Strikeforce Grand Prix: Analyzing The First Round

Josh Barnett
MMA Record: 29-5
Age: 33
Height: 6’3

History: In 2002, at the age of 24, Barnett became the youngest heavyweight champion in UFC history with a TKO win over Randy Couture. Shortly thereafter Barnett was stripped of the belt after testing positive for three banned anabolic substances. Upon leaving the UFC, Barnett had a very successful career in PRIDE and Pancrase. He is the only fighter in MMA to test positive for anabolic steroids three times.

What he’s done lately: Barnett was supposed to fight Emelianenko at Affliction: Trilogy but the bout was scrapped 10 days before the event by the CSAC due to Barnett testing positive for steroids. Since then, he’s defeated Siala-Mou Siliga in Japan and Geronimo dos Santos in Australia.

Chances of winning the tournament: An elite catch wrestler with superb grappling credentials, Barnett has a good shot of going far in the tournament. Stylistically Barnett should be able to grind out a win over Rogers and the Arlovski-Kharitonov winner.

Brett Rogers
MMA Record: 11-2
Age: 29
Height: 6’4

History: Rogers is a devastating knockout artist that started his career with 10 straight TKO victories. His biggest win to date was a first round stoppage over Arlovski at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields.

What he’s done lately: After back-to-back knockout losses at the hands of Emelianenko and Overeem, Rogers defeated Ruben Villareal by unanimous decision at W-1 New Ground.

Chances of winning the tournament: You can never count anyone out in MMA, especially a big brawler like Rogers, but it is highly unlikely that he will defeat Barnett. Granted, stranger things have happened in this sport but Rogers just doesn’t have the all-around game to hang with the upper echelon of the division.

photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Alistair Overeem
MMA Record: 34-11
Age: 30
Height: 6’5

History: Overeem has been fighting professionally ever since the age of 19. Known as “The Demolition Man”, Overeem had mixed success in PRIDE as a light heavyweight early in his career before bulking up to the monstrous heavyweight he is today.

What he’s done lately: In 2010, Overeem defended his Strikeforce heavyweight title for the first time since winning the belt in 07’. He destroyed Rogers in devastating fashion before eventually winning the K-1 World Grand Prix six months later. He is also the current reigning DREAM interim heavyweight champion after dismantling Todd Duffee in 19 seconds.

Chances of winning the tournament: Even though he’s looked like a relentless wrecking machine lately, Overeem hasn’t competed against a top ranked fighter since his loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at PRIDE 33. That said, the competition he has faced recently has been stiff and he has bulldozed through all of them fairly quickly. He was submitted by Werdum in 2006 but he’s a completely different beast now and also much larger. If Overeem is able to avenge his loss to Werdum then the Dutch kickboxer should be favored to win the entire tournament.

Fabricio Werdum
MMA Record: 14-4-1
Age: 33
Height: 6’4

History: Despite never winning a major championship, Werdum has always floated near the top of the heavyweight division. He compiled an impressive run in both PRIDE and the UFC but was never able to bring home the gold. Werdum’s grappling credentials are second to only a few heavyweights in all of MMA. He is a world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist with notable submission victories over Emelianenko and Overeem.

What he’s done lately: Since debuting with Strikeforce in 2009, Werdum has won his last three fights. He is fresh off a spectacular submission victory over Emelianenko which was dubbed by many pundits as the upset of the year.

Chances of winning the tournament: No fighter has more momentum entering this tournament than Werdum. After all, he did what many thought was impossible when he not only beat Emelianenko but submitted him in the first round. That being said, even though he’s beaten Overeem before it’s a completely different fight this time around. Still, it’s likely that Werdum does well in this tournament and if he can advance to the semi finals he might shock the world one more time against “The Last Emperor”.

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