K.J. Noons (9-2) vs. Jorge Masvidal (21-6)
Yeah, I can’t wait for this fight.
Noons is one of the most entertaining members of the Strikeforce roster, both inside and outside of the cage. He hasn’t competed since losing to Nick Diaz last October, but has also won six consecutive bouts at lightweight; the Diaz bout was a welterweight affair.
A quality boxer who knockout power, Noons believes he has earned a shot at the lightweight strap, and will be looking to use this fight to solidify his standing as Gilbert Melendez’s #1 contender.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Masvidal. He enters off a dominant victory over previously unbeaten Billy Evangelista, and has the skills to hang with Noons. While he relies heavily on his hands, Masvidal also has solid wrestling, and should put it to use in this one against a more polished pugilist like Noons.
Without question, the winner becomes the top contender for the Strikeforce lightweight title. What that means isn’t really clear. Many people believe we’ll see Melendez follow Diaz over to the UFC in the near future, so we’ll have to just wait and see. Regardless of what comes next, this one looks like the Fight of the Night.
Wait – does Strikeforce even have Fight Night Awards?
Josh Barnett (29-5) vs. Brett Rogers (11-2)
I don’t care what you think of Josh Barnett – the dude makes you want to watch him fight.
Sometimes that’s because you hope to see him fail, and that’s perfectly fair; admittedly, he rubs a lot of people the wrong way and has a very checkered past. But at the end of the day, regardless of his past transgressions and lack of quality opposition of late, Barnett is still a potential force in the heavyweight ranks, and that makes him worth watching.
This will be the first time in a number of years that he’s faced someone who could be considered remotely competitive; his 2006 loss to Rodrigo Nogueira is the last truly competitive fight he’s had in my books.
If he’s focused on fighting, this is his fight to lose.
What makes this extra interesting is that Rogers really needs a win and has the hands to put Barnett away, theoretically. The former UFC champion has been knocked out just once in his career, and Rogers is no Pedro Rizzo. That being said, he blitzed Andrei Arlovski effectively and has to know that his 15 minutes of fame are up if he loses here. His win over Ruben Villareal last October was an ugly affair, and a third straight loss under the Strikeforce banner would leave Rogers alongside Arlovski as washed up names taking up space on the heavyweight roster.
Alistair Overeem (34-11) vs. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1)
Last weekend’s heavyweight headliner at UFC 131 was solid, but this has the potential to be spectacular. I know Dana White won’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.
Overeem has been the most consistently destructive force in the heavyweight ranks for the last few years. He’s smashed everyone, including a bunch of high level kickboxers en route to winning the K-1 Grand Prix in 2010. That being said, Werdum is the first opponent he’s face in years who could be considered on his level, and it will be interesting to see if “The Demolition Man” has simply been bludgeoning bad competition or not.
Almost a year to the day after he submitted Fedor Emelianenko, Werdum returns to action. He’s beaten Overeem in the past, though it was before the Dutch striker morphed into the physical specimen he is today. If he’s able to do so again this weekend, Werdum will become the linear Strikeforce champion (the belt isn’t on the line) and the undisputed top heavyweight outside of the UFC.
This one is a classic clash of styles. Werdum will be desperate to get the fight to the ground and play jiu jitsu, while Overeem will look to use his superior striking to batter the Brazilian.
While I’m not sure how it will play out, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens on Saturday night.