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10 Things We Learned: Heavy Artillery

Alistair Overeem is Dangerous

We knew Overeem had been smashing on lower level competition and doing good things in K-1 over the last two years, but few expected to see the Strikeforce heavyweight champion to run through Brett Rogers the way he did last night in St. Louis.

From the opening bell, it was apparently that Overeem was on a different level than his opponent. “The Demolition Man” was the bigger, stronger and faster fighter, landing with power and rocking Rogers. By the 3:40 mark of the first round, referee “Big” John McCarthy had no choice but to step in and save Rogers from further damage, as Overeem rained down blows on his defenceless foe.

Overeem vs. Emelianenko has to happen

There are only two men in the Strikeforce heavyweight division worthy of competing for the title. One is the man who holds the belt, Alistair Overeem, and the other is the man many believe is the uncrowned champion, Fedor Emelianenko. After Fedor defeats Fabricio Werdum in June – and he will defeat Fabricio Werdum in June – this is the only fight that makes any sense.

That said, making fights that make sense isn’t the easiest of tasks in MMA in general, and when you throw the M-1 team into the mix, things get even trickier. Overeem called out Emelianenko last night, and has said repeatedly that it’s Fedor’s management that is keeping this contest from happening.

But Overeem’s dominant performance puts them in a corner – avoiding this fight lends credence to all the critics who say Emelianenko has been ducking top competition of late – and could be the catalyst to making this dream matchup a reality.

Antonio Silva is a legitimate threat

Some will argue that beating Andrei Arlovski proves little, but that’s a topic for later in this piece. What last night’s win for the American Top Team trainee showed is that Silva is continuing to improve his boxing and his cardio, two things that will serve him well as he climbs the heavyweight ladder in Strikeforce.

His power has always been evident, and he entered the MMA world on the strength of his submission game, but now, Silva is becoming a complete fighter and his size will make him a handful for anyone. Despite being of equal height, Arlovski gave up twenty pounds to his opponent last night, and that helped Silva control the action against the fence. And let’s be honest: with a giant cranium – literally – he’s going to be a hard guy to knock out.

Arlovski earns another shot

Strikeforce has limited marketable names, and while three-straight losses might be dropping Andrei Arlovski down the list, he stayed upright for the full 15 minutes and that alone will probably earn him at least one more marquee-ish matchup.

In taking some serious shots from Silva, Arlovski showed that his reported glass jaw wasn’t as fragile as originally suggested, and that he still has something to offer. While he didn’t come close to winning the fight, Silva deserves the credit for that. This wasn’t a flat performance from a fallen champion, but a coming out party for Silva.

Expect to see Arlovski meet up with Fabricio Werdum sometime this fall after “Vai Cavalo” squares off with Fedor in June. The two met before, and while calling it a boring fight is an insult to boring fights, they’re two serviceable names to round out a card later in the year.

“Jacare” Still a Work-in-Progress

The strength of his ground game is unquestionable, but the rest of Ronaldo Souza’s skill set as a mixed martial artist is very much under construction. That showed Saturday night in St. Louis, as what was thought to be a showcase fight for “Jacare” turned into a tough three-round decision win over Joey Villasenor.

For the record, Villasenor is tough-as-nails; he showed Saturday night that his ground game is better than people had given him credit for and that he is an ideal gatekeeper in the 185-pound division. But what also was apparent last night is that Souza still has areas of improvement that need to be addressed.

His striking is still coming along and looked crisp early in the fight, but it was his gas tank that let him down and made this bout closer than many expected it to be. It’s a testament to Souza’s wrestling that he was able to still take down Villasenor and maintain top control in the third round because he was clearly winded. If he’s able to address his cardio issues, he really could be the dominant middleweight many expected to see Saturday night in St. Louis.

Roger Gracie is Awesome… at Grappling with a Gi

In a mixed martial arts fight, he’s just okay and it showed in St. Louis against Kevin Randleman. As expected, Gracie earned a submission victory over the former UFC champion, but it was far from the quick and painless experience many thought it would be.

The contest extended to the second frame through Gracie’s lack of offense and Randleman’s power and ability to deny the takedown. Even when Gracie finally rocked Randleman and gained his back, sinking in the finishing choke took longer than imagined, as it seemed Gracie was a little out of his element without a gi to work with.

Yes, I’m probably being overly critical of what is the third win of a young and staggered career for Roger Gracie, but this is what has to be expected now whenever a decorated grappler with a legendary last name tries his (or her in the case of Kyra Gracie) hand at MMA.

Time for “Feijao” to Work on Wrestling

Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante came away from the opening contest of the evening with a win, and most likely a place opposite light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal later this year. What that means is the Brazilian needs to start drilling takedowns every minute of every day until the two meet in the cage.

Against Antwain Britt, Cavalcante was able to weather some early attacks and keep the fight standing before landing a powerful combination that ended the Virginia native’s night. While Britt comes from a wrestling background, his takedowns are nothing compared to the powerful shots that will be coming from Lawal, arguably the best wrestler in the sport today.

This was a good win for “Feijao” and reaffirms the hype that accompanied him before Mike Kyle knocked him out, but he’s now got to step his game up even more if he hopes to come away with championship gold later this year.

Judging Questions? Not in MMA

Apparently there is some controversy with the scores for the Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro – Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm fight. I can’t say for sure as I have yet to see the contest myself, but as I’ve said before, when a fight comes out with two judges awarding one fighter all three rounds and the third sees the contest for the other guy entirely, we’ve got issues.

Beerbohm won a split decision with scores of 30-27, 28-29 and 30-27. That middle score is the maddening part and at the very least worthy of questions. Not that the judge who saw the fight in favor of “Shaolin” was wrong, but how three people watching the same fight could see things so differently. Clearly, there is room for improvement. Then again, we’ve known that for some time, so why should another bad split decision be any surprise?

Still Growing

This card was – in my opinion – the most successful of Strikeforce’s event to date. There were no real timing delays that I noticed, four of the five fights were competitive and entertaining, and it showcased more of the roster than ever before.

Giving guys like Britt, “Feijao” and “Jacare” some face-time is going to be an important element of Strikeforce events moving forward, as they are the future of the organization, and people will tire of seeing the same fighters over-and-over again. We all love Robbie Lawler and Renato Sobral, but do we really need a catchweight main event between the two?

Scott Coker and company would be well-served to continue building and giving opportunities to the few young talents on the roster, instead of recycling the same old names every couple of events. How Tyron Woodley didn’t make it into an event in his home town is beyond me.

Melendez vs. Alvarez Being Discussed

Let me tell you how much I would love to see this fight go down…

Bellator and Strikeforce are at least entertaining the idea of pairing their lightweight champions in a quality clash that would pair two of the Top 5 155-pound fighters in the world, Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez and Strikeforce king Gilbert Melendez. In the post-fight press conference, Scott Coker addressed the topic, saying, “If the deal is right, let’s do it.”

This would be a great matchup of two young and talented lightweights, so everyone say a little prayer to the MMA gods and ask for a good deal to come down the pipeline.

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