance.
Also, keep something in mind about Werdum’s win over Fedor. Fedor made a tactical mistake. Up to that point he had his way with Werdum. Fedor swarmed in on Werdum and dropped him within seconds. He’d be toast if that situation plays out the same with Overeem throwing the strikes.
Alistair Overeem hasn’t lost an MMA fight in four years. I will continue to pick Overeem until someone stops him. He hasn’t been tested by anyone with Werdum’s skils in a long time. I am concerned that he will punch himself out early, but that hasn’t been an issue thus far. I look for Overeem to win via first round TKO, relinquish his title next year, join the UFC, and fight the JDS vs. Cain Velasquez winner.
I won’t be convinced that Josh Barnett is fighting in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix until he actually walks to the ring and is introduced by Jimmy Lennon. Barnett hasn’t fought in a year and still hasn’t straightened out his licensing issue with the CSAC. Although he is officially ready to go as far as the state of Texas is concerned, yet I’ll believe it when I see it.
I think Brett Rogers is greatly over-matched here and in the tournament altogether. What has Rogers done thus far in MMA to make you think that he can hang with any of the remaining fighters in the tournament? Take away the Andrei Arlovski knockout and you have a guy that has gone 0-2 in his last two Strikeforce fights and hasn’t beaten an elite heavyweight in his entire career (and don’t tell me that Arlovski is an elite heavyweight).
But, if I was going to pick one upset in this tournament this would be the fight. I think Rogers is hungrier and while going 0-2 against the top heavyweights, he now has those big fight jitters behind him. Josh Barnett hasn’t done a damned thing in years. His last fight against a top heavyweight was a loss in 2006 against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. A few weeks ago Barnett was in Japan promoting some charity metal show which while admirable, came at a weird time in training wouldn’t you say?
However, I’d be a fool to pick Brett Rogers in this fight. Rogers hasn’t been tested on the ground by anyone with Barnett’s skills. I look for Barnett to make a fool out of Rogers, taking him down at will, and dominating with ground and pound for three rounds. I don’t think there is anything real exciting about this one, but I look for Barnett to take the win via decision.
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