Tournament comes to close at next Strikeforce show
It will be 15 months in the making, but Strikeforce finally will crown a heavyweight tournament winner in May.
The promotion, along with broadcast partner Showtime, over the weekend announced a May 19 event, expected to take place in its former home base of San Jose, Calif., that will feature the finals of its heavyweight grand prix between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier. The event, likely to take place at the HP Pavilion, will air on Showtime with preliminary card fights airing on Showtime Extreme.
Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament started in February 2011 with quarterfinal bouts in East Rutherford, N.J. On that card, tournament favorite Fedor Emelianenko suffered his second straight loss when he was upset by Antonio Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov beat Andrei Arlovski. The second set of quarterfinals didn’t take place until June in Dallas, where Barnett submitted Brett Rogers and Alistair Overeem, then the Strikeforce heavyweight champion, beat Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision.
At the semifinals in September, Barnett submitted Kharitonov. But by that time, Overeem had been released from Strikeforce after an injury (and later signed to the UFC) and was replaced with tournament alternate Cormier, who beat Silva with a first-round TKO – injury his hand in the process.
Cormier’s hand injury has been the primary reason behind the delay in closing out the event. Strikeforce initially had targeted the March 3 show in Columbus, Ohio, for the finals. But Cormier’s hand wasn’t ready for full training yet. Instead, the women’s bantamweight title fight between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey was the main event for the card, with Rousey submitting Tate to win the belt in the first round.
On Monday, Barnett, who has been without a license in California since a suspension in 2009, appeared before the California State Athletic Commission to request reinstatement. Barnett tested positive for steroids prior to an Affliction fight against Emelianenko in 2009, forcing the cancellation of the card – and the apparel company soon after stepped out of the fight promotion business. Barnett several times since has sought to be reinstated, but hearings were postponed or scrapped altogether until Monday’s resolution. The CSAC granted him a conditional license, but Barnett will be subject to pre-fight drug screenings before any fights that take place in California.
The Strikeforce heavyweight division isn’t expected to last long after the May 19 tournament finale. The promotion announced early this year that it would dissolve the weight class and focus on light heavyweight down through lightweight, plus its women’s divisions. Since that announcement, several big-name Strikeforce heavyweights have migrated to the UFC. The promotion expects the grand prix winner to get one more major fight with the promotion for closure, perhaps being crowned the final Strikeforce heavyweight champion – though the tournament winner will not automatically get the belt vacated by Overeem’s release last summer.